Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Imagine: The Case Against John Lennon

Strawberry Fields in Central Park NYC
Just so I don't give you the wrong idea, let me say it up front: I'm a huge fan of the Beatles and of John Lennon in particular.

But this one song, Imagine, bugs me. And it bugs me that many people think of this song when they think of Lennon, despite the fact that he wrote so many other songs, great songs.

It's not the music, which is pretty enough, but the words that bother me. The ideas in those words.

No religion. No countries. Nothing to live or die for. Yeah, we've seen that before. It was called the Soviet Union. We see it now in "Old Europe." And we continue to see it in the politically and socially dysfunctional petty tyrannies of the Middle East.

In an insightful Wall Street Journal opinion piece last June, Bret Stephens expresses former Prisoner of Conscience Natan Sharansky's take on the Imagine concept:

  Mr. Sharansky's argument is that man's quest for identity – for the human and communal particulars that set him apart from others – cannot be separated from his quest for freedom – the universal set of values to which he and everyone else lay an equal claim. He argues that a freedom that "does not include the freedom to be significantly different" is no freedom at all. And he believes that while a politics that expresses itself purely through identity is bound to be tyrannical, a democracy that ignores its own identity – or attempts to suppress the various identities within it – betrays its deepest principles and puts its long-term survival at risk.  

John Lennon and Yoko Ono created conceptual country, Nutopia, a notional nation that was founded on the principles of the song, Imagine.  That was there solution.

But as John himself wrote, "You say you got a real solution, well, we'd all love to see the plan."

Strawberry Fields in Central Park

Ok,  my Grinch-like detour to politics and philosophy is over, now back to photography. I took the photo above this past weekend in the section of New York's Central Park called Strawberry Fields, a tear-shaped, 2.5 acre plot dedicated to John Lennon.

The handsome mosaic is a reproduction (except for the "Imagine" inscription) of one uncovered in Pompeii, a gift of the city of Naples, Italy. A fellow has taken it on himself to arrange flowers in and around the mosaic every day since 1993.

All this combined with people gathered around the mosaic or sitting on the benches that encircle it make for a good photo opportunity.

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