In case the barrage of stories praising his "legacy" hasn't tipped you off... yes, John Lennon was shot 25 years ago today.
Let's be honest: the guy was a great musician, arguably among the best, but no philosopher. Contrary to the American habit of equating profound emotion with depth of substance, most of his ideas were pretty, well...ungood. The best that can be said of them is that they were lukewarm and derivative.
Who else but a white limosine liberal would be gullible enough to believe that to banish all strife and suffering, we need only "peace"?
I put peace in quotation marks because his idea of it wasn't based on the right ordering of society (i.e., justice), but on the shallow standard of lack of conflict. The "free love" Lennon proposed as panacea is an intrinsic disorder. (As Woody Allen taught us, everyone pays for sex, whether they know it or not.) At the very least there would be hurt feelings among the jilted lovers. (No, Mr. Lennon, no one ever fought over love and sex. Roight.)
In one pretentious song he imagines "all the people living for today." The existential myth: we needn't order our actions according to the actual structure of the world, but instead we'll find paradise by ignoring all that rot and concentrating on the here and now: here in my now and what I want. As if mankind's hyper-obtrusive self-centeredness were a plausible foundation for peace and harmony!
It's such low-lying fruit that the observation can only be a cliche. The obvious one-line reply to Lennon's "Imagine...Nothing to kill or die for\ No religion too..." was made by a contemporary of his, a man who suffered (and died) for his beliefs and for others and whose religion gave self-sacrifice a transcendent value: "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live."2
What a contrast, Martin Luther King, Jr. makes with Lennon: a giant next to a moral midget!
As a human being John Lennon was like all of us, a child of God, and thus possessed of a dignity surpassing the whole remainder of the universe. For that reason his death is a tragedy. But it needs to be observered that while figures like King die for their beliefs, Lennon died merely for his fame; his beliefs weren't worth a bullet.3
1. Originally I thought to call this post "John Lenin." The man has some biographical affinities with Marx, but the comparison would grant him much more weight than he merits. (More on Communism.)
2. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963 (A reply eight years previous!); cf. "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live." —Decimus Junius Juvenal, Satires (VIII, 244)
3. ...and certainly not all the media retrospectives!
Woody Allen, dir., Shadows and Fog (1992).
Kleinmann (Allen). I've never paid for sex in my life.
Prostitute (Tomlin). You just think you haven't.