Where the Hell is Matt?

9:38 AM Jan 1, 2009by Rob Ritchie

The following was forwarded to me by a dear friend who was in her cups last night. As she writes:

This SHOULD NOT work. This should be the dumbest thing I've ever seen. But it's reduced me to tears several times now--and yes, I was dead sober at the time. May it express something of what I wish for everybody in 2009.

I share her wishes for joy, happiness, peace and prosperity for the coming year.

Get up and Dance!

Nantucket Dreaming

11:47 AM Feb 24, 2004by Rob Ritchie

I picked up bottle of Nantucket Nectars® Premium Orange juice the other day after some management types had cleared out of a breakfast meeting. I put the bottle in the little ‘fridge we have in the office, and today brought it out to drink it. Pretty good, if unspectacular, bottled juice. This is what’s printed on the bottle:

We started our juice company on Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts. People there loved the juice. One day we decided it was time to share Nectars beyond the island. We piled into a van, loaded it with juice and hit the city streets handing out bottles along the way. We believe all you have to do is put a bottle in someone’s hand and trust his or her taste buds from there. We’re juice guys®.

I was immediately struck by the absurdity of the idea that there is a sizable orange grove on Nantucket Island. Also, by the simplistic marketing strategy. Hey, if someone gave me a bottle of juice, I’d drink it too; in fact, that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t pay for this, after all.

I visited their web site and it’s a pretty good site, with a lot of information about their product and company. I was expecting something that had the carefully crafted “homey” look of a boutique arm of some big corporate juice conglomerate (“Big Juice”). What I found was a site dedicated to presenting information about the juice, the company, Nantucket, and basically anything else would interest people. They have multimedia, polls, games and a lot of nice stuff.

Frankly, what really got me wondering about this company is that the bottle contains 17.5 fluid ounces of juice (518 mL). Why 17.5? It’s a strange amount.

I’m going to write the company an email and ask. I’ll let you know what I find out.

Arabian Fairy Tale

10:46 AM Jan 7, 2004by Rob Ritchie

Once upon a time, there was a desert city that was situated along a rich trade route. Visitors from all over the land came to trade their wares and the people of the city were very happy.

One evening, a falling star was seen in the night sky over the city, and a bright flash was seen in the dunes not far away. In wonder, the people went to see what had happened, and they found a large black meteorite had fallen from the sky. They asked themselves what this could mean, and they decided that this stone must have been sent as a blessing to the city by the Moon God.

Happily, they dragged the stone back to their city and there built a shrine around the stone. They worshiped the Moon God in the shrine and established a priesthood to guard the shrine and to conduct them in the proper worship of the stone.

Traders from all around came to see the shrine, and made offerings to the Moon God in hopes that they would be blessed in their business dealings. The leaders of the town and the priests of the Moon God became very rich and the fame of the city and of the shrine increased.

So famous did the city become that the priests of other gods came to build their own shrines. Gods of the Sun, the Stars, the Rivers, the Seas; gods of the Air, gods of Fire, every god that the people could name, all had shrines built for them, and the people of the city welcomed them all, because they knew that their city would be blessed by all the gods, and enriched by the people who came to visit the shrines.

The priests of the Moon God, however, were very jealous of the other shrines; for they saw that many people no longer came to worship the stone that they served, and no longer made donations to the priests to pray for them. The shrine of the Moon God became neglected and poor, and the priests became thin and their robes threadbare.

The son of the high priest of the Moon God was a merchant, and in much need of money to finance his business. Though he married a rich old woman, still he desired more gold. So he decided to go out into the desert to think of ways to get money for himself.

When he returned to the city, he began to tell people that they should no longer worship at any of the shrines except at the shrine of the Moon God. He told them that only the Moon God was a real god, and that all the other gods were false. Only by worshiping at the shrine of the Moon God, and making donations to the high priest, his father, would people be blessed in their business dealings.

The priests of the shrines of the other gods all scoffed at him and called him names, but he persisted in preaching against their gods, and insisted that only by worshiping the Moon God would people be blessed. Many people were interested in what the man had to say, and started to worship only the Moon God, and to neglect the other gods. They made donations only to the high priest of the Moon God in order that they would be blessed in their business dealings. The shrine of the stone of the Moon God again became rich, and the son of the high priest had the money he needed to finance his business.

The priests of the shrines of the other gods complained to the leaders of the city. “This man, this son of the high priest of the Moon God, preaches against us! He wants us to remove our own shrines to the many gods and to only worship the Moon God! If this happens, people will no longer come to the city, and the city will not prosper! Instruct him to stop preaching in this way.”

The leaders of the city came to the son of the high priest of the Moon God and told him to stop preaching that only the Moon God was a true god, but the man persisted in his preaching. They argued back and forth for many months, and all the while the man’s business prospered and the number of his followers increased.

At last, the leaders of the town expelled the man and all his followers, because he preached against the many gods of the city. The man and his followers went to a neighboring city and continued to preach about the Moon God.

