I can’t make the hills
The system is shot
I’m living on pills
For which I thank G-d
I followed the course
From chaos to art
Desire the horse
Depression the cart
I sailed like a swan
I sank like a rock
But time is long gone
Past my laughing stock
My page was too white
My ink was too thin
The day wouldn’t write
What the night pencilled in…. ( Leonard Cohen, Book of Longing )
“Give peace a chance, not shoot people for peace,” Lennon said at one point. “All you need is love, I believe that. I’m not claiming divinity. I’ve never claimed divinity. I’ve never claimed purity of soul. I’ve never claimed to have the answer to life. I can’t live up to people’s expectations of me, because they are illusory. “The hardest thing is facing yourself. It’s easier to shout ‘revolution’ and ‘power to the people’ than it is to look at yourself and try and find out what’s real and what isn’t, when you try pull the wool over your own eyes and your own hypocrisy…that’s the hardest one.” ( John Lennon Interview, Rolling Stone, 1980)
In John Lennon’s unreleased piece,”Memory” it sounds as if Lennon sings:
Memory, oh memory, what you do to me?
Today is all I really need to know.
do you have to haunt me when I thought I’d let you go?
I hear voices whispering through the cold and lonely hall.
Memory, memory, release me from your spell.
Why do you have to haunt me always?
Why do you have to haunt me when I thought you’d run away?
The song obviously has to do with psychological entrapment and freedom. Lennon feels that he’s haunted, under a spell. He is bewildered: “what you do to me?” The spell is purely within his own skull; it’s the flip side of the liberating magic he conjured in “#9 Dream”. In his Rolling Stone interview, Lennon said that it was pain which had made the great artists what they were. And so it is with memories, at least in the above case. There are very different sorts of memories; each centre has its own proper memory. The memories Lennon is speaking of here seem as if they are associations in formatory apparatus, and that the painful feelings they evoke are negative emotions. Negative emotions, of course, are not sourced in the feeling centre, but are a sort of growth drawn from the perversion of instinctive centre.
…My animal howls
My angel’s upset
But I’m not allowed
A trace of regret
For someone will use
What I couldn’t be
My heart will be hers
She’ll step on the path
She’ll see what I mean
My will cut in half
And freedom between
For less than a second
Our lives will collide … ( Cohen )
But that is not enough. It is not enough to displacethe painful memory for a time; to procrastinate. They need to be seen, acknowledged, and responsibility accepted, suffering sacrificed, lessons learned, digested, an so one, so the theory says. Precisely here, could be Lennon’s problem.
Lennon wants to escape the pain: that is understandable. The pain is a providential arrangement to make us take action. But what action? Sometimes all you can do is to wait until the haunting beast leaves the room. However, not in the case of memories and negative emotions When tormented by painful memories, it often seems as if the other people are inside the individual. This subliminal sense that other people ,– even old selves, former selves – are inside is a common and relatively mild form of possession. It is, if you like, possession by one’s own associations, and so Lennon’s reference to haunting is terribly accurate.
While it is easy to criticise Lennon for not living his philosophy of love, he was, in all likelihood, trying to transfer what he felt deeply as a reality in one state to his life when in another state. The higher, and truer state was, for Lennon, the one he experienced making and writing music. And yet he did not despise the world. Consider these words from the matchless “Real Love”, which he was working on about the same time as “Tennessee”:
All my little plans and schemes pass like some forgotten dream.
Seems that all I really was doing was waiting for you.
Just like little girls and boys playing with their little toys.
Seems like all we really were doing was waiting for love.
No need to be alone, no need to be alone.
It’s ree-yal love, it’s re-e-e-e-eal, yes it’s ree-yal love, it’s re-e-e-e-eal.
… No need to be afraid, no need to be afraid.
Thought I’d been in love before, but in my heart I wanted more …
This, might be the key to both songs. Lennon was questing for the road to reality, and sometimes he found his feet on it. The way to the road lay, for him, through art and through love. So Lennon had had glimpses of this, but how to make it a part of his life? In a way, I feel that this was the theme of Lennon’s life and striving. What he wanted was reality.
Sometimes Lennon knew that reality lies not in personalities, as he sang in “God”, or in occupations or callings, such to the avant-garde, but in a change, or transformation of our internal states. As he sang in “Revolution” to all those agitating for political change, “you better free your mind instead”. But precocious as this understanding was, Lennon often forgot it. In fact, even when he wrote “Revolution” a part of him did not seem totally convinced of it.
…The endless suspended
The door open wide
Then she will be born
To someone like you
What no one has done
She’ll continue to do
I know she is coming
I know she will look
And that is the longing
And this is the book ( Cohen )
… “Imagine”, I have come to see one important matter: the song is actually addressed to believers. The famous opening words “Imagine there’s no heaven” can only make sense if spoken to those who believe in the existence of a heaven. “Heaven” is often a way of referring to “God”, just as “the White House” can often mean the President of the USA. Throughout the addresses those who also believe in hell and religion. Lennon does not outright invited us to imagine no God, but it comes to the same thing.