Somehow, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten shanghaied into watching The Beatles Anthology. Now, I like their music as much as the next guy, but frankly I’d always thought I had the Beatles more-or-less pegged: a bunch of naive and innocent Liverpudlians who were overwhelmed by fame and fortune, got a bit weird and out there, and then John married Yoko and got shot. (Hold your ire, Beatles fans! I’m seeing them in a bit of a different light now.)
But I digress. The main thing about watching these endless hours of footage has left me with a striking sense that John Lennon wore popularity with unease. There’s something about his snipes, his sardonic irreverence when talking to an audience or interviewers, that seems to go a little deeper than British working class lip. He looks like he’s brashing it out; the smiles seem a little forced.
Bizarre and condescending as it might seem – he looked lonely. I thought about what a terrible thing it must be to be surrounded by people who are blinded by your fame, or are using you for their own ends, or just like you have no freaking clue what they’re doing or where they’re going. How strange it must be to feel that you have no boundaries, are unbound by social convention, are untouchable and that everything you do will be forgiven? What must that do to a person?
Now I’m not saying I want to be friends with lonely rockstars. But lately (and you’re welcome to start playing Eleanor Rigby right about now), I’ve been thinking a lot about how so many people are isolated, and what a tragedy it is that we don’t take the time to get to know and care about people. It seems to me that so much of our energy is spent on superficial relationships. Not that there’s anything wrong with having acquaintances, but how many times have you discovered something totally unexpected about someone you’ve known for years, and wished you’d known it all along?
Getting to know someone – getting to care about them – is about more than just knowing them – it’s about learning that you, too, are human. Nothing that you are feeling, nothing that you have gone through, is new. The sad thing is, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own thoughts, and when you’re trapped in your own head it’s easy to believe that you’re utterly unique – a special little snowflake of misery.
As I said in my first post on this blog, I spent a long time thinking I was alone in my tastes, but more than that, that I was alone in my way of seeing the world and in my attitude towards learning and experiencing things. I wish someone had recognized that. I wish that I hadn’t been surrounded by judgemental little people in high school and to some degree in university who thought I was weird. (Of course, this is definitely not true of everyone – I had and still have some wonderful and amazing friends!) And when I look back, I wonder how much they too were isolated and lonely, able to interact on a superficial level but mostly just hiding themselves.
I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, but I think a lot of people who feel awkward “being themselves” around others tend to grow barriers, box themselves into a tiny space that they feel they can show the world. And a lot of the time, all that self-pruning shows. Those who are most afraid of being judged ill are often the most judgemental towards others.
Sometimes, in my more or less enlightened moments, I look around and see all the people around me, and how they are to varying degrees lonely, and angry, and wounded, and afraid, and I think – why can’t we help each other? Why can’t we love each other? Love in that fundamental sense of caring about someone, of wanting the best for them. I’m not by any means suggesting that everyone should convert to (insert belief system here) and spend hours singing Kumbaya in drum circles. But I am saying that we could all be a little nicer, give a little bit more of a damn. You never know, you might end up saving someone.