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December 9, 2003

I know what it’s like to be dead. Julia of Sysiphus Shrugged on John Lennon, who was shot down 23 years ago yesterday.
It was a little gap in the conformity-rebellion-conformity sequence that rolls through popular culture like a gilded hamster wheel every few years.
Right. [11:17 PM]
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Comments on I know what it's like to be dead.:

Scifantasy ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 12:01 AM:

I wasn't alive when John Lennon was shot. Nevertheless, thanks to my father's love of music (transferred almost wholesale to me) I've loved his work as long as I can remember.

I envy the people who were there when he was, even though they would have been alive for the day he was killed. I envy them the pure, raw emotion they felt from his life, his work, his death.

Darkhawk ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 12:21 AM:

Thank you for the link.

I was two.

But yet, I grew up on the Beatles -- "Help!" was my favorite movie for my entire childhood, and "Yellow Submarine" a middling close second -- wrapped up in a cloud of music and manic strangeness.

I remember the feeling of betrayal, my rage at the universe, when I was about seven or so, watching Help! for the thousandth time, and got told that John was dead. It wasn't fair, it wasn't right that I was too young to really remember -- that was what I thought then.

A while after that I learned that he had been shot. But I don't remember how I felt from that, it's not a concrete memory.

On, I think, 1 January 1990, NPR (All Things Considered, I think) did a sequence of audio clips from broadcasts of the past decade, and one of them was an announcer trying to say something, and breaking down into tears and a sobbed, ". . . he shot John Lennon." I remembered that, and filed it in memory next to that day in my living room watching John sing and feeling a gap I'd never known I had.

I never know what to say with things like this, no tidy conclusions and remarkable concluding sentences.

All I have is:

I've always missed John Lennon.

tost ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 01:24 AM:

A working class hero is something to be.

Murph ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 02:17 AM:

It's funny how events like this can turn your world upside-down. I now know it's my parents' anniversary (42 years now) because it falls on the same day that John Lennon was shot. It seems backwards, but Mom and Dad don't mind, I think, since it means I always remember.


Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 02:33 AM:

I was listening to The Beatles "1" album last week. Damn, they were *good.*

"I envy the people who were there when he was"

Now hang on there!

While I think Lennon was an exceptional talent, we're not talking about a god-like being whose presence enlightened all about him. It's not like you missed out on a golden age whose like we won't see again.

Grok the Beatles, but appreciate the times you are in. There are immensely talented artists around now, too. Go to their concerts, follow their careers, and don't feel like you missed out.

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 02:43 AM:

I hadn't been watching the dates closely, but that year has been haunting my memory lately. Susan Wood. John Lennon. Gaah.

Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 05:35 AM:

My main memory of John Lennon's death is listening to the 5,271,009th repetition of "Imagine" (then playing around the clock on every radio and TV channel) and realizing that, although I had nothing against the man, I never wanted to be reminded of That Bloody Song ever again. Which was a shame because I think that under other circumstances I might have come to like his music.

Scifantasy ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 07:45 AM:

While I think Lennon was an exceptional talent, we're not talking about a god-like being whose presence enlightened all about him. It's not like you missed out on a golden age whose like we won't see again.

That depends on who you ask. *grin* In the case of me and my father, well, sometimes I think I did miss out on the appropriate golden age.

I'm not quite sure how to elaborate on what I said...It's not simply a question of talent. It's a matter of who he touched, and how, straight up to his death. I can't think of another artist who had that kind of effect on so many people.

jane ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 07:55 AM:

Oh come on--I was around for the Beatles. Liked a lot of their music. Thought some of it really dumb. Preferred George's stuff.

But another pop artist who had that kind of effect? Probably Elvis was greater, had the wider appeal.(Though I never understood why.)

More importantly: Beethoven. Bach. Mozart.


Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 09:40 AM:

Oh I do like that image. That would be a good hamster wheel to find a way to get off.

Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 10:52 AM:

My impression is that the Beatles were unique partly because of being in the right place at the right time, and partly because they were musically fucking brilliant. They happened to hit a period in history where people really believed that music could change the course of history. That does interesting things to how their music was perceived, and how influential it was. It was, of course, possible to be alive while the Beatles were still together and be completely ignorant of their very existence. I managed it.

