Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lazy Sunday # 140: Jai Guru Deva Om

So begins the refrain from "Across the Universe" written and sung by John Lennon on the Beatles' last album "Let it Be".

Translated from Sanskrit it means "I give thanks to my heavenly teacher" or according to some "I give hope to my heavenly teacher". The literal translation is "Glory to the shining remover of darkness".

Any of those works for me.

Yesterday was remembered as John Lennon's 70th birthday although he died tragically at the age of 40.

So, I guess that means today is the first day of the rest of his immortality.

As a guy who came into his teens just as The Beatles arrived, they have always meant a lot to me. I sometimes meet music fans born after their final records were released and despair at what they missed because the experience was so indescribably wonderful.

There was the unbridled fun of the early albums that probably culminated in "Rubber Soul", a vinyl disc I literally played the grooves out of over a summer weekend learning the chords to every one of its cuts. And from there on each of the band's releases was not so much another great record as a map to the next phase of your life.

In a decade roiling with change, John, Paul, George and Ringo piloted us safely through the cascading destruction providing both comfort and inspiration.

"Revolver", "The White Album", "Sgt. Pepper", "Abbey Road" and "Let it Be" each forced you into a new stage of introspection, greater questioning of your beliefs and a wider understanding of the world. Plus you could still dance and party to them!

The Beatles and particularly John Lennon had all been in and out of Transcendental meditation, drug experimentation and any number of spiritual and Life experiences by the time they were ready to embark in different directions. And because of the turmoil surrounding the final record, his song almost didn't get released at all.

But it did and today "Across the Universe" is universally recognized as Lennon's most delicate ballad. But it was born out of an argument with his first wife and for me exhibits the transformational ability of an artist to channel personal pain into uplifting beauty.

In Lennon's own words:

"It started off as a negative song. She'd gone to sleep and I kept hearing, 'Words are flowing out like endless streams...' I was a bit irritated and I went downstairs and it turned into a sort of cosmic song rather than, 'Why are you always mouthing off at me?'..."

Glory to the shining remover of darkness.

No wonder that in the process the artist realizes that he's only the messenger through which the message flows… "I give thanks to my heavenly teacher".

Yet by his actions proves why he was created in the first place… "I give hope to my heavenly teacher".

In the weeks leading up to Lennon's death the world seemed to be going to Hell in a hand basket. The Russians had invaded Afghanistan. A lot of other evil crap seemed to be reaching the overflow level. And then -- like him -- it was gone.

The Planet seemed to recalibrate to some semblance of sanity.

Maybe he was one of those special lives snuffed to redeem some fault in us. Maybe his passing just made a lot of people remember how precious he made life feel and step back from whatever mayhem they were contemplating.

Or maybe, for the first time, enough people finally listened to what he'd been saying.

"Sounds of laughter shades of life are ringing
Through my open ears inciting and inviting me.
Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns,
And calls me on and on across the universe."

I don't know which part of creation John Lennon now calls home. I just know he's still out there somewhere, still as vibrant as the words he left behind.

Glory to the shining remover of darkness.

Enjoy your Sunday.

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