The man was again in need of the money, because when he was forced out of his old city he had left most of his wealth behind. So, he instructed his followers that the Moon God ordered them to become bandits, and to prey upon the rich caravans that traveled to the old city. They were very good at being bandits, even better than at being merchants, so they became very rich by attacking traders and stealing their goods. Bandits from all around came to join with them, and swore allegiance to the son of the high priest of the Moon God, so that they could share in the rich loot to be had.

So bothersome and dangerous did these bandits of the Moon God become, that finally the leaders of the man’s home city sent an army to destroy them; but, the number of bandits had grown so great that they easily overcame the army and killed them all. Next, the bandits descended upon the city and captured it, and they killed the leaders of that city who had exiled them.

The son of the high priest of the Moon God went to the shrines to all the other gods and destroyed them, so that there was only one shrine left in the city, the shrine to the rock of the Moon God. He then instructed the people that there was only one god, the Moon God, and that the man was the prophet of the Moon God. And the bandits followed the man and grew rich on the violence that he directed them to do.

Imagine A Deconstruction

11:30 AM Aug 28, 2003by Rob Ritchie

Imagine there's no heaven,

 Is Lennon urging us to abandon the idea of an afterlife, or simply the idea that a virtuous person will be rewarded in such an afterlife? Or is he suggesting that there are no deities or mystical dimension to reality in any way. Is this a plea for atheism? As a beginning point for our imagining, this line brings up more questions than answers, but perhaps that is to be expected at this point in our analysis. 

It's easy if you try,

 Clearly, this concept is not as “easy” as Lennon asserts. I suspect that this line was inserted solely as part of the rhyme scheme, but we can’t completely rule out that he is relating his personal experience with no-heaven imagining and that he found it “easy.” 

No hell below us,

 This line raises questions similar to those raised by the earlier line concerning heaven. Is there no punishment for sinners? No source of evil? Or is he rejecting the idea of a dichotomist afterlife entirely? Or is he totally rejecting the concept of any survival of the soul? 

Above us only sky,

 Finally, a line that sheds light on Lennon’s conceptual drift! Here he clearly rejects the idea of a heaven “above us” but goes on to stress that nothing at all exists above us but “sky.” Here he is playing on the double meaning of the word “above” which not only can refer to the relative heights of objects (“The rug is above the floor”) but also to the relative status or power of individuals (“The principal is above the teacher”). So, not only is there no “heaven” above the “sky”, but Lennon is further indicating that above “us” there are no supernatural entities or deities that would have created or inhabit heaven or hell, or who further would pass judgment on the still-unacknowledged disembodied souls. This is a clear rejection of a deistic worldview, though leaves unanswered questions concerning post-demise survival of consciousness. 

Imagine all the people
living for today...
 

Following from the previous conclusion, Lennon further invites us to imagine a world where people, absent the threat of hell or promise of heaven, or even of any hope of existence after death, live “for today.” This truly horrifying image, of crops unplanted, factories unmanned, schools unfilled, hospitals unstaffed, children starved and aggression unchecked, while people devote themselves entirely to earthly pleasures in the present with no though for the future, is surely one of the most striking ever presented in any Lennon lyric. The logical conclusion of his suggested train of thoughtful imagining is clearly the ruin of civilization amid the horror of war, death, pestilence and famine. Thus, his thinking leads us to reject the premise that there is no heaven, no hell, no deity and no afterlife. A classic example of the Socratic Method, with conclusions that reaffirm the salutatory power of traditional religious ideas and rejects atheistic concepts.

 

Imagine there's [sic] no countries, 

In this lyric, we are again invited to imagine the non-existence of something; however, while the previous stanza began with the request to imagine “no heaven”, this one begins with a request to imagine “no countries.” This is considerably more difficult, since while the existence of heaven is something unproven and insubstantial, countries as political entities undoubtedly exist and have meaning in the real world. Lennon is inviting us to imagine the world united into a single mega-country, a one-world government. Perhaps this explains the subject/verb number disagreement: the replacement of multiple countries with a single humungo-country is a concept so sweeping that it overpowered Lennon’s usual careful grammar. Whatever the implication, he is suggesting that individuals have distanced themselves from the center of power of government, allowing others to decide for them. 

It isn’t hard to do, 

This line was clearly added as a mirror to the “It’s easy if you try” line in the first stanza. Considering the impact of the previous line, we may safely assume that Lennon is being ironic here. 

Nothing to kill or die for, 

On the face, Lennon seems to be implying that in the absence of countries, people would become both immortal and non-aggressive, since it is solely the existence of individual polities that cause people to kill and die. This is an interesting supposition, but one that is unsubstantiated in the historical or fossil record, so not one that is easily imagined. While it is true that most wars are between countries, nevertheless people kill and die for a variety of reasons not sanctioned by their prospective governments, and we have no reason to think it would stop with the implementation of the one world government. 

