Over the imagining of the next painting and the next — songs of the Winter Olympics: Luciano Pavarotti, John Lennon, Peter Gabriel. Thousands of youthful faces flushed with breathless energy for the heart-stomping competitions. There’s hope. Any dreamer in any peaceful studio can hear the music from Turin. On the downhill or the up, any brush or chisel can conduct. It’s a beat measured perhaps for lands not yet known — even those who might be invited from another century. What a privilege it is to be living in this time now. To be part of this. Free to imagine.
Imagine there’s no heaven,
It’s easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace…
Imagine no possessions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one,
I hope some day you’ll join us,
And the world will live as one.
Surely this is very near the top. In these sparse words Lennon sees a global village of unfettered freedom. He sees the difficult concept of the sharing of wealth and possessions. He sees that in order to achieve true universal love, religions might have to diminish. He sees the killing fields at their end. He sees a rising, sharing, brotherhood of man. Troublesome stuff for many, but for the mind’s-eye of an imagining artist, it can just be imagined.
PS: “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.” (Michelangelo)
Esoterica: Luciano Pavarotti is an example of what can be done with a big heart and artistic success. Apart from the “Pavarotti International Voice Competition” and other arts related sponsorships, he runs an independent industry for his charities of choice. Pavarotti has spearheaded international action on land mines, initiatives for world peace, and led a charge against mankind’s real enemies — fear, ignorance, hatred and poverty. Taking the stage with others, his concerts have raised millions for major medical, vocational and educational movements in Bosnia, Cambodia, Kosovo, Guatemala, Liberia, Tibet, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. “Imagination encircles the world.” (Albert Einstein)
Consciousness must change first
by Richard Kent, Irving, CA, USA
The world conditions as we see them are the very outpicturing of our own individual states of consciousness. To improve the picture, our state of consciousness must first change. Loving and appreciating each individual, including ourselves, as the showing forth of the One Creative Principle, takes a great deal of humility and this includes sharing.
(RG note) Thanks Richard. And thanks to everyone who wrote regarding this letter. The credit for it of course goes 80% to John Lennon and 20% to Luciano Pavarotti. Thanks also to the many bloggers, forum keepers, club newsletter writers and print media editors who have already picked up and rerun this letter for their own readerships. I’m honoured. Regarding the copyright questions that several have asked about — the lyrics to Imagine by John Lennon are held by Bag Productions Inc. There are, by our estimation, over 5000 places on the Internet where these lyrics are posted. Our usage is not for profit. It’s my feeling that Lennon would be proud of and eager for the gentle and peaceable proliferation of his lyrics.
A miracle amid violence
by Katia Mendonça, Belem-Para, Brazil
I speak from a distant land: Brazil on the Amazon. But I dream in being as free as the angel of Michelangelo. My painting helps me to glide toward other distant worlds, and to be a better person. She is for me the same as for Jerry Fresia who says, “What is it when the human being makes the mark on the canvas? It’s the miracle.” To paint is a miracle amid so much violence. To paint, to make art is the hope of peace for us. It is the purest manifestation of God.
The Olympics give creative inspiration
by Cathie Harrison, Atlanta, GA, USA
I too am so inspired and encouraged, even hopeful, watching the young vibrant faces of the Olympians. I love the grit of the young downhill female skier, and the girls in the speed skating who “picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and started all over again.” Good advice for artists. Galleries are going to reject you, people are going to say insensitive things about your work, critics are going to ignore you and family members are going to plot to steal your painting time but you have to pick yourself up and go back at it. Hurray for the inspiration of Youth!
