She told me a short anecdote.
"When John Lennon was in grade school, the assignment was to write down what you wanted to be when you grew up. He wrote down one word - HAPPY. The teacher scolded him for that."
And I thought, "Well, that's a great answer. A better teacher would have said ...
'Do you want to be happy, John? Well, all you need is love. Not sentiment or good will, but love. Serve God and serve others and you will be happy. Love even through suffering and sacrifice and you will be happy.' "
I suspect, from what little I know of John Lennon, that while he loved his music (and served God and others through his music), the fame and "success" that came with it made him downright miserable - made him a heroin addict and a vulgar little man spewing venom when he didn't get his way. There was certainly more to Lennon than that, but at his worst, he was about as mean and unhappy as a human being can get.
This is not to negate his rather remarkable soul and wit, which cry out to us from his music, and especially his singing. He is easily the best vocalist of the Beatles - because of the rawness of emotion that he was able to convey in his performances. Paul has a sweeter voice, but John had greater range and depth and pain in everything he sang. And while "Imagine" - his solo career masterpiece - is a pretty insipid song philosophically, the melody is beautiful and the sentiment - while wrong-headed - is quite innocent and well-intentioned. His religious urges - even when they took the form of a frustrated atheism yearning for a worldly utopia - were always honest and unvarnished. Let us hope that he's in that very heaven that he could never Imagine.
And we all need a touch of Lennon to our McCartney. We all need the pain and honesty and skepticism that brings some spice to our glib, easy and charming ways. If you don't know what Jesus meant by "salt of the earth", just think of what John Lennon was to the Beatles - which would have been a pretty tame pop group without him, without that added spice.
And I'll go further than that - we all need a little Ringo. Ringo is the Sancho Panza to our Don Quixote - the good natured and down-to-earth and sometimes foolish and inept brunt of our aspirations. We all suspect that the George in us is really a bit pretentious when it comes to all that mystical nonsense - but the Ringo is the Sam to our Frodo, the Dogberry to our Benedict, the dog to our cat. Well, you know what I mean.
Ringo is my favorite Beatle.
There, I've said it and I'm glad! Though it astonishes me that (as I've said before) my Stanford Nutting videos get more YouTube views than Ringo's do.
But the deeper message here is not about the Beatles - it's about how do you be HAPPY? How do you steward your love?
How often we give, only to get taken. How often we offer, only to be ignored. How often do we kick in, only to be kicked out?
And when we do sometimes catch the ear of the world, as the four lads from Liverpool did, how often do we all shine on, like the moon, the stars and the sun, and then, when the super-nova fades, come crashing down to a hell of our own making, nothing below us, above us only sky, and a gnawing pain in our gut and a desperate need for our next fix?
Love is not easy; success is not easy; being happy is not easy.
But it's what I want to be when I grow up.