by Jude Southerland Kessler
In January 2014, deejay duo “The Chainsmokers” released “Let Me Take A #Selfie,” a clever song that grew to be an anthem of the decade. The infectious, beat-jammed number spun the narcissistic tale of a beautiful clubber obsessed with taking selfies – obsessed with how many “Likes” her photos would garner. When one of her poses only procured 10 “Likes” in five minutes, the vain protagonist wrung her hands and whiningly wondered, “Should I take it down?” Her world expanded only as far as her “selfie-stick” would extend.
“Let Me Take a #Selfie” never fails to elicit a smile, and I enjoy running to it. But the songs on my playlist are fairly eclectic … so, up next are The Beatles, harmonizing in my ears. “She Loves You” is quickly followed by “Hey Jude” and suddenly, I see a theme emerging! What made The Beatles incredibly timeless was not their #selfie-ness, but their selflessness. Instead of focusing on themselves, The Beatles (and their lyrics) focused on others: “Blackbird,” “Rocky Racoon,” “You’re Going to Lose That Girl,” “Lovely Rita,” “Julia,” “Lucy (in the Sky with Diamonds),” and “Boys.”
Sure, the Liverpool group started out at Square One with songs that asked the girl to “Please Please Me” and to “Love Me Do.” But with a tiny bit of confidence and experience under their belts, John, Paul, George, and Ringo relinquished self-adoration for something broader, something bigger:
They began to focus out, not in.
In the years to come, The Fab Four would give us Dear Prudence, Mr. Kite (and company), Sgt. Pepper and his oh-so-Lonely Hearts Club Band, Mean Mr. Mustard, Maxwell (avec his silver hammer), Bungalow Bill, Girl (deep breath now!!), and that nameless lass who was finally, finally leaving home. They introduced us to the French elle, Michelle, to the girl who graciously permitted Paul to drive her car, to Desmond and Molly and JoJo and Sweet Loretta Martin, to Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie, to the gorgeous lady who had “something in the way she moved.” We got to know the man who “blew his mind out in a car”; we made the acquaintance of Nowhere Man (closely resembling John Lennon, but not a clear-cut selfie). We met the girl who doesn’t miss much, the athletic Mother Superior, the Little Girl (who’d better run for her life … if she can), and Darling (of Oh! fame). The Fab Four populated our world with people like us and people unlike us. They created a cast of characters with whom we identified, related, or rejected. They spun stories that drew us into magical worlds. They mirrored our own fears and desires. And they introduced us to another world beyond our scope of understanding.
Through the eyes of these four Liverpool lads, we plunged under the sea to dwell in a submarine. We carefully tended an Octopus’s Garden. We rolled up for the Magical Mystery Tour. We were happy just to dance with them. We sighed and reluctantly hung our red dress back in the closet. (Yes, it is. It’s true.)
We discovered what it was like to be dead. We let them take us down to Strawberry Fields where nothing is real. We anguished over friends lost in an eerie L.A. fog, and we raged on the brink of Revolution! We lived lives far beyond our tiny rural or suburban or even urban worlds. With The Beatles, we reached out.
John Lennon was the only one who really wrote “selfies,” and we were so unaccustomed to hearing these boys speak of themselves that we completely overlooked what John was saying. When he penned, “I’m a loser, and I’m not what I appear to be,” we assumed he was talking about someone else … another “character,” as it were. When he passionately cried for “Help!”, we thought it was just a heady theme song. When he said, “I’ve got every reason on earth to be mad, ‘Cause I just lost the only girl I had,” we thought it was a fictional scenario. That’s how infrequently these boys focused on themselves!
The delight of The Beatles lays (and still lies) in their ability to get us to see others, to hear the stories about others, and to care about people beyond ourselves. Even in his Christmas carol, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” John Lennon admonished our selfishness and urged us to see and care for the poor and hungry. Time and again, The Beatles prevailed upon us to look beyond “ME” to the greater good of “WE.”
Look, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a little selfie now and then. In fact, it’s a good, fun place to begin. After all, you’re asked to love others as you love yourself. But once “selfied” … The Beatles suggested that we move on. Because as they told us in the very last words of the very last song:
“… in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. Ahhhhhhhh!”