October 12, 2019

"Well, we all shine on/Like the moon and the stars and the sun."

The first words that crossed my mind when the DJ on the Beatles channel on the car radio asked — on the occasion of John Lennon's 79th birthday — what did John Lennon mean to you?



Who on earth do you think you are? A superstar? Well, right you are!

ADDED: Yoko is actually crocheting, but I have a tag for knitting, and I'm interpreting knitting as a form of crocheting, whether it really is or not.

From Wikipedia: "The salient difference between crochet and knitting, beyond the implements used for their production, is that each stitch in crochet is completed before the next one is begun, while knitting keeps many stitches open at a time."

That is a fantastic metaphor. Think of life like that. There are 2 kinds of people in the world: crocheter and knitters. The crocheters complete one thing before they begin the next, and the knitters keep many endeavors open at the same time.

Yoko is crocheting blindfolded. What does that mean — especially related to karma? I'm thinking that the blindfold depicts a lack of awareness of the karmic consequences of ones actions. At no point in the performance does she remove the blindfold. Karma — even instant karma — never knocks her right in the head. But we can all see that she's blindly fixed on a discrete, inoffensive task, and maybe we're invited to see ourselves in that and to see our own inattention to the larger forces of the universe, which will — suddenly some time — knock us right in the head. So "You better get yourself together, darling/Pretty soon you're going to be dead."

The first time we hear about instant karma, it is indeed going to kick you right in the head (and you're reminded, rhymingly, that pretty soon, you're going to be dead). But the second time we hear about instant karma, it's "going to look you right in the face." That won't work too well if you are blindfolded, so you might want to take off the blindfold and — rhyming with "race" — "Join the human race."

That made me think, John was talking about other people as subhuman. These days, you could get canceled if you talk like that. But John quickly escapes the accusation that he's looking down as he leaps to the declaration that other people are not merely human but superstars, shining "like the moon and the stars and the sun."

Then we hear for the third and last time about how instant karma is going to "get" us. First was kick you right the head. Second was look you right in the face. Third is, "going to knock you off your feet." The rhyming line is "Better recognize your brothers/Everyone you meet."  Your brothers, they're all superstars too. They shine on like the moon and the stars and the sun.

In 2 places in the song, John objects to laughing: 1. "What in the world you thinking of/Laughing in the face of love?" and 2. "How in the world you gonna see/Laughing at fools like me?" Laughing corresponds to Yoko's blindfolded crocheting. You don't see what you are doing. Stop laughing and see that we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.

45 comments:

rehajm said...

I've always presumed instant karma was inferior to percolated, drip, or french press karma.

Lash LaRue said...

He couldn’t be 79. That would mean I’m old too.

Bay Area Guy said...

Loved the song as a kid! Didn't understand what "Instant Karma" meant - and frankly stil don't. Karma seems to be not instant, but deferred.

Wince said...

I'm surprised blindfolded crocheting never caught on.

ga6 said...

zip zero nada

Shouting Thomas said...

Lennon means just about nothing to me.

He really annoyed me during his commie phase, but that was a long time ago.

His solo career after the Beatles was just plain bad.

George Harrison is the Beatle I still listen to. McCartney is a slick writer of hits, but he’s emotionally shallow and boring.

Ann Althouse said...

"Karma seems to be not instant, but deferred."

It will be instant when it gets you.

"Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

So wrote Paul, 2,000 years ago. I think that's strikingly similar to what John was writing in "Instant Karma."

Linda said...

Isn’t that part of our problem right now - so so many people think they are ‘superstars’ ! Ha!!

chickelit said...

A stitch in time saves number nine.

chickelit said...

Instant karma is meted out by Twitter these days.

Iman said...

@10:19 AM... what we all should aspire to. And this post is a great example of the way you think, which is most impressive.

daskol said...

Planets shine in the night sky too. A lot brighter than all stars except the sun, in fact. Why do we always overlook this?

daskol said...

John was a superplanet

chuck said...

I have a confession, the Beatles, Stones, and Dylan meant nothing to me, I didn't buy their albums or go out of my way to listen to them. Not my thing. But I did think it odd that some folks were looking for religious revelation in the lyrics. Bizarre.

cf said...

The arbitrary synchronicity of a few kids from Liverpool doing what a lot of boys do ("let's make a band!") that ends up mesmerizing millions of eager girls and guys to hang onto their every word, AND that their words actually seeded to them visions of freedom and tenderness ??!! That for me has affirmed ever since that Powerful Goodness, bountiful wisdom, and elegant Truth guides the universe.

Love you, john.

Ann Althouse said...

"But I did think it odd that some folks were looking for religious revelation in the lyrics."

People are always looking for religion, but you might be blind to that most of the time and therefore find it odd when you do notice.

Bill Peschel said...