I remember when Lennon died, though. I was 18, living in Burge Dorm in Iowa City, Iowa. I was in the process of flunking out of college because of a serious episode of depression. I was sleeping during the day, wandering around at night, and not going to classes.

The dorm had two bathtubs on my floor, each in a tiny room just barely larger than the tub, behind locked doors. The tub was sunk into the floor. I filled one with hot water and crawled into it with a book, feeling miserable. I hated everyone on my floor, I hated the world at large, and I particularly hated myself.

There was a flurry of activity in the hallway. Through the locked door, I couldn't quite make out what people were saying. There was rushing up and down the corridor, doors opening and closing, knots of people gathered in the hallways, more rushing and talking. I thought I heard the word Lennon, and the word shot. I got out of the tub, put on my bathrobe, and stepped into the hall.

It couldn't be true, I thought. I must have misheard something. Who would shoot John Lennon? Some other Lennon, surely. Or Lenin. Probably, I'd misheard because of those heavy doors. Maybe the word wasn't "shot." I sat in the corridor just outside my room, wondering.

Down the hall, someone turned their radio up loud. The announcer said that John Lennon had been shot, and that he had died. The only part of me that could react was the part that said, I told you so.

I tried to remember what I knew about the Beatles, what I knew about John Lennon. I was surprised to realize that I knew so little, and even more surprised at the huge hole in my gut. I sat in the hallway and cried for a long time.

Two days later, one of the radio stations did the "moment of silence" thing, and followed it with "Imagine." Having recently left my church, it struck me as beautiful and uncompromising.

"Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky..."

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 06:13 PM:

And of course, Lydy's quoting of the first verse of "Imagine" hooks neatly with Ken MacLeod's comment on the Jonathan Edwards thread on Making Light:

I was raised in the theology of Edwards, not so much expressed in hellfire sermons as in a daily assumption, the catchphrases of prayer: 'We thank Thee that we meet again on mercy's ground'; 'It is of Thy mercies that we are not consumed'; and so on.

So I thought about it quite a lot. Original sin, predestination, and all that. What rankled about it was what I could only see as the injustice. Eventually I concluded that the idea of an infinite goodness that encompassed the spattering of God's robes with the spurting blood of trampled sinners made no sense whatsoever, particularly as everything these same sinners had done was predetermined by the will of the same divine sinner-stomper.

For me the most nihilistic atheism came as good news. You mean ... there is no moral order in the universe? The heavens are indifferent? We die and that's it? All the sufferings of humanity are meaningless? Nothing exists but atoms and the void?


Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 07:59 PM:

Alan, thank you for reminding me about Susan Wood. She may have done more than anyone else to convince me that what I was trying to get up the nerve to publish might pass for a fanzine.

Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2003, 05:50 PM:

Coming late to the party (as usual)... My birthday is December 7th, a date well known to live in infamy. Or maybe Georgia, I'm not sure. On December 8th, 1980 (the day after I turned 27), I was awakened by a call from my mother, and thought it might be one of her weird jokes (if you knew my mother you'd understand why calling me at 6:50 in the morning to tell me that John Lennon had been shot might have been her idea of a day-after-my-birthday joke). The radio confirmed it, however. In a sense it felt like the day Kennedy was shot, the weird feeling that somehow this was such an illogical thing to happen that there ought to be a provision for cosmic do-overs. It was one thing for rock n' roll heros to kill themselves with drugs, stupidly, or to go down in airplanes or drive off the road...but =assassination?= Of a Beatle? It made no sense.

John had never been my favorite Beatle--that was George (I am old enough to have had a favorite Beatle). My best friend crushed on Paul, who was a little too cute for me, and kept insisting that =I= should have a crush on John just because. But he always struck me as a little too clever and a little too ruthless--too ready to use that sharp tongue on whoever was nearby to be shredded. But the Beatles, who hit the scene when I was going-on-9, were the music of my growing up, and damned fine music, too.

Julia Jones finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2004, 11:42 AM:

looks like the same one that's hit Making Light - and I think there are more threads on Electrolite