Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rounding Out The Picture

This morning's (non-kankle) run numbers: 5.51 miles in 48:15 for a 8:48 pace. I consider that to be a not-so-bad pace for a number of reasons:

I'm kinda tired this morning, having gotten little sleep last night, for no good reason. That's not unusual. Also not unusual: Trying to use my lack of sleep as an excuse not to run. I nearly lost (or, depending on how you see it, won) that argument with myself this morning, but in the end, I got my recently-civilized derrière outside at 5 a.m. and got the run in. Unfortunately, the way I got out there so early was by skimping a bit on the pre-run stretches for the knees, which is pretty much always a mistake. This time I got away with it. I felt a twinge or two — but even calling them "twinges" is overstating the case — in the right knee and decided not to push it pace- or distance-wise. I had intended to go for 6+ miles but cut it short at 5.5.

I'm icing the knee now, but I'm not even sure it needs it. Plus — this just in! — ice is COLD!
Last night's post on John Lennon, Brian Epstein and "Baby You're a Rich Man" seemed a bit rushed and incomplete to me. Last night was Teh 'Bride's late night so I was alone with Ian and as I was typing that post up I became aware that it was nearing the time to call Ian inside to take his shower and read to me; he's usually good about these things, but he's 10 so ... you never know. Ten-year-olds have an amazing capacity, when it suits their purposes, for being unable to "hear you when you called" no matter how loudly you yell.

I had already given Ian about 10 extra minutes outside, so I just quickly finished up that post and, instead of saving it as a draft, as an adult would have done, and come back to it today to finish it up, I just posted it as is, like a 10-year-old. And "as is" = incomplete.

The run stuff in today's post is up top, and that placement is deliberate; because if that's all you're interested in, well, you should have stopped reading two paragraphs ago and hit "next" in your Google Reader. You can still do so now. Because this part won't have anything to do with running and I have a feeling it'll be long because it'll be complicated (and probably boring) because my views on John Lennon are complicated (and also probably boring to everyone other than me).
In the U2 song, "God Part II", Bono sings:

Don't believe in Goldman
His type like a curse
Instant karma's going to get him
If I don't get him first

"Goldman" is, of course, Albert Goldman, a hack music writer who in 1988 published an amazingly mean-spirited bio of John Lennon titled The Lives of John Lennon. It was universally condemned as a pack of lies by everyone who knew Lennon and Goldman famously listed in his "Sources" interviews that the alleged interviewees say never took place. Goldman accused Lennon of everything, up to and including literal murder, and made patently absurd claims, such as that virtually every song Lennon ever composed was a variation of the tune to "Three Blind Mice". I read this book when it came out. To call it shit is an insult to shit.

When Bono sings that "Instant Karma's gonna get him [Goldman]", he is, of course, alluding to one of John's early solo hits, "Instant Karma". The title of the U2 song itself  — "God Part II" — is an allusion to John's song "God", which appeared on his first solo album, Plastic Ono Band, in late 1970.

In "God", John goes through a litany of things he no longer believes in — Bible, Jesus, Tarot, Buddha, etc.; ending ultimately with "Beatles" — and he declares the dream to be over.

But lyrically, the dream was never over for John, because if there is one theme that consistently reappears in his lyrics it is that "reality" is in one's mind; you make your own reality, because, as John sang in "Strawberry Fields Forever", "nothing is real". Throughout John's career, you'll find him writing about dreams, sleep, times of altered states of consciousness; even in his "political" song "Revolution", he concludes "you better free your mind instead".

There is, in his lyrics, this insistence on preferring the "reality" of the mind, of the dream-state, over the external, empirical reality that we experience with our five senses. John's are the lyrics (and poetry) of someone for whom "the real world" is painful; a place to be avoided, the cruelty of which needs to mitigated in some way. As a child, John had been abandoned by both father and mother and he never really recovered from that. John's way of dealing with his pain was to retreat into his mind, into his dreams, into an altered "reality" that he could control because its meaning was almost entirely dependent upon his own mind's eye.

This is not absolute; I am not trying to imply that John was borderline-psychotic, because he was not. And many of his songs were straightforward enough. He was more complex than I am making him out to be for the sake of the point I am trying to make.

And the point I am trying to make is ... John was neither the ogre of Goldman's imagination, nor was he the saint of others' equally cartoonish, hagiographic depictions. He was a man in a state of becoming; he was, when he died, still evolving. He said on more than one occasion that the reason he came out against all war and in favor of world peace was because he recognized that he himself was quite capable of violence (he contributed the lyrics "I used to be cruel to my woman,/ I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved/ Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene/ And I'm doing the best that I can" to "Getting Better", which was mostly a Paul song); he came from an environment where women were considered inferior, yet he became an ardent feminist later in life. He both loved Brian Epstein and tormented him for being gay; yet in the 1970s, John frequently spoke out in favor of gay rights.

As I said in last night's post, I wish John had not uttered that slur at the end of "BYaRM" (assuming he actually did), but even though he may have, that, also, is not the essence of the man. His essence is hard to pin down. that's part of what makes him intriguing — to me, at least.

And he was honest enough not merely to acknowledge that he had hurt people in his lifetime, but to request that these warts not be airbrushed out of his life when people spoke of him. He always struck me as, in part, a man who was trying to improve himself and make amends for past mistakes — and that much, at least, I find admirable. That is what I choose to believe was the essence of the man.
"Dear Prudence" is a song John wrote while the Beatles were on retreat at the Maharishi's ashram in India in early  1968. "Prudence" is Prudence Farrow, Mia's sister, both of whom were also on retreat at the ashram at the same time as the Beatles. The followers of the Maharishi would often compete with each other to see who could meditate the longest — yeah, there was a definite cult vibe to the whole Maharishi trip — and Prudence Farrow at one point started meditating for days on end, never leaving her bungalow. The others became worried, rightly, for her sanity. And John serenaded her with this beautiful song to try to lure her back out into "the real world". (You know you have pretty much lost contact entirely with reality if John Lennon is trying yo bring you back down to solid earth!)

Paradoxically, the song's plea to come back to the real world is expressed in very dream-like terms. It is a dreamy song about re-engaging with reality.

The same John Lennon who cruelly taunted Brian Epstein in "BYaRM" also wrote this touchingly gentle gem of a song.


  1. I can't say I know much of anything about Lennon, but I'm learning! Very interesting stuff.

  2. A man of parts. YoWhich is the best biography to read?

  3. Your civility may be catching - I'm thinking about doing a post saying nice things about triathletes (I've been accused of attacking them unfairly).

    I've always thought the essence of great music was having thoughtful lyrics (John), pop craftsmanship (Paul), instrumental virtuosity (George), and a sense of fun (Ringo). Sleazy overpromotion (Epstein) doesn't hurt, of course.

  4. i really enjoy this post. it's insight into lennon is fascinating, but it is a gentile reminder that a man is more than just one or more actions. while many men are identified for a singular act, it does not necessarily identify who that man is, especially in the light that a man is in a constant state of change.

  5. God, I've missed you.

  6. I'm sorry, I totally stopped reading once you mentioned U2. Too bad there weren't any footnotes to fall back on... ;)

  7. Kankle run at sub nine?

    I may have to stop reading the run portion of your blog. You are joining the ranks of the "I can't relate to her/him. He/she is too fast" runners.

    And yes, I did just call you a he/she. I never said I would be gentle.

  8. Keep those Beatle comments coming. They are the best band ever!