Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Song "Imagine" as the "My Little Pony" of Philosophical Statements

(I got a copy of Fraqncis Spufford's Unapologetic for Chrisdtmas; hence this post.) 

Even though it is constitutionally mandated that every high school choir perform, at least once, John Lennon's song "Imagine," I have never liked this piece of philosophical drivel. One reason being that Lennon himself was a wife-beater and child-abuser

But that's just ad hominem stuff and, as such, irrelevant to the song, which fails on its own demerits.

I like what British philosopher Francis Spufford says about it. He writes:

"For a piece of famous fluffiness that doesn’t just pretend about what real lives can be like, but moves on into one of the world’s least convincing pretenses about what people themselves are like, consider the teased and coiffed nylon monument that is “Imagine”: surely the My Little Pony of philosophical statements. John and Yoko all in white, John at the white piano, John drifting through the white rooms of a white mansion, and all the while the sweet drivel flowing. Imagine there’s no heaven. Imagine there’s no hell. Imagine all the people, living life in— hello? Excuse me? Take religion out of the picture, and everybody spontaneously starts living life in peace? I don’t know about you, but in my experience peace is not the default state of human beings, any more than having an apartment the size of Joey and Chandler’s is."
- Francis Spufford, Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, pp. 11-12)

So funny; so true.

Was John Lennon at peace? Fellow Brit Spufford writes:

"I’m absolutely bloody certain that John Lennon wasn’t. The mouthy Scouse git he was as well as the songwriter of genius, the leatherboy who allegedly kicked his best friend in the head in Hamburg, didn’t go away just because he put on the white suit. What seems to be at work in “Imagine” is the idea— always beloved by those who are frightened of themselves— that we’re good underneath, good by nature, and only do bad things because we’ve been forced out of shape by some external force, some malevolent aspect of this world’s power structures." (13)  

Let's stop philosophically abusing the minds of our high schoolers and remove this song from the choral canon. (Yet already this little pony gallops with the DNA of adolescent culture.)