No religion too, 

This line is somewhat obscure. Is the implication that the abolition of countries would naturally also abolish all religions as well? In the Ancient World, where each individual town or country was believed to be an earthly representation of a deity, and that conflict between nations represented supernatural strivings, it was further believed that the destruction of a country meant the destruction of their gods, and thus, their religion. It’s therefore possible that Lennon is referring to this idea by including this line. In this case, it should be understood as an embellishment of the previous concepts, not the introduction of an entirely new meme.

 Alternatively, this line could be a clue that this stanza should be intellectually linked to the previous stanza about the absence of heaven and hell. If this is the case, we should understand that the abolition of national boundaries should be seen as part of the greater breakdown of society that would result from a world without these concepts.

 The most likely interpretation, however, is that Lennon is here indicating the nature of the one-world government he is imagining, one where religion is outlawed by the State. As the abolition of religion is indicative on only one major international political party, it is reasonable to assume that Lennon is imagining a world united under the Red banner of International Communism.  

Imagine all the people
living life in peace...
 

Lennon here then brings us to the conclusion of this stanza, to an imagined world filled with immortal and peaceful people living under the auspices of an all powerful one-world Communist government. Considering the unlikely nature of this predicate, and the fact that it stands in direct opposition to the previous stanza’s disaster scenario, Lennon is clearly marking out the two extreme choices facing mankind: abdicating individual responsibility for building a prosperous society (the first stanza); or relinquish responsibility to a self-appointed elite that promise an attractive but unobtainable dream world (the current stanza). 

 

Imagine no possessions, 

In the third stanza, Lennon again invites us to imagine another absence: this time, the concept of “possessions.” By this it is assumed he means that we are to imagine ourselves bereft of all things that we can rightly call our own: land, home, cattle, chattel, family, objects, clothing, etc. We are to imagine ourselves, basically, as penniless refugees, driven by war or failed government policies to wander from place to place to beg for the very necessities of life. A horrifying image indeed, but one that is unfortunately an all too common one for nations that abdicate their personal responsibilities and place all their trust in failed economic and political ideologies.  

I wonder if you can, 

Here Lennon cleverly inverts the pattern established in the two previous stanzas. The second line in those stanzas asserted (ironically in one case) that the supposed imagining would be simple for the listener to accomplish. In the current stanza, however, Lennon is implying that he doubts that the listener has the ability to imagine themselves impoverished and driven like animals before the will of a distant and uncaring government. This, then, challenges the listener to make a further effort to put themselves in that place, which is necessary for the further images invoked in the following lines. 

No need for greed or hunger,

Another ironic statement by Lennon: certainly, there would be no lack or need of these things, as hunger, for one, would be omnipresent to the refugees, while the greed of the government would be manifest in the confiscation of their possessions. Lennon again displays his subtle sense of humor. 

A brotherhood of man, 

It is in the best interest of the oppressive government imagined by Lennon in this stanza to break down the relationships between individuals, so that normal concepts of familial, national or cultural obligation be minimized and abolished. To this end, the use of the term “citizen” or “comrade” or “brother” becomes a common expression of the relationship between people, a meaningless distinction but the only relationship that is acceptable to that state. All people are “brothers” to one another, for there is no “parent” but the State that enslaves them. 

Also, Lennon’s imagined government is profoundly chauvinistic and misogynistic, as apparently only men have a place in the New World Order.

 

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...
 

Lennon’s musings come to an end with a truly horrifying vision of an enslaved population, deprived of personal belongings and personal relationships, subservient to a government that controls every aspect of their lives. Indeed, all people would “share” the world in the same way that farm animals share their pens, yet own no part of them.

 

You may say I’m a dreamer, 

In his final stanza, Lennon begins by addressing the listener directly as “You”, thereby forcing a response: “You, yes YOU hearing my words!” Lennon anticipates that the listener will dismiss him as a “dreamer” but warns that this would be a mistake. Lennon, in the guise of the Sybil, is telling us that his “dream” has serious meaning and we ignore it at our own peril. 

but I’m not the only one, 

Lennon further tells us that there are others who share his vision of an oppressive world state that offers relief from personal accountability in return for ultimate power. But, he warns darkly, these others hold this vision as something, not to be avoided, but to be obtained by any means necessary, with themselves either as the elite or as soporific “brothers” hoping to “live for today” but destined for all the horrors inherent in these imaginings.  

I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one. 

Who is the “us” that Lennon wants the listener to join? Obviously, those who share these imaginings and learn the lessons they hold. Lennon hopes that we will join with him in opposing those who offer a “dreamy” life of no responsibility, accountability or effort, rejecting these ideas as pipe dreams, and to recognize those who offer them as the deceivers and political opportunists that they are. 

In conclusion, “Imagine” by John Lennon is demonstrated to be one of the 20th Century’s most stirring anthems to traditional religious attitudes and feelings, individualism, freedom and free enterprise, as well as a warning against the limitations and dangers inherent in Collectivism and the threat to liberty represented by International Communism.