Like many families, mine sat in front of the television minutes before midnight to say good-bye to a tumultuous 2016. The final act was a singer who chose the John Lennon song, “Imagine,” as a symbolic gesture of hope to ring in 2017. Here are the words to the first half of the song:
“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
For some, and perhaps many, they do not really focus on the words, they simply like the sentiment of the song, which they view as an innocuous call to world peace, but if one is to read, or truly listen, to the words, they will hear a sort of anthem for a secular, communist-like utopia.
Given the nature of mankind, however, if one considers the propositions of each verse, it would be illogical to conclude that we would have world peace and unity. In fact, it is more likely that the very opposite would occur.
The first verse seems to imply that the concept of an eternal perspective inhibits us from “living for today.” It also suggests that “living for today” — just today — is a good thing. While “living for today” can be a good thing, such as when I take the time to tell my children I love them, or when I avoid procrastinating on things that can help others, the idea of “living for today,” and just for today, can also engender a utilitarian view of the world where one just seeks out what will gratify their momentary needs and desires.
Rather than promoting selflessness, self-sacrifice, long-term investment, and a multi-generational mindset, it is more likely that “living for today” will produce irresponsible and selfish behaviors that can devastate marriages, families, and foster detrimental consequences for our society.
The second verse seems to contextualize the first, for it views, not just having an eternal perspective, but countries, religions, and anything worth dying for, as being adverse to all people living in peace. This causes me to question Lennon’s concept of peace.
I presume that, for him, peace means there is no conflict, and he views religion, nationalism, and anything worth killing or dying for as sources of potential conflict. However, an absence of conflict is not the same as peace.
Because any point of difference can lead to conflict or a point of attack, as we saw in 2016, it is far more logical to conclude that to “live as one” humanity would have to be composed of homogeneous automatons void of purpose and passion and not a diverse, multi-billion, populated planet as we have today.
While some of the “dreamers” of the song seemed to be implied pacifists, many others, when faced with those who may disagree with them, intolerantly use social intimidation and ridicule to force their “oneness” and vision of world peace on others.
Ironically, I would posit that a major reason why we have so many problems in our world today is not that people are not living up to the words of the song, but precisely because they are.
Too many people are “living [only] for today,” as if their actions do not have long-term or eternal consequences; they are living as if nothing is worth living or dying for. Not only is this sad, it is tragic.
Therefore, I propose we usher in 2017 with a new song, one that emphasizes our gratitude for this beautiful and intricately-complex, created world; and how thankful we can be for the freedoms we have that enable us to celebrate the rich variety of people, cultures, relationships, and sovereign nations.
These things are good, noble, and wonderful things worth dying for, even as every individual life is precious. A faith that honors the One who embodies these things even to the point of dying Himself is also good. For the things that beckon us to lead honorable lives, both in public and private, do have an impact both in this present world and in eternity.
[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]