Joyful feeling of connectedness
by Jeanne Long, Minneapolis, MN, USA
John Lennon set the words and music to the song Imagine, but he didn’t write them. Oneness did. That’s why so many listeners are uplifted by this song. When artists as manipulators of form like pigments get our “selves” out of the way, as Lennon seems to have done in this song, Oneness creates. Our job as artists is to see through our imaginary identities, which cause ourselves and others so much pain, release them through that seeing, and become one with the All. In that oneness, through that oneness, a wholeness speaks through our hands and voices. When others view what comes forth from that unified state they feel that connection. They may not understand it with their minds, but they feel its freedom because it points to something connecting them to the Whole and they resonate with that joyful feeling of connectedness.
Individually within our grasp
by Ted Clemens, Sachse, TX, USA
I imagine a world of wonder, too. But not a wispy-dreamy one that eliminates religion, possessions and borders. Instead, one that embraces them and respects them. A life of being able to accept without agreeing, and being able to love without having to like. Where sacrifice is esteemed above rights, and joy above the happiness of circumstance. I imagine a life of discovery and grace in the midst of sometimes awful truths. As a world, this can only be imagined. But individually, all this is within our grasp right now.
Improve the world through art
by Ron Gang, Kibbutz Urim, Israel
We have been born into an imperfect world, where the dynamics of action and reaction (“karma”) seem to show us no way out. Yes, many take political action, and this is part of the dynamic, and hopefully that can change the world for the better. It is said that the effectiveness of the action taken is connected with the level of consciousness of the doer. Probably the only person we have a fighting chance of changing is our own self. This is done through a life-long inner struggle, learning and self-discipline. I believe that art has the possibility of getting through to others, and as with all contact with others, we can either add tension or somewhat relieve it. If we improve ourselves, we improve the world, and we can do this in all action including art. (I think it was also John Lennon, in an earlier song called Revolution, who said, “you’d better change your mind instead.”)
John Lennon a communist
by Claudia Roulier, Idledale, CO, USA
Please excuse my cynical nature, I love the Beatles but I am also a realist. Lennon, when he wrote this song was singing the praises of communism. If you know anything about the history of communism, it is filled with blood and death and misery, equal opportunity misery if you will. Beautiful thought but totally runs contrary to human nature. We are what we are, not what we wish we were. I don’t like his work with Yoko Ono, who, by the way, seemed to embrace benefits of capitalism while bad mouthing the United States, a bit hypocritical if you ask me.
‘Can’ does not mean ‘should’
by Linda Muttitt, Fort Langley, BC, Canada
When I hear, or read, the words of John Lennon’s song, there is a direct line into the deepest heart of me. The absolute wonder of hope and it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. What a wonderful way to begin my day. Thank you. And in this imagining, the creative gift to express and share what we see as beautiful. For an artist like myself who loves to paint what is precious in nature in the hope that some will more fully realize how essential it is to protect it, at all cost, imagining a world where all animals are protected… well, it makes my heart beat faster. I can hardly wait to move my brush again. We can’t have it all, or take it all. It becomes increasingly clear that we have to give up the need to possess things, land, stuff… Just because we can take something because of our size, or perceived power, doesn’t mean that we should. Imagine.
The deep need for ‘justice’
by Aleta Pippin, Santa Fe, NM, USA
I think John Lennon was divinely inspired when he wrote the words to Imagine. It’s difficult for many to adopt his ideas, particularly about “no hell below us.” People look around at the actions of some and want to feel that there is some kind of justice meted out. But what if we are a physical projection of the larger consciousness here painting a canvas called “life” for the purpose of the experience, adding to that larger consciousness. When we withdraw from our physical form, we re-emerge back into our “full” or “real” selves in love with the experience and knowing that all of it was worthwhile.
Generosity and vision inspire artist
by Marie Martin, Fountain Valley, CA, USA
It’s fascinating to try to understand how imagination and creativity work. How can one small bit of a thought trigger a landslide of new images? After only a cursory read of today’s piece, a mere mention of Pavarotti’s generosity and Lennon’s hopeful vision caused my brain to explode with a multitude of ideas… “Why didn’t I know Pavarotti had undertaken such worthy pursuits? … What energies drive that huge voice of his? … What would have become of Lennon’s hopes had he lived? … to think of ourselves as being privileged to live in our times rather than bemoaning the next thing gone wrong…” In a flash, my brain saw brighter oranges, more intense blues, brighter whites. Images and intense feelings about color (too numerous to list) that I will take to my studio today… images that will end up in my paintings in ways I cannot begin to describe.
