But this is friggin’ beautiful. And maybe it’s the exception to the rule.
I’m not really one to shove video onto my blog – and really, to be honest, the video itself kinda ruins the song (I suggest looking at pictures of ponies or kittens or baby beluga whales)- but this one got to me. In particular, I thought the interpretation of the line about religion struck a peculiar resonance. In Lennon’s original version, his voice pulls away – just slightly – when he sings “and no religion too”, and I always felt that as the voice of a man who did not believe – imagination, in this instance, being stronger than belief. Indeed, in his interpretation, imagination trumps belief. And it always seemed mournful to me – cold and empty and alone. But in this version, the soulfulness of the line – and the deliberate slowing of the rhythm, the close, resonant harmonies – leads me to believe that their intention was quite different. In this case, imagination deepens belief. If one is to imagine a world without religion, then a relationship with the Divine becomes the responsibility of each individual. Or, in other words, it’s faith anarchized, democratized, internalized, and therefore free to all.
Now many of you know that I’m a practicing Catholic (practice? Ha! I don’t need no stinkin’ practice!), and while I’ve had my differences with many (all?) of my church leaders over the years (angrily, vociferously, while still believing in the ability of people to change) and have had my share of doubts over the years (like, every blessed day) I take a great deal of joy in my faith. Being in church moves me to tears, the person of of Jesus the Revolutionary spurs me to action, and I believe in the call of scripture to radically change the world.
But now I have to wonder if I sometimes abdicate the responsibility I have to love God and love the world to the comfortable momentum of my church. Perhaps I do. I have a responsibility to love the world. I have a responsibility to seek the Divine in my life. Do I do it? A little bit, I guess. Do I do it well? Um…..not so much.
One of the things I’ve loved in reading about mystics – both Christian mystics and mystics in every religion – is that sense of immediacy and urgency and wonder in which they imbued into their day to day life. When you operate under the assumption that the physical world and the spiritual world are as close to one another as the breath and the mouth, it lends a certain shimmer to the world around you.
The mystic sees God in the wind. The mystic feels God in the ground under her feet. The mystic has no need for fussing over heaven or hell, of the rightness or wrongness of one religion over another, because, as far as the mystic is concerned, God is here, heaven is here – and God is in the faces of the people demonstrating in Egypt and in the bodies of those struggling for a basic existence in Haiti, and in the hands of the doctors and nurses in hospices all over the world, gently ushering the dying from one world to the next. God is you. And me. And the world. And in the end, whatever religion any of us are doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.