Because the circumstances of his death have no meaning.
Because any attempt to ascribe meaning or logic to his killer’s actions only satisfies the internal demons that compelled him to project Lennon into his own psychotic narrative.
Because a psychotic is neither a hero nor a villain, but a puppet of distorted brain chemistry and a victim of society’s inability to confront its own weaknesses.
Which in this case amounts to a fear/absence of empathy for the mentally ill. And also a need to shore up its own self-perceived weaknesses with rage, violence and barely-regulated weapons.
All of which fueled the passion and poetry in Lennon’s work, I know. Which argues against my proposing we all ignore the anniversary of his death.
But to my ears, Lennon’s life and work were about life and possibility, particularly in the face of death and destruction.
Think of those early shots of the Beatles, so young and full of promise, and yet posed in the shattered ruins of Liverpool’s World War II bomb sites.
Consider how John and Paul were joined by a passion for music that sprang directly from terrible losses: the death of Paul’s mother; John’s abandonment by his parents. And then, just as he was reconnecting with his mother, her sudden, violent death.
Lennon flirted with, and sometimes tumbled into, the abyss of existential meaninglessness. “I read the news today, oh boy…” But he still couldn’t resist the allure of beauty, hope and life. I hope one day you join us/And the world can live as one.
The man had his flaws. He could be angry, hostile and occasional brutal. His widow’s non-stop propaganda campaign, in attempts to sustain and heighten his secular sainthood, does him, her and us no favors.
And that’s the stuff of death. The sound of the gunfire. The chill wind in the leafless branches.
Today I’m thinking about the gunfire at the start of the Beatles’ 1964 album track “Any Time at All.” Which isn’t a gun at all, but the crack of Ringo’s drumstick against his snare. Bam! Then it’s Lennon’s unadorned voice at full, urgent, stop-you-in-your-tracks volume: Any time at all!
Because all you gotta do is call. Spin the CD, click ‘play’ on your iTunes. Listen to the perfect balance of voices, the sweet insistence that the entire meaning of life comes down to a glance, a wave, a kiss. And if the words don’t convince you just listen to the drums, bass, guitars and piano.
Any time at all/All you gotta do is call/And I’ll be there!
And he is. Not just on this gloomy day, either. The promise was, and remains, a 24/7 kind of commitment. The very sound of life, love and meaning, available to you 365 days a year.
That’s what we need to remember about John Lennon.
originally published Dec 8, 2010