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You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away: The Mythic in the Life and Death of John LennonGo Back to Table of Contents
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Photography by: Douglas Sobers

John was discovering those “other values”; and those “other values” will always be dangerous to those factions, from any quarter, who draw their omnipotence from fear (the instinct to survive) and the placebo and promise of pleasure (whether it comes in a tube, a bottle, or celluloid). Survival and pleasure are the driving forces behind all power-based systems no matter where their sympathies lie, so the artist who suggests to us alternative values is a threat, for sure. For he or she suggests that individuals can make a difference; and that--maybe--it is kindness, not cruelty, which is true strength and true power; and that--maybe--the innate right of the species is to grow and learn. Such a suggestion is truly a threat to those who would keep us under permanent house arrest and enforced regression--hypnotized in fetish-land by vanity and false aspirations.
Lennon got himself in trouble by moving past the myth that had created him. He was one of the few who moved past it--or did not mistake it for the final destination. He left behind his own shadow, and with it, all Beatles’ fans and sports fans in general, including all spectators who live their lives vicariously through glitz, the stars, centerfolds and the movies. He left behind all the technology of lying. And in that lies his hubris.

Lennon broke his own rule, the one he had formulated when his image was still that of the bad, rebellious boy. He hadn’t bothered to hide his love away. He was right up front there with it, right on his sleeve, right out in the open, and that did not work in a culture convinced that hatred was real, but that love was an aberration of mind; convinced of the reality of ugliness, but undecided whether beauty at best was in the eyes of some nebulous beholder; convinced that power was a true phenomenon, but compassion only an empathetic knee-jerk assurance of self-preservation--convinced, in short, that every negative quality of human existence was real, but that beauty, truth, courage, tenderness, and above all, art, were merely aberrations or placebos. In such a culture, the message of the smoking gun is clear: Hey, you’d better hide your love away--or face the consequences.

Of course most of his fans, and sixties’ people in general, did hide their love away. They retreated into the pool of the Narcissistic illusion--or into simplistic political ideologies--and were thus a catalyst in converting Dionysus into Thanatos, the twisted god of death and destruction that finally claimed Lennon and countless thousands of lives throughout America and overseas as well. The era, en-masse, had ended up worshiping Thanatos. Lennon was trying to develop past it--but Thanatos could not have that, now, could he?

Finally, in Thanatos-adoration, the phallus becomes a gun, the body a place to be invaded and dominated, filled up with death. In early December, 1980, a murderer-rapist assumed a “combat stance” and emptied his Charter Arms .38 caliber into John Lennon’s body.

Augustine was wrong about evil. It is not merely the absence of God or goodness. If that were true, a vacuum, by definition, would be evil. No. Evil is a project. It has an intention. And it has victims--although we are its final victims. It works by using us against our better selves; and in a case such as Lennon, Malcolm X, Lincoln, or Kennedy, it reminds us that if it has to, if pushed far enough, Evil will blow its cover and crawl out of the woodwork... and shoot these guys.

Walking past the Dakota, the place still feels evil. No act of violence is ever, as it were, random. Whether it be a drunken car crash, or an assassination, or an incident of wife-beating, this kind of human activity requires a certain social milieu. And the social milieu of overt violence has survived. So John Lennon reminds us that any public figure who witnesses our hypocrisies will always be a candidate for defamation or elimination. That you can take to the bank.

Still, someday, hopefully, we will be able to live without hierarchies, fear, or even myths like that of John Lennon mystically looming over our heads. Someday, hopefully, we will cease to be a civilization of giants and dwarfs. Someday, hopefully, the very notion of a hero, genius, sports fan, and saint will become obsolete. And on that day, when the giants and dwarfs leave for some far-off, mad-cap, Sadomasochistic Convention, humanity will return to our land. And on that day, the only larger-than-life character will be a free-agent Mickey, hauled down Broadway, by parents, for their children’s amusement on Thanksgiving morning. Santa, of course, was never, ever larger than life.

“Oh, Mr. Lennon--”

Stunned, Lennon reportedly said only, “I’ve been shot.”

People Stare
Each and every way.
Gather round,
All you clowns,
Listen while I say--)

Paul McCartney’s official statement was “John was a great man who’ll be remembered for his unique contributions to art, music, and world peace.” On the day of his death, almost all papers internationally devoted pages to it. Yoko phoned the New York Daily News with a statement she hoped would prevent suicides: “... people are sending me telegrams saying, `This is the end of an era....’ I’m really so concerned. This is not the end of an era. `Starting Over’ still goes.” Yoko, who was right about so many things, was wrong on that one. It was the end of an era. Lennon’s death was totally demoralizing.

--You’ve got to hide
Your love away!--)

The seven chest and arm wounds left Lennon spitting up chunks of his own flesh and blood on the Dakota’s lobby floor. Of course it was an accident, a “random” event of one insane man, not an expression of the substratum--nothing of substance there--and therefore a sad event, but nothing to be taken that seriously. At least that is the version which composes the lyrics of the tune that sealed off America’s great era of assassinations. Just another one of those crazy things--happening this time to someone everyone knew rather than some child in a New York neighborhood slain by a random bullet gone awry.

When the Good loses, we all lose with it. So we cover it up because we do not want to face the pain of that loss, and we do not want to feel remorse--any more than we want to face the inevitability of our own mortality and the true countenance of our own image. But our weapon against evil and darkness is precisely remorse. It is through remorse that we stop trying to make what is ugly beautiful; it is through remorse that we cease our obsession with appearances; it is through remorse that we stop the vain and endless aspiration to look good rather than be good; it is through remorse that we give a rest to the infinite transference of fault; it is through remorse that we turn away from the lying and the ugliness; it is through remorse that we take the cover off; it is through remorse that we stop trying to be perpetual winners in order to confess--and thereby confer value on--what we have lost. Such remorse can cause an emanation of Being bigger than any one man, one nation, any army, any history, or any theory of human nature. And that emanation can edify a world. That is what the darkness knows. That is what the darkness fears. That is why we so rarely hear of it, or see it, or come to terms with it outside of books or occasional works of art--or sometimes alone, in moments of love or authenticity. Yet through remorse lies our awakening to reality--and until that awakening, we must contend with the myths--both the little lies and occasional truths--that are used both for and against us. Perhaps that recognition alone has survived. Perhaps that recognition alone has become the legacy of John Lennon.

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