SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
We could use John Lennon right now.But then again, I'm sure he'd say, "Don't look to me for answers or salvation, look for yourself, within yourself."But I still miss him terribly.
Me too, Tim. December, 1980 sometimes seems like yesterday.
"Merry X-Mas (War is Over)" makes my top five Christmas songs of all time. The holiday spirit of the song feels 'earned' if that makes sense, because Lennon addresses all the deep fears attached to the season before expressing an even deeper hope. And then, rather brilliantly, he puts the responsibility for that hope on his audience: War is over, (but only) if you want it.But here's where I think things get really brilliant: Lennon's use of present tense language. Not war "will be" or "might be" over--war IS over. The result is a challenging paradox: peace is both conditional AND inevitable. This is, I believe, a point on which many religions agree. I know in the Bible the mystics tend to blur the line between past, present and future. The apostle Paul--who wrote most of the New Testament--speaks of the universe's creation, redemption and restoration as if they all happen in the same breath. In Christian tradition, Jesus' birth is at the center of the paradox: a human child born in a specific time and place is said to have preceded the universe itself. And Lennon's song itself has one foot in history and the other in eternity, addressing contemporary concerns about Vietnam while also speaking to War with a capital W. Anyway, the song is such a beautiful encapsulation of religious themes (both Christian and universal), not only in what's being said but the way in which it's spoken. I know some will say that religious language which blurs the lines between past, present and future is mystic mumbo-jumbo, but it has real practical value as well. Peace is both conditional and inevitable, which is a safeguard against apathy and discouragement.So, long story short, I think "war is over, if you want it" is one of the most perfect expressions of a religious and human truth that you'll ever find. --David
David, that's as illuminating an analysis of this song as I've ever encountered. It's like shining a light on an old friend and seeing him with new eyes. Thanks!
Thanks for the kind words, JMD. You've enriched my reading of so many events, songs and texts that I'm humbled by and grateful for any opportunity to repay the favor. --David--David