By Rigoberto D. Tiglao
THE INTERNET behemoth Google recently paid a rare tribute to a
cultural icon who is ironically little admired by the generation that
most uses the web. It celebrated John Lennon's 70th birthday on
October 9 by having its logo changed to a doodle that had a sketch of
the Beatle, with his famous grandpa spectacles. Clicking the logo
triggered an animation of an idyllic scene, and the playing of
Lennon's greatest song "Imagine."
And then a week later, UN goodwill ambassador Lea Salonga, sang the
song at the World Food Day celebration in Rome, with the line perfect
for the occasion: "Imagine a world without hunger. It's easy if you try."
"Imagine" was voted the greatest song in the last 100 years in
several polls in Canada, Australia and the United States. Interviewed
in Nicaragua in 2006 during a crucial elections there, former US
President Jimmy Carter said: "In many countries around the worldmy
wife and I have visited about 125 countriesyou hear John Lennon's
song 'Imagine' used almost equally with national anthems."
That's getting close to Lennon's shocking quote, "We're more popular
than Jesus." Egoistic as that may have seemed, there's some truth
there in that his and the Beatles' songs had a bigger role in molding
the ethos of the youth of the 1970s than the New Testament.
"Imagine all the people, living life in peace."
That line turbo-charged Lennon's earlier "(All We Are Saying,) Give
Peace a Chance," the anthem of the anti-Vietnam War movement, sang by
half a million marchers in Washington in 1969, which historians say
was the tipping point for America's decision to end its war of
aggression. That Lennon played a crucial role in the peace movement
is reflected in the fact that then President Richard Nixon mobilized
all the resources of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the
Immigration and Naturalization Bureau to throw him out of America.
"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."
"Imagine" was released in 1971, in the era of the Woodstock Festival,
anti-war protests, the hippies, the youth revolts in the US and
France, and in our case the inappropriately-called "First Quarter
Storm," said to be the template for the People Power revolts of 1986 and 2001.
In contrast to current times, when the most popular singers sing of
absurd themes or sexual fantasies, here was the pop icon, calling the
generation away from a selfish, materialistic life to one devoted to
noble ideals of working for the brotherhood of man and the struggle
against greed and hunger. More than Marx's "Das Kapital" or Mao's
"Little Red Book," those lines moved many young Filipinos' emotions
(including mine) towards the movement against the Marcos
dictatorship, and even towards the Communist Party of the Philippines.
(Unfortunately though, the prescient lyrics of Lennon's "Revolution"
didn't catch on: "You tell me it's the institution. Well, you know,
you better free your mind instead… If you go carrying pictures of
Chairman Mao, you ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow.")
"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."
The line expressed Lennon's rejection of the type of
institutionalized religion based on selfish emotions of fear of
eternal third-degree burns in the Christian hell, and desire for
rewardsamong others, 72 virginsin the Muslim version of heaven.
It signaled the start of his interest in Eastern spiritual
traditions, after his and George Harrison's meetings with the guru
Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi of the Transcendental Meditation movement.
Indeed, one of Lennon's under-rated contributions to contemporary
culture is that he jumpstarted the West's interest in Eastern
To be sure, there were already Eastern-religion groups in the West
then, mainly Hare Krishna, Ananda Marga, the San Francisco Zen groups
started by D.T. Susuki, the circle of Jiddu Krishnamurti in England.
The Beatle's involvement with the Maharishi in 1967 however all of a
sudden made Eastern spirituality the in-thing for the generation that
idolized them. It was like the impactbut a thousand times more
powerfulof Madonna becoming an adherent of Kabbalah, or Oprah
Winfrey of Eckhart Tolle. (By the way, Tolle's best-selling "Power of
Now" was presaged by Lennon's "living-for-today" line.)
And after Lennon left the guru, young Americans and Europeanseven a
Filipina, Gina Lopez of that powerful clanwere backpacking all over
India looking for their gurus and joining ashrams. It certainly
inspired me to move from book-learned hatha yoga, to a group of kriya
yoga practitioners, and then in the mid-1970s, to the extremely
controversial Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, or Osho.
Now, California rather than Japan is said to be Zen's home now, while
many acclaimed Hindu spiritual teachers live in Europe. Yoga has been
estimated to be a $6-billion industry of accredited yoga schools,
instructional DVDs, magazines, and even clothing. Despite the
commercialization, Eastern spirituality has enriched Western culture,
even to the extent, some say, of starting to replace
Sadly, lacking the equivalent of a Lennon as a pop idol, today's
youth is spiritually impoverished. There are certainly no lofty
ideals sang by Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake. In sharp contrast,
Lennon in an all-time best-selling song of just a hundred words
encapsulated what a human being should live for: the external task of
social commitment, and the internal work of spiritual development.
"I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one."
Thumbs up: John Lennon
By Michelle Wiebach
October 21, 2010
John Lennon. He is known as the most popular member of the most
influential British rock band to tour the Earth, the Beatles. Lennon
wrote and co-wrote more than 100 songs and later went on to a
successful solo career, where he released eight albums.
It's hard to imagine how Lennon would be in this world at 70 years
old. As a peace activist and anti-war believer, Lennon would probably
be writing and singing songs about how the war must end. He believed
that people should come together and live in peace.
He used his honeymoon with wife, Yoko Ono, as a bed-in for peace,
where they sat in bed in their hotel room for two weeks.
John Lennon is an icon. His name alone is recognized across the
universe. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994
and in 2008 Rolling Stone magazine ranked him the fifth greatest
singer of all time.
Nearly three decades after his death, John Lennon lives on. His
birthday (Oct. 9) brought out reissues of his solo albums, films and concerts.
Lennon was responsible for almost half of the songs recorded by the
Beatles. His songwriting and singing was raw, pure and real. By using
his personal experiences, inner demons and emotions, Lennon's songs
illustrated how he felt and gave them a humanistic feeling.
People could relate to his music decades ago, and today his music is
still a favorite among many.
Lennon's death in 1980 affected millions, but he lives on through his
music and will influence generations to come. His songs might even
inspire young peace activists to start their own revolution and let
people know that all you need is love.