Thirty years after his death and thirty nine years following the release of what became his signature song, John Lennon's Imagine has lyrics that still hit home even today and are considered some of the most important John Lennon quotes. They speak of a world without all the things that divide people against one another, namely religion, politics, and the greed for possessions. When the Imagine lyrics say, "Nothing to kill or die for/and no religion too" it is not so much a rejection of religion as it is a rejection of the notion that religion is a good excuse for killing people, something that members of all major organized religions have been doing for centuries.
A Brotherhood of Man
Imagine lyrics are not meant as a denial of organized religion or of the existence of a higher power, but perhaps an affirmation of our own power on earth and the impact we can have while we are here. To some the song is just a catchy tune, and to others it is a bit too wistful or pie in the sky. But to many who really bought into what he was trying to stand for, the lyrics to Imagine were collectively greater than the sum of its parts. The song was a direct invitation, in fact, to the very group assigning it that pie in the sky label: "you may say I'm a dreamer/but I'm not the only one/I hope someday you will join us/and the world will live as one."
All these years later, the world doesn't seem to be any closer to being a brotherhood of man or living as one than it was in 1971. It seems as though there are very few popular artists even trying to share messages like the one found in Imagine lyrics. Everyone in music seems to be in it only for the money and the celebrity. We stand in cynical disbelief at anyone who suggests otherwise. The lyrics to this song were rather brief and perhaps too simple, and maybe they weren't that much of a stretch or a bold move from a guy who had already declared that his band was bigger than Jesus all those years before.
Living Life in Peace
But folks who struggle with trying to purchase car insurance and people who are unemployed and those of us who try as hard as we can just to keep up week after week after week probably wouldn't mind a world with no possessions, where there was no need to kill ourselves day after day for some little pieces of silver. Imagine lyrics might be oversimplified, and probably purposefully so. But there is a message in all that he was saying when he recorded this song. He is asking listeners to imagine something that is very different than the world we live in today, a world where your value or your worth is not tied to your net worth.
If folks could learn anything from the lyrics to Imagine, it would be that we should not measure ourselves by what we have accomplished or how far we have climbed the old corporate ladder. Imagine lyrics tell us we learn about living life in peace, the kind of peace that starts with us. It is hard to even process the things that Lennon spoke of, so deeply ingrained are our capitalistic traits. We are wired to think social Darwinism at every turn. Yet gifts in time like these Imagine lyrics tell us that there more to life. It is rare when any of us stops to listen long enough to really notice.