Imagining No Possessions (Part One)

A younger, more cynical version of me took issue with the song 'Imagine'.  Now: I am and always will be a Beatles devotee - they are still, despite everything, in my view very, very underrated - and maybe it's my enduring fascination with everything that happened in the Western world between 1962 and 1969 (not just viz. the Beatles, not even just viz. art) that left me unable to appreciate properly anything the Beatles did after the Beatles collapsed - but whatever the reason it's taken me this long to appreciate John Lennon's best known solo song for what it is.



I'm fond of telling people when the opportunity presents itself (and sometimes when it doesn't) that I'm actually a conservative: I believe in a return to traditional hippy values.  (It's not a bad line, is it?  Yeah thanks, you can use it).  Through the fog of post-postmodern pop decades, the essence of the countercultural dream - "all the people, sharing all the world" - seems so naive, so impossible, so completely contrary the spirit of 'progress' we're trying to squeeze out of the end of the end of history maybe just in time for the apocalypse, that it's offensive even to bring it up.  Do ISIS want a "brotherhood of man"?  Does Israel?  Does Saudi Arabia?  Does the USA?  Does post-Brexit Britain?  China?  Russia?  Does anyone?  Yes, of course.  What I meant to say - does anyone with the power to actually do anything about it?  No.  Of course not.  And do those with the power really want to share the world with those who live outside their patriotism, their economics, their ideology?  That would be "no", again.  Imagine there's no countries.  It's very hard to do.

So I'm sure my cynicism's understandable.  I'm just one person.  Then there's John Lennon himself, asking us mere mortals living without the luxury of spacious mansions, grand pianos, white carpets and enormous private gardens to imagine no possessions.  Yeah, ok John, I will if you will.  And you know those innovative, psychedelic, time shifting, surrealist pop masterpieces you managed to filter through the Beatles before everything fell apart?  That's what we love you for - and now you're giving us this?  A slow piano ballad in C major with an explicitly one-dimensional political message and without so much as a semolina pilchard climbing up the Eiffel Tower or a soap impression of your wife that you ate and donated to the National Trust?!  A "'Working Class Hero' with sugar on it for conservatives like yourself" as even you described it to your recently estranged soulmate?  What happened, John?

But.  But...

You can't resist the power of this song.  You just can't.  The naivete, the simplicity, the audacity of it is really the whole (and only) point.  Forget all the bullshit and bollocks.  Forget all the reasons why your dream of a simple, peaceful world in the here and now will only ever be a dream.  Forget everything and just imagine.  It really is easy if you try.  I did it myself just the other day.

Now what?