In 1971, a "strange" young man wrote and released a song, simply titled Imagine. As far as melodies go, not very complicated, and the arrangement, a simple piano led accompaniment. Nothing fancy. Yet it is this simple little 3:14 song that has been weighing on my heart recently. Especially in light of all the unrest in mostly Muslim countries, the horrific attack on American embassy staff and the nasty rhetoric that has since followed. All which came about as a result of some silly YouTube video which offended the Muslim community.
The very first time I heard Imagine, I was a young adult. I know that many of you would be just stupefied that a person could go through life without having heard Imagine, but sadly, it's true. On first hearing the song, I have to admit, I was NOT impressed. I found it to be really offensive. How do you mean, "Imagine there's no Heaven and Hell? And no religion?". That dude must've been smoking some really good stuff! Turns out he was. However, that shouldn't negate the message of his song. I've grown up a bit since then. I've lived a bit. Been out in the world. Done a little traveling. Now I get what this "crazy hippy" was trying to say. Not that I claim to understand all things, quite the contrary. However I think I better understand what he was trying to say. He was dreaming of a world when we wouldn't let our differences define us or prevent us from seeing each other as worthy of respect. In his opinion, living for Heaven or in fear of Hell, prevented people from appreciating where they are now, the relationships they have now. Religion seems to pull us apart instead of giving us compassion for each other. Most of our faiths espouse tolerance, compassion, generosity, hospitality, mercy, love, peace. One would think that we would see the benefit of that in our societies, instead we seem to cling solely to that which would cause hurt and pain. We use our faiths to judge, condemn, oppress, destroy. It would be wonderful if we just were able to just BE people. Not have countries and nationalities, just be people. All willing to share, no-one taking more than they need. Everyone living in the understanding that when I care about the well-being and welfare of my neighbor, I am also caring for myself. But our innate natures seem to be somewhat greedy and restless in its discontent. Ironically, the very reason I think we could benefit from the positive teachings in our faiths.
It is so easy to look at images of the angry demonstrating crowds and think, "Exactly what we've come to expect from Muslims. Always getting upset and excited about something trivial." Yet, Christians are just as guilty. Muslims may bomb or kill people they consider offensive to their faith, but Christians have been known to blow up abortion clinics or assassinate doctors who work at those clinics. Then there's the infamous witch hunts, pogroms and crusades, all done in the name of God and under the flag of Faith and with the Church's blessing in some cases. What was that? Oh, not ALL Christians are extremists? Well, couldn't it be possible that not ALL Muslims are extremists either? Similarly, not every Middle Eastern man wants to rain death and destruction on the West.
Extremes in ANYTHING in life can be dangerous and have disastrous effects.
Seeing news footage of the burnt down embassy in Libya, the folks that lost their lives, the angry protestors in the streets, just made my heart feel so heavy. Shouldn't we of faith, regardless of which faith it is, be able to rise above these things? Can we not find a way to share this wonderful planet with each other without perpetually warring with each other?
Somebody posted a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King on Facebook the other day, which so aptly described this dilemma for me:
"When we look at modern man, we have to face the fact that modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast with scientific and technological abundance. We've learnt to fly the air as birds; We've learnt to swim the seas as fish, yet we haven't learned to walk the earth as brothers and sisters."
How very sad.
Yet, like Dr King and Mr Lennon, I do have a dream. Maybe, ONE day we will finally be able to understand that different doesn't mean superior or inferior, it simply means different. And different doesn't equate to bad. We all have something to teach each other and something to learn from each other. We all are necessary to make this rich tapestry that is Mankind. Each contribute flavors and colors which adds to the richness and beauty of life.
To quote another singer/songwriter, "I'm starting with the man in the mirror, I asking him to change his ways ..." If we all chose to "give peace a chance" - not merely lip service, but actual actions (and sometimes, inactions) that would bring about real change, could you imagine the world we would have?