Written by Richard Marback
After a long Monday, I left my office at Fifty-third Street and Seventh Avenue, took the #1 train to Seventy-second Street, then walked from Broadway to Central Park West (CPW). The date was December 8, the sun had set at 4:28, and the temperature was 30° F. I could’ve stayed on the train to Dyckman Street and been home in thirty minutes.
However, it was the 34th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, and I knew there would be a gathering in Strawberry Fields – which is a section of Central Park dedicated to him. I wasn’t sure how many people would be there. As with most public gatherings in New York when too many people show up, the event gets orchestrated and controlled by the NYPD. Fortunately when I arrived there was only one police car on CPW and about 150 people surrounding the black-and-white mosaic monument dedicated to Lennon. There were not only people who’d been there every year since John’s death, but also people who weren’t even born when he was assassinated. However, they all had one thing in common: they loved John Lennon’s music and had a profound respect for the man.
Initially, I was only going to stay fifteen minutes (Mind you, it had been a long day, and it was freezing); however, the warmth of the crowd became my blanket. Flickering candles provided an intimate and cozy lighting against the backdrop of nightfall. One bass player and three acoustic guitarists performed as if they’d been rehearsing for years – even though they were complete strangers. Not everyone knew the words to every song, but people took cues from those around them. One guy, who apparently knew the words to every single song , stood out. He looked more like the captain of the Dixie State football team than a diehard Beatle fan. Quite impressive if you consider that he was born over a decade after Lennon’s death.
Something like a wave of warmth, love, and peace swept over us as the air filled with “Come Together,” “Imagine,” and “Once There Was A Way.” We were no longer strangers; instead, we were effectively brothers and sisters. Feeling spiritually grounded and fulfilled, I headed home. As I passed John and Yoko’s building (the Dakota), I noticed a fifty-ish woman standing at the entrance who was openly weeping and apparently grieving; which is something I’ve done myself in the past. Experience has taught me that no one escapes this process – and that it comes in waves. At that moment, I realized that even thirty-four years after his death, John Lennon is still giving us the opportunity to understand the meaning of love, inner peace and the process of grieving. I wondered whether she was remembering the loss of Lennon – or whether this anniversary reunion was enabling her to grieve for someone else.
I continued on so that she could have this moment to herself. I knew I’d just had mine.
And so, maybe inner peace comes to us when we’re least expecting it. I hadn’t planned on attending this anniversary celebration. It was late. It was cold. I had no expectations. Was it simple curiosity that brought me to Strawberry Fields that night, or was it something more? I rather think it was – and now that I’ve had time to reflect upon it, I know it was. I was meant to be there. And even with all of the turmoil of recent world events, that night I felt embraced by humanity and optimistic about the future. I’m not sure that John knew the effect his music would continue to have on people, especially the song, “Imagine,” but on December 8, it was wonderful to reflect upon the music, the man, and upon the prospects for both inner and world peace.
“You may say I’m a dreamer.
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one…”
Lennon composed, “Imagine” one morning in early 1971 – on a Steinway piano and in a bedroom at his Tittenhurst Park estate in Ascot, Berkshire, England. Ono watched as he composed the melody, chord structure and almost all of the lyrics, nearly completing the song in one brief writing session.
Richard Marback can reached at [email protected]
This article was provided by the World Peace Gardens’ non-profit foundation which holds non-sectarian gatherings every Sunday to promote world peace and sustainable living. Gatherings are at 11:30 a.m. at Green Valley Spa, 1871 W. Canyon View Drive, St. George, Utah 84770. Admission is free. For more information log on at: www.W-P-G.org or on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/worldpeacegardens or call us at: (435) 703-0077