Love is all there is
by Len Sodenkamp, Boise, ID, USA
The Creative Mind by its own nature is love. The Thing Itself does not understand anything but love. Hate, fear, and even death is not in the mind of Creation. These things only exist in the minds of men and women. We either believe the universe is a peaceful place or a hostile place. This mind chooses to focus on peace. Love is all there is.
Alternatives to art as commodity
by Gabriella Morrison, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
Those of us who make tangible and saleable art works are in the business of making possessions for sale. Possessions of art demonstrate buyers’ social status, education, taste and economic power. Art is but one of the many commodities available to us all as status signifiers. There are artists such as Andy Goldsworthy (British) and Diana Lynn Thompson (Canadian) who make art out of activity, the traces of which eventually return to the fabric of the landscape. This kind of art is not “acquirable” in the material sense and is available for anyone regardless of social status to appreciate. Similarly the photographs of Canadian Edward Burtinsky, of the Bangla-Desh oil tanker graveyards, would be difficult to view as desirable commodities — imagine hanging one such image above the dining room buffet. Most of commodified art is of the decorative and little meaningful nature, and this is the type of imagery that commonly sells — witness Wal-Mart prints, or chocolate-box type paintings. Imagine if we sold meaning instead of decoration.
Our thoughts become our lives
by Susan Easton Burns, Douglasville, GA, USA
Christo and Jeanne-Claude imagined The Gates of New York and the smiles on the millions that experienced a lively, bright, blowing in the wind, central park for a couple of weeks in February, despite the politicians that said no. Arthur Blank, co-founder of Atlanta based Home Depot Stores, just built a multi-million dollar aquarium with his own money. Maybe he imagined the millions of smiles on the faces of visitors. Susan Burns spends her time and money to teach art and purchase supplies in a public school in Georgia where there is no art program. By taking a just a few hours each week, thousands of expressions and experiences have added themselves to the collective unconscious. I imagine a tiny bit better world. It is all good. We all believe in something and can make the difference from where we are in this moment. The beauty of this is that we need not be somewhere or someone else. Our thoughts make a difference. Our thoughts become our lives.
John Lennon’s idealistic legacy
by Glenn Spicer, Maple Bay, BC, Canada
The Olympics, great concept, nice international intermingling, but “No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man, Imagine all the people Sharing all the world…”? Somehow (unfortunately) the Olympics get caught up in big contracts for the big corporations. Extreme amounts of money are spent that benefit the already rich with Olympic workers getting mostly temporary minimum wages, sometimes worse. Money is taken from social programs, away from health care, away from education to pay for the always present cost overruns that the taxpayer, willing or not, pays for. Good that men from all lands compete in good sportsmanship and show the “Brotherhood of Man” but please not by sacrificing the poor, ill, and uneducated to the benefit of the rich! Am I missing something here? I think that John Lennon would have found this an interesting application of his song. Now Luciano Pavarotti, a wonderful application of a philanthropist and thoughtful benefactor and apparently an excellent example of Imagine. This is all interesting but dare I say that the “dark forces are arising” the earth is on the brink or worse of succumbing to man’s meddling, mostly for greed and power of a few. And if it continues, well I hate to think. This world is a treasure, a jewel, our womb, our mother, and it is being laid waste by greed. The real Olympics, in my opinion, is not what exists today but a more idealistic one born of love of self-improvement (not competitions that drive people to feel that they need performance enhancing drugs to succeed). How long must happiness or success be measured by a greater national production, more wealth, more material possession, and more power? What happened to caring for one another and this planet we live on? Let’s not get too lost in “the Game.” Artists are often considered visionaries. Then let artists be visionaries that bring healing elements in words, music, and art. Let’s get idealistic before we are too busy just surviving and striving for food and shelter and peace and love in the vacuum of hate, greed, and war, glorious war. Write love, sing love, paint love, this is John’s idealistic legacy that he himself could not live up to in his life, but strived to achieve.
