John Lennon’s Eastward Journey

Ellie Pirozzi

Pirozzi Image

Anne Nightingale. “What I Believe – by Beatle John.” Daily Sketch, October 9, 1967

Embedded in a time of “fighting the man” and “inner peace” Beatle John Lennon gave an interview for a popular magazine, Daily Sketch, singing the praises of meditation and ancient eastern peaceful ways. Americans and Brits alike were coming to protest the daily grind and exorbitant expectations demanded by modern culture in order to find greater happiness. Stress had infiltrated all areas of life and the new generations were looking for ways to fight it without fighting. Naturally, many looked to popular figures for examples and guidance, resulting in reflective interviews such as this one with John Lennon. As Anne Harrington discusses in The Cure Within, Lennon and the Beatles looked eastward to find new avenues to peace.

Harrington’s discussion mentions the “new” forms of meditation that had been derived by Maharishi, the Beatles’ guru for meditation and enlightenment. However, these novel ways were adaptations of the ancient practices of Eastern tradition as Lennon discusses in his interview. He said that to overcome the times one had to go back to simpler times and mentalities to find the peace everyone was searching for. Harrington also touches upon this simplistic quality in her discussion of stress and its relief. She poses that overtaxing happenings of the modern Western world cause anxiety and unhappiness that people look elsewhere to alleviate, just as Lennon had. However, where Harrington frames the idea of ancient wisdom in a common narrative, Lennon is a proponent that meditation is a personal endeavor, a uniquely inner peace. As a result, he encouraged that notion that all persons could participate, religious or not.

Endorsements such as Lennon’s hold a significant amount of weight and validity, making this interview a relevant example to the underlying social aspect of the “Eastward Journey” narrative. Harrington’s take on the movement of reverting back to ancient wisdom has an underlying emphasis on the cultural influence that these narratives rely on. One person’s opinion on meditation as a stress buster does not a movement make. It takes many to start the crusade and notable leaders for others to identify with. Lennon’s interview serves as a public endorsement of meditation that informs others of the validity and effectiveness that encompass the movement. This subtle cultural influence molds how the general populous often responds to novel ideas and practices. Celebrities and figureheads, like the Beatles, possess enormous sway over the accepted practices within a culture, overtly creating new norms. These personal journeys towards eastern simplicity then become the eastward journey narrative that everyone can participate in.

The interview itself raises issues of fads and unwanted influence that can dictate what becomes accepted within society and how mental health’s identity is viewed. In this context, the Beatle’s endorsement creates a surge in meditation interest, people look to become more at peace, but then many revert back to their high stress life styles. As a result, the concept of mental health is not taken as a serious concern in life; instead it is something that is “in” at the moment. Lennon even makes a point to say the Americans are more likely to “drop out” of the craze. Is this notion of a fad why Americans have continued to complain about high levels of stress since the 1960’s and continue to struggle with mental health? Why is it that we identify so many areas that can be de-stressed and ways to do so, but little is changed? Is it that we like complaining and as a result we alleviate stress temporarily so that we don’t stick to long term behaviors? The interview also raises the question of whether religion is inherently coupled with meditation and ancient traditions. Could this have been a deterrent for potential practitioners? Conversely, could looking to oneself for peace rather than a deity have turned-off religious persons from looking to eastern practices for stress relief, causing a further differentiation between the east and west? Finally, the interview with Lennon hints at the medical differentiation between eastern and western traditions in that they discuss the influence of drugs versus that of meditation. Is the relief produced by eastern practices as effective as western pharmaceuticals? Was this a turning point towards our modern day fascination on products being natural?

 

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