Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More on Cee Lo's "Imagine"

For some reason, I woke up in the middle of the night, thinking about my post on Cee Lo’s “And all religion’s true.”  This is not usual for me…

So, upon reflection and some early morning writing, I want to give a little more credit to Cee Lo’s change to Imagine.

If we imagine that there’s no heaven or hell, no country, and the rest of the vision leading up to the line, then it’s not a stretch for the results to be that “And all religion’s true.”  In other words, religion becomes more purely the way of life that one subscribes to, that’s not based on saying, “I’m right and you’re wrong”.   Religion becomes one’s particular ordering of life attuned to one’s genuine understanding of the world, and thus “all religion’s true” because it becomes one’s way, not the way.

That seems to fit Cee Lo’s explanation of his lyric change.  It also affirms Tripp Hudgins response:  "Given the religious strife in the world, expressing a love for humanity through all the world's religion was generous and very appropriate for a New Year celebration."  

I still prefer Lennon’s version because the way religion currently gets used is like the things that the song imagines no longer:  heaven, hell, country, possessions…imagine these no longer divide humanity.  In Cee Lo’s version, “all religion’s true” is a results of imagining, where in the original religion is seen as one of the things that currently keeps us from each other’s mutual benefit and understanding.

It’s possible that Cee Lo was addressing what some certainly hear in the original lyrics:  that imagining “no religion” is a call to reject all religion as a bad thing.  Certainly I’ve encountered that understanding, but I come back to the idea that the song as a whole imagines what it would be like if we didn’t use these things as weapons of division.  It is not a call to simply reject all understanding of afterlife, country, religion and possession.  Instead (repeating my last post’s ending) the vision of heaven, the love of country, the wisdom in religion, and the use of one's possessions is intended to bring us into community and closer together.   The hope of the song, when we finish imagining, is to see the possibility of connectedness and mutual respect from within our differences.


tonip1 said...

Glad you clarified your thoughts a little. I think Cee Lo's change expresses Lennon's vision quite well. While understanding Lennon's vision I have always been uncomfortable with "and no religion too" simply because religion itself is not bad. Some of what people do in the name of religion is bad definitely; but I think all religion is ultimately about love for humanity and the world and some form of connectedness to the greater whole. I actually think Cee Lo's lyric may more accurately express Lennon's vision (or at least my imagining of it)

Kurt said...

Thanks Toni. I like your thoughts. I think, however, that Lennon wanted religious people to be uncomfortable with the line "and no religion too", not because he thought religion is inherently bad or should cease to exist, but because so many people use religion as a weapon to divide.

I think Imagine's original lyrics issues a challenge to those who value the afterlife, country, religion, or possessions, by saying: "These values that you have are supposed to make you better, caring people, more opened to the world because of what you hold dear, rather than in competition with each other and living under the assumption that those with the most power wins." Imagine ultimately becomes a call for unity within humanity that is strengthened by difference, instead of hindered.

I think Cee Lo's version makes religion be the results of imagining, rather than one of the challenges. In that way, I find it different (but connected) to Lennon's vision.

tonip1 said...

Yes, I see what you mean and agree. I think they both mean to challenge religious people (as well as others of course) to "practice what we preach"