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Hey, John

When an enormous part of your universe grows up around someone’s memory, even if they died years before you came into the world, the moment they left can still give pause. Even if you don’t know what it was like when they were there.

I have my poster of John singing over a piano with the words “People for Peace.” I love Yoko Ono and I love all the weird things John said and did. I think his original version, solo over a piano and alone in his apartment, of ‘Real Love’ can break and mend hearts simultaneously. It’s difficult to be unaffected by that version of John, the man who wrote ‘Imagine’, the man who quite definitely sought to change minds and people. The strong cultural memory of that man is so strong, and often has such lovely ideals attached to it, that it can wipe out the real one.

But the man was a man, and he could be a fucking… something. He so sought to be loved, but he also sought to be open and make a mockery of himself and be honest when it wasn’t flattering. It’s wrong to deify him. He wasn’t into that, and I think it’s fair to point this out. I was hugely, hugely upset when I read Philip Norman’s John: The Life several months ago. It’s this man, proud and angry, desperate to stave off the world and defy it, and to not reckon whose feelings or lives are destroyed in the process. This man joked off ‘Imagine’ when defending all the fur coats in the closet, this man who loved to mock infirmities and the sick and the slow. It is all an undeniable part of the man who wrote ‘All You Need is Love’ and ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘In My Life’. One without the other does not seem possible or right.

When I think of John now, I can’t think of John the idealist or John the dreamer. I think of John Lennon, human being. John Lennon, roil of contradictions, of ideals and sins, of wants and needs, of hopes and grudges. Of him loving… and demanding love. Of wanting peace, and wanting to fight about it. Of wanting real love, and being human.

You know, John Lennon, I’m sorry I put all my dreams and schemes on you all these years. He wasn’t a black-and-white version of our own shifting ideals and passions. It’s not for one person to bring peace or some message to the world. We want to do good, and we also want our own private happiness. We are human beings who make mistakes, and the best place for us to begin to do well is to wish one another joy. All I can think of are his own words:

You are all geniuses, and you are all beautiful. You don’t need anyone to tell you who you are. You are what you are. Get out there and get peace, think peace, live peace, and breathe peace, and you’ll get it as soon as you like.”

I liked the man’s voice. I wish it was still around.

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