The importance of December 8 in history includes 1854 when Pope Pius the Ninth proclaimed Immaculate Conception, finally insuring that Mary was free of Original Sin. The next date that jumps out is 1926 when Agatha Christie mysteriously went missing, later explained as a reaction to her husband's infidelity. And then there was the release of the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour in '67. Strangely this particular list doesn't include John Lennon's assassination in 1980. It is found instead under the death category. But for the crowds that gathered at Strawberry Fields this Saturday, it may be the most important December 8th -- right next to October 9, the day Mr. Lennon was born.
The powerful hold that Lennon still wields over his fans is far beyond the music. Of course, the Imagine circle is surrounded by his songs, pouring out of the mouths of people from every corner of the planet. But the music is the lure... his personality, or perceived personality, the fish. Coming together... over me.
Having been working on a film about Mr. Lennon for a few years, I've discovered how deeply imbedded he is in the consciousness of so many, and of more than just one generation. Children of '60s parents have taken him in, perhaps influenced by their folks, or perhaps by their own deep craving for a hero. The crowd on Saturday was older than when I filmed 10 years before, but the young are still there... looking for something... something beyond the Occupy Movement, perhaps something more poetic, less reliant on political theory. When speaking to people, almost everyone mentioned peace -- that Lennon wanted peace and they want it too. Yes, social justice came up in a few conversations, but undeniably peace and love were at the top of the agenda.
It's ironic that Lennon was killed so close to Christmas. It was John who said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus... a statement that was turned upside down for those who wanted to bash them. He didn't say he was Jesus, but as a symbol for peace and love, especially since his death, he runs a close second. Let me be clear here: as a symbol. One man, from Baton Rouge, spoke about him as if he were his brother; his intimate feelings for John brought tears he wasn't ashamed of. And his concern for Yoko Ono and Sean was like he was talking about his own family. And he wasn't the only one.
It's 32 years since Mr. Lennon was shot, and the song "Imagine" resonates as much now as when it was written. New disasters, both political and ecological appear every hour. With the anticipated December 21 just days away, many are holding their breath... what will be next? Perhaps the meaning of the end of the Mayan calendar will somehow be tied to the meaning that Lennon has for those who love him... that we can all make it a better world, if we remember to Imagine that we are one. Time will tell, but rest assured that John's "Happy Xmas," with the potent refrain War is Over, will be sung everywhere this year, keeping that thought and John very much alive.
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