“Ethereal Vapidity That is Downright Depressing”

As I mentioned in an earlier post (click here) I do not care much for John Lennon’s song Imagine (video click here.)  The lyrics are not the problem for me as much as that plodding, droning, funereal sounding piano lead that John subjects us to throughout the song.  In 1990 Yoko was lobbying for radio stations all over the world to play Imagine to honor John’s memory.  In response to this request, William F. Buckley published an article on Imagine.  Once I wade through deciphering all the big words, I have to say I tend to agree with him with one exception:   the song’s chorus, according to Buckley at the end of his article, is “subversive.”  Subversive must mean something different to Buckley than what I consider it to be, because I don’t get what he means when he says that about the chorus.  His article is reprinted here.

“The widow of John Lennon asked rather more, in the memory of her late husband, than some of us are willing, let alone anxious, to give, however much we regret the tragic circumstances of his passing.

John Lennon was a source of inspiration to many people (including my son), and it is unwise to insert oneself into other people’s religious quarrels.

But Yoko Ono is asking not merely that Lennonites celebrate Lennonism, but that all of us do.

I am reminded of the clerk at the London pub who read and reread, quaffing his curiosity along the way, the personal ad that asked for volunteers for a two-year trip up the Congo River, the payment for the entire period E100, with the warning that the probability of death or pestilence was very high. After his fifth rereading and fifth beer, he called the telephone number given, carefully spelled his name, gave his address, and announced that he was not volunteering to go on the trip.

You see, Yoko wanted the whole world-every radio station, in every country-to sing out, at a given hour, the song, Imagine,”nominating it in effect as a kind of world national anthem.”
Now I do not know the melody of Imagine, but I have the lyrics in front of me, and what it amounts to is a kind of Bible, as written by the sorcerer’s apprentice.

Imagine there’s no heaven –
It’s easy if you try.
No hell below us,
Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people
Living for today.

I venture to say that those who imagine in that direction ought to make every effort to restrain themselves.

The homilies of John Lennon have a hard time up against those of Christ and his Apostles, such as, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

It is quite difficult to understand Mr. Lennon’s point in wishing that all that life stood for was the present moment, today.

And the notion that there is only sky above us suggests a kind of ethereal vapidity that is downright depressing.

And what are we to say about the word heavenly if heaven doesn’t exist?

It is hard to say the song gets worse, because there is hardly anything worse than to think that John Lennon is a mere memory, rather than a companion of the angels. But the next verse says:

Imagine there’s no countries – It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for,
And no religion too.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.

Well, we certainly want to imagine a world in which everyone lives in peace, but, you see, that is only possible in a world in which people are willing to die for causes.

There’d have been peace for heaven knows (assuming heaven existed) how long in the South, except that men were willing to die to free the slaves, and Hitler would have died maybe about the time John Lennon did, at Berchtesgaden, at age 91, happy in a Jewless Europe.

There have got to be reasons that even affected John Lennon to prefer one country over against another. I happen to know this to be the case, since a long time ago he asked me to help him get papers permitting him to live in the United States.


Imagine no possessions – I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger – A brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.

No, thanks, I don’t want to imagine a world in which Yoko doesn’t possess the goods that John left her, with which possessions she is capable of exercising a great deal of charity, though not so profusely as to leave her penniless and a public charge.

The person Who invented Heaven passed along a commandment ordaining that one must not covet other people’s goods, and most thoughtful social philosophers agree that property is an important basis, indeed probably the most important basis, of human freedom….

So it goes, and the chorus of “Imagine” is-well, it is too subversive to appear in a family publication.”

Since the Buzzy blog is not a family publication, here are the words to the song’s chorus:
“You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”

As stated above, don’t see what’s so subversive about any of that.  Think maybe Bill just didn’t know how to end this diatribe and opted instead for a lame attempt at sarcasm?  Then again who am I to question or criticize a writer like Buckley?  Imagine there are no critics – not easy to do.

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