© Marianne Glaeser 2023
It’s been a long time. I am thinking of you more often these days—usually after watching the news. It’s getting harder to imagine the beautiful world you created in your song.
The world is hurting. Hell is not below us. No imagination needed; it’s right in our midst.
I listened to “Imagine” yesterday, intently, for the first time in many years. This song has been with me through most of my life. I was a teenager when it first came out. To this day, I remember the starlit sky I gazed into half the night while replaying it over and over. I felt deeply understood in the space it created, encouraged to simply be how I was, heartbroken, sad, yet dreaming of a better world.
But life went on, and so did I. It was yesterday, while listening to “Imagine,” that I found a subtle distance inhibiting my immersion into the music, turning me into more of a melancholic observer. For the first time, I was struggling to get into the rhythm of your innocent vision.
No countries, no borders, no heaven, no hell, just peace. I am afraid that’s become too much of a stretch for me.
Angry fanatics terrorise the world with the most barbaric of crimes in the name of their God; floods of desperate refugees are causing once-welcoming countries to fortify their frontiers. Whole nations harden their hearts in view of such overwhelming need.
I know your answer to this. How I used to sing along, John—honestly, at the top of my lungs! But yesterday I fell silent.
I have been in a multi-religious relationship for more than 30 years. My husband is Buddhist, I am Christian, and our spiritual practice is important to both of us. I am familiar with the challenges differing religious views can bring. Judgmental trespassing hurts instantly and deeply. This is sacred space and needs to be handled with utmost care. It has become a dance between perceptive scanning and cautiously trying to get a sense of each other’s inner realities.
It’s a challenge, and yes, it can be lonely and sad at times, especially when we dig in our heels during philosophical debates. It’s then that we loose perspective on how much we actually have in common.
After all these years, though, I know that I love and respect this man deeply.
My husband agrees with your fictional solution when it comes to religion. He has quoted you more than once when we fell into the trap of religious competition. It seems so obvious: no heaven, no hell, no religion. Life would be so simple, right?
I’m afraid I can’t join you here. Would taking away these concepts really turn us into peaceful creatures?
Religion is about reaching to the deepest levels of self; it offers orientation, values and answers to our most essential questions. That’s why we feel so vulnerable here, so insecure and easily threatened by differing creeds. We expect a truth to be somewhat absolute, valid for everyone.
“Since I am right, you must be wrong.” This disastrous conclusion of insecure minds becomes the breeding ground for conflict and bloodshed. It’s the language of fundamentalism.
I don’t see religion, or rather the misuse thereof, to be the source of the problem. The malefactor is a human trait that seems to be rooted in our DNA: the competitive gene, the wanting to be right, the need to feel safe and in control.
It cannot be blamed on any particular group.
I have seen scary religious fanatics, and I have also experienced the aggressive power of the anti-religious, who easily turn a blind eye on their own extremism. Religion, race, culture, politics, sports, economics—all of them offer great battlefields for our existential fights. Every area of life can be affected, the closer to our core, the more severely. Superior behavior always hurts, and is bound to cause division and violence.
It takes wisdom, maturity and humility to embrace the co-existence of different truths.
Dear John, many years ago your powerful vision encouraged me to follow my dream. Let me share with you where it has led me:
Imagine the world was filled with people at peace with who they are: human, powerful and broken.
Imagine forgiveness was raised to a new form of art, honored as the finest of them all.
Imagine we were courageous enough to claim our personal freedom and appreciate the duty that comes with it.
Imagine we were prepared to live up to our potential, encouraging others to do the same.
Imagine we became fully aware of our interconnected nature, touched by people’s joys and pains alike.
Imagine we believed in our gods with the humbling understanding that truth can only be approached, never fully grasped.
Take away religions, John, and we will find something else to fight about. As long as the war rages within us, it will rage out there. We are fragile and vulnerable creatures, full of scars and wounds; those precious moments of total peace are the fruits of fearless encounters with our true selves, when we move from judgment to acceptance.
Thank you for sharing your dream, John Lennon. It has touched so many people’s hearts. There must be thousands of unique stories out there, starting with your song, evolving into something deeply personal.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could listen to them with humility and compassion. We might be able to actually hear them.