The widow of John Lennon asked rather more in the memory of her late husband than some of us are willing, let alone anxious, to give, however much we regret the tragic circumstances of his passing. John Lennon was a source of inspiration to many people (including my son), and as has wisely been counseled, it is unwise to insert oneself in other people's religious quarrels. But Yoko Ono asked not merely that Lennonites celebrate Lennonism, but that all of us do.

You see, Yoko wanted the whole world -- every radio station in every country -- to sing out, at a given hour, the song, "Imagine," nominating it in effect as a kind of international anthem. Now I do not know the melody of "Imagine," but I have the lyrics in front of me, and what it amounts to is a kind of Bible, as written by the sorcerer's apprentice.

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.

I venture to say that those who imagine in that direction ought to make every effort to restrain themselves. The homilies of John Lennon have a hard time up against those of Christ, who spoke the words, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love him."

It is quite difficult to understand John Lennon's point in wishing that all that life stand for is the present moment, today. And the notion that there is only sky above us suggests a kind of ethereal vapidity that is downright depressing. And what are we to say about the word "heavenly" if heaven doesn't exist?

It is hard to say the song gets worse, because there is hardly anything worse than to think that John Lennon is a mere memory, rather than a companion of the angels. But the second verse asks us --

Imagine there's no countries

It isn't hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

And no religion too

Imagine all the people

Living life in peace.

Well, we certainly want to imagine a world in which everyone lives in peace, but you see, that is only possible in a world in which people are willing to die for causes. There'd have been peace for heaven knows (assuming heaven existed) how long in the South, except that men were willing to die to free the slaves, and Hitler would have died maybe about the time John Lennon did, at Berchtesgaden, at age 91, happy in a Jewless Europe. There have got to be reasons that even affected John Lennon to prefer one country over against another. I happen to know this to be the case, since a long time ago he asked me to help him get papers permitting him to live in the United States rather than in Great Britain.


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.

No, thanks, I don't want to imagine a world in which Yoko doesn't possess the goods that John left her, with which possessions she is capable of exercising a great deal of charity, though not so profusely as to leave her penniless and a public charge. The person who invented heaven passed along a commandment ordaining that one must not covet other people's goods, and most thoughtful social philosophers agree that property is an important basis, indeed, probably the most important basis, of human freedom.

So it goes, and the chorus of "Imagine" is, well, it is too subversive to appear in a family newspaper.