Instant Karma is an amusing idea, disproven by reality over and over again.

But we have to believe in something, and there are worse things to believe in, such as the perfectibility of humanity and the right to tell you how you should live your life.

John was messed up in a lot of ways, but he seemed to realize that he was an asshole and at the same time be an asshole. Unlike many of us who deny reality like we did when we were three.

Doug said...

Lennon was a nasty piece of work. And pretentious to boot.

Hell of a song writer though.

chuck said...

> People are always looking for religion

Yes, I noticed that before I got out of high school. That isn't a revelation about people in general, but it is odd that they should have looked for revelation in, say, the Beatles. I recall people getting together to discuss and analyse the latest songs for their message. That's end-of-the-world crazy stuff. Sort of like today's Democratic Party.

J2 said...

You say he quickly escapes the accusation that he is looking down. I don't agree. For me the song and the delivery are harsh and full of bitterness.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

Well I know why I mainly think about John Lennon now.

"John Lennon" sounds a little like "John Lyon", the name of father of the Lyon sisters and the original Thane of Glamis (nowadays Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne). I suppose if you're leading a cult claiming to take over world and nothing that way seemed to happen after whatever was done to John Lyon's daughters, maybe claiming the spirits were misheard slightly about what music personality to hurt could be an option. Or going after the Thane of Cawdor, originally called the Thane of Calder, by dumping bodies of young females in the Calder Oil Field (aka the Killing Field).

As for the date of Lennon's assassination, there's a more convoluted possibility, which actually fits general pattern of assassinations better: John Lennon's assassination date = anniversary Church of Company Fire, world's deadliest structure fire = where church bells in Oystermouth came from = Oystermouth, Wales = Oystermouth Railway = First railway passenger service in world took first fares on March 25, 1807 = March 25, 1975 = date Lyon sisters were abducted.

MCPD suggests that Lloyd Welch may have hung around the National Park Seminary area in Forest Glen, where there were abandoned buildings from an old girl's school, including a building designed to resemble a castle. This castle would be an effective place to abuse a zombie with sodomy, etc., while simultaneously feeding him superstitious nonsense to make him feel he might be king if he murders according to the mummery, imho. The National Park Seminary area became the Walter Reed Forest Glen Annex during WWII. Walter Reed is where part of Charles Guiteau's brain and a vertebra from James Garfield resides. In the 70's I believe these parts were at the Walter Reed location in DC (I saw them during a high school field trip in the early 80s). Now, apparently, for what it is worth, they are at the annex.

It's especially tragic and in an anti-Democratic spirit when people are killed at least partly because they are well-liked by many people. Listening to John Lennon's music, it seems like some of his best songs were shortly before he died, I guess because he was more sober and drug-free then. Obviously the Beatles had much talent, and though I'm not an especially musical person, I imagine Lennon was an important part of that.

Hard to say whether the coincidences I've found are strong enough that they should suggest a probable or almost probable link between Lennon's assassination to the assassinations and murders I understand much better. With John Lennon, the coincidences could quite possibly be merely that, i.e., caused merely by randomness--or maybe not.

Sam L. said...

Lennon? I really don't care.

JAORE said...

Yeah, yeah, we're all super stars.

I'll mention that to the next homeless person that approaches me on the street.

But didn't it sound so very nice some 50 years ago?

Imagine there are no insufferable,self absorbed azzholes. It's easy if you try.

bagoh20 said...

To the message of the lyrics, I say: right back at you, John.

JAORE said...

" Powerful Goodness, bountiful wisdom, and elegant Truth guides the universe. "

And where does Hinckley fit in this bountiful, wise and elegantly truthful universe?

Joan said...

Loved this post. These are my favorite kind of Althouse posts. However: knitting is NOT crocheting and I came to register my dissatisfaction with your lumping them together.

How about removing the knitting tag and replace it with the more generic "needlework" or the even-more-encompassing "hand work"?

Obviously this isn't important in the least. Just a Saturday morning diversion. Carry on.

Temujin said...

Always loved "Instant Karma", Plastic Ono Band and all. Great lines that came to your mind.

I always liked the line from Lennon: "nothing's going to change my world".

Bay Area Guy said...

I don't think instant karma has gotten me yet, mostly because I'm still diligently trying to shine on.

Fernandistein said...

what did John Lennon mean to you?

He was a singer/songwriter/guitarist with one of the world's great bands, probably in my top 6 or so. Or so. (Co)wrote a lot of great songs and played a very good rhythm guitar, then some crazy asshole killed him.

So wrote Paul, 2,000 years ago.

Barely readable drivel, doesn't even rhyme.

I think that's strikingly similar to what John was writing in "Instant Karma."

At least that doofiness had a melody.

Iman said...

"what did John Lennon mean to you?"