Anthem for atheists
by Cindi Nave, Lexington, KY, USA
Just as a part of John Lennon’s song, describing the benefits of no religion, has become an anthem for atheists, I am offended by the concept of no religions to divide us, as if all religions are indirectly related to the hatred of man for his brothers in the world. True advocates of religion, meaning the expression of love of God, take every chance to heal, be free, and make life better for our brothers and sisters in the world, and no action to divide anyone. Truly they are peacemakers.
Imagine these changes
Already we are seeing more openness. Only a few years ago evangelist Billy Graham was preaching the one and only way now in his final crusade he is talking about being “friendly” toward other faiths. The current trend to “comparative religion” is an education for those who might care to be educated. At the same time we must continue to honor and respect those who wish to remain in what they consider to be the wisdom of another century. And yes, with love, not righteous bombs, there’s hope. You’ve said it yourself Robert: “Leopards can change their spots.”
Turning a dream into reality
by Helena Tiainen, Berkeley, CA, USA
Someone wise stated that whatever you can dream/imagine you can accomplish. Everything we humans accomplish starts with someone’s dream or desire. And if this dream or desire is strong enough and gains support it eventually becomes a reality. The stronger the support and the more dreamers dreaming the same dream or experiencing the same desire, the larger that reality becomes. We can change the world as humans. But first we have to realize that every man-made system on this planet was at some point someone’s dream that may have become most people’s nightmare. In order to change the world we need to change our minds. We need to start dreaming the dreams we want. We need to shift our focus from what we don’t desire to that which we do desire. This is for most of us easier said than done.
In reality nobody needs to give up anything but their greed and desire to be right and make others wrong. We as individuals and governments need to stop imposing on each other our ideas of how people should live, think and feel. We need to realize that everyone on this planet has as much right to be here and the right to experience life as they do as we personally do. We need to understand that unless we perceive humanity as equal and every human being as valuable there will always be struggle. We need to dream that every human being gets to have their own religion or philosophy of life and that we can have world peace too. I imagine that this world really can be a wonderful place for all if we as humanity dream it into reality. But first, individually, we all have to make peace with our own dark side.
God Weekend 3
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 105 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2006.
That includes Darlene Gray of Regina, Saskatchewan who wrote, “I have loved reading your letters for about a year now. But this one… it was simply fantastic. It really affected me. Thank you.”
And also Ian Barber of Thomasville, Georgia who wrote, “The problem with world unity is that we aren’t all singing from the same sheet of music.”
And also Shivika Pussewela of Bahrain who wrote, “Imagine standing on the shores of heaven — only a poet or a fellow artist could ever describe the place. Our minds are so powerful, and it has become our sanctuary from the realities of life.”
And also S. Anij Indigo of Taos, New Mexico who wrote, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! With much love and gratitude for the words you send me each week that keep my heart open and so very enchanted. You made me weep with joy this morning.”
And also Gordon Gibson of Vancouver, British Columbia who wrote, “What a wonderful quote from Michelangelo! I am less impressed by Lennon. There is a definite lack of ‘how to get there and who changes his/her mind’ in the musings. It is easy to cite desiderata. I don’t know anyone who opposes world peace.”
And also Karen W. Edelmann of Tarrytown, New York who wrote, “The line ‘nothing to kill or die for, no religion too’ has been on my mind a lot lately.”
And also Brian Lee Jones of Cortaro, Arizona who wrote, “This has to be the most sentimental mush you have ever sent out. I am used to a more realistic word from you.”