Twenty-nine years ago, one of the greatest artists of all time was murdered (or assassinated – I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but frankly this type of thing happened too often and always to inconvenient people).
No matter how many times this song has been used and abused by the media, if you listen to it without the fashionable cynicism that so many people have bought into, it remains heartbreakingly beautiful. No-one has ever managed to talk about the ideals of peace and equality and freedom of thought in a clearer way. No book of philosophy, no political tract, no grand speech has ever achieved the beauty and perfection of Imagine.
Lennon was a real humanist: not a fanatic there-is-no-god-and-genes-are-everything type, but someone who saw and understood that what matters above everything else is the here and now, and how we treat each other. But he wasn’t just an idle idealist, and none of his songs are abstractly idealistic – not even Imagine. No, he sang to us about how we can build a better world, a world with a different economic and political system, and with different cultural and philosophical values; not a perfect world, but a world in which everyone can seek their own path, in which we do not fear gods and emperors, in which we do not worry about heaven or hell, but in which we do our best to be kind to each other today.
This is not an impossible dream. It is a dream, but it is an achievable dream. We can’t change the innate problems of being a sentient being with emotions and desires – we can’t eliminate loneliness, or jealousy, or anger – but we can build a society which allows us to live differently. We have built parts of this society before, in the many aeons of the world. We can do it again.
That’s what Imagine is about, and that’s why it’s still so powerful: because we can easily imagine this world.
What is now proved was once only imagined.
– William Blake
I hope some day you’ll join us…