As a young man, I found the music of Lennon and the other Beatles irresistible, but was often annoyed by a lot of Lennon's political views. As I got older, I grew to appreciate the gentleness and humor he used to make his points. His murder was one of those events you remember where you were and what you were doing when you learned of it. As Jimi Hendrix's death a decade earlier had done, Lennon's murder brought tears to my eyes... like losing a close friend.

Mrs. Bear said...

None of The Beatles were moral paragons, though they certainly did possess a remarkable sort of group musical genius, mostly manifesting as a truly superior editing mechanism. They knew almost unerringly what to release and what not to, at least while they were still an active band. There were some signs of individual genius, as well, particularly in Paul. John was capable of behaving utterly abominably. I must assume that sometimes he behaved well, since there still seem to be some people who knew him well who still love him. Were he alive now, he would, I suspect, be running into problems with cancel culture. It is not hard, particularly in looking at early 70's interviews, to discern sexism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, homophobia, and a vast arrogance. I will not rant about his politics at any length. Suffice it to say that I was unimpressed with his political ideas then, and am even less so now. On the plus side, he wrote a fair number of remarkably good and interesting songs. He was also an astonishingly effective singer. His guitar playing was a bit rudimentary, as compared to his colleagues' musical skills, but I rather like the way he sounded. Had he been born later, he could have been a splendid punk rock guy. He was, to say the least, a troubled individual. My wife and I have come to suspect that he may have been an undiagnosed bipolar person, but, of course, at this point, who can say? I think that the clutch of songs that he came out with at the end of his life were generally better that what he did in the first half of the Seventies. The sad thing to me about his early death is that it seems to me that he might have been maturing finally and experiencing a greater possibility of having and giving happiness. Whatever his faults, he certainly did not deserve to be murdered.

bagoh20 said...

" we're all super stars."

Just a humble brag, and easy for him to say.


Ron Snyder said...

John Lennon meant nothing to me. Just another musician.

Mountain Maven said...

Beatles were the best example of synergy. Too bad that drugs, ego and drugs pulled them apart. The 60's were so destructive.

Phidippus said...

What Shouting Thomas @10:10 AM said.

The only thing I would add is that the combination of Lennon and Yoko Ono is a canonical example of negative synergy. Watch and learn, Grasshopper.

Phidippus said...

I would propose an "Althouse Overthinks It" tag for this and similar items.

Do you seriously imagine Lennon sweated over the lyrics to this song? If so he sweated in vain.

But I doubt it.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

"Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans"

(so too, Death)

"A working-class hero is what I must be"

"Cranberry sauce"

Josephbleau said...

The sun and the stars shine in a different way than the moon. The first two create their own shine by processes only inferred by man. The moon shines by reflecting the light of those that earn it from the powers of nature, and calling it its own.

daskol said...

Stars and planets have a gravitational field sufficient that objects, even massive ones, fall into their orbit. Moons like all satellites do the orbiting.

eddie willers said...

My opinion is that the Beatles did what they did because two musical genius somehow got all the right breaks and management to flower. It was if Mozart and Beethoven had gotten together. That's why the Beatles are one of my three from the 20th century who will go forever. (The other two? George Gershwin and Hank William)

His guitar playing was a bit rudimentary, as compared to his colleagues' musical skills, but I rather like the way he sounded.

Just got my 50th anniversary of Abbey Road (with the Blu Ray of the album in Dolby Atmos. (its fabulous, BTW)

In this mixed, they took that wonderful guitar shootout between the three and lined it up, clear & bright, from Left then Right then Center. It really sounds like the three guys were looking at each other around a single microphone and having a blast. And according to all accounts, that's exactly what it was.

One reason my be that before they were to go into the room, John told Yoko, "Not this time, luv. Won't be a minute". I bet the world went off their shoulders for a short while before..."The End".

Equipment Maintenance said...

I was one of those people who was Meh about Lennon, until I took a Beatles tour in Liverpool and came away quite sympathetic and admiring.

daskol said...

I think Eddie it was three geniuses and a mascot. George may come across as a hippie and a dope and his songwriting is not up there with the other two but he pushed them musically with his love of exotica and ability to mesh it to his pop sensibilities. John: INTP, Paul INFJ, George INFP, is my best guess for the MBTI view of their mutual alchemical magic. Or just good karma.

BJM said...

Josephbleau said...

"The moon shines by reflecting the light of those that earn it from the powers of nature, and calling it its own."

The eerie reflective quality is what makes moonlight magical...a beautiful harvest moon tonight.

Ambrose said...

I always thought the knitting was an allusion to Madame DeFarge and the French revolution and the terror.

Robin Goodfellow said...

'Yoko is crocheting blindfolded.'

As long as she's not shrieking, I don't really care what Yoko is doing.