World, Hold On…

by Jude Southerland Kessler

The John Lennon Series

People are “typecast” quickly. My mother used to remind me of that fact annually, on the first day of school. She said that the way I behaved during the initial encounter with my new teacher would determine how he or she viewed me the rest of the school year. I was firmly reminded that, “First impressions are lasting impressions.” And they are. We often find ourselves labeled as “the rambunctious one” or “the smart one,” or “the quiet one,” when those tags are patently untrue. Maybe you’ve experienced that.

John Lennon certainly did. He was, almost from the beginning of Beatlemania, typecast as “the cynic” or “the surly Beatle.” Often, reporters attributed acrid remarks to him when, in truth, many of the quips were actually George Harrison’s wry humour! John’s own comments were regularly taken out of context, twisted, and mangled beyond recognition.

In the Bahamas, 1965, The Beatles witnessed a group of indigent children and sickly, elderly people tossed into a dirty, hot, unkempt shed, masquerading as a “state facility for the poor.” John, Paul, George and Ringo were all horrified at the sordid conditions. But John alone had the pluck to confront the Minister of Finance about the deplorable conditions that very evening at a state dinner.

John publicly demanded to know how government officials could dine in such opulence when “there are poor children ’n old folks out there, livin’ in filth ’n degradation.” Sir Stafford Sands, the set-upon minister, feigned ignorance of the situation and promised to “look into it immediately” in order to “set it right.” Then, Sands slapped the hand of the brash young Beatle by telling John that he “volunteered” his time as Minister of Finance (insinuating that his heart must be in the right place, I assume). John’s mouth was shut; the young crusader for those less fortunate was summarily silenced.

But the truth is, Sands did know about the horrid conditions of minorities and the poor in the Bahamas. And within two years’ time, Sands had been “sussed out” and forced to leave the island, in disgrace, for self-exile in Spain. But John — who had been bitterly reviled in the press for accosting Sands — was never praised for his courage in standing up for the oppressed. The stories written about “Lennon rudely accosting a government official” were never retracted. John’s “lemon label” lived on.

Certainly, John Lennon was not sunshine and rainbows. He was, like all of us, a mixed bag. However, many of the quotes he left behind paint him accurately as a man of hope. And many of John’s words speak volumes to us in 2020, as we endure civil unrest, a murderous virus, political venom, and a world shaken to the core. Here are just a few of the “words of wisdom” John left behind.

“It will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”

“We all shine on … like the moon and the stars and the sun. We all shine one … everyone!”

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”

And in “Hold On,” a song written for his John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album, 1970, John penned this prophetic bit of poetry:

“Hold on world! 

World, hold on!

It’s gonna be all right …

You’re gonna see the light,

And when you’re one,

Really one,

Well, you’ll get things done,

Like they’ve never been done …

So, hold on!

When asked to interpret the words to this solo song, John smiled and said, quite simply, “I’m just sayin’, ‘Hold on, now … we might have a cup of tea; we might get a moment’s happiness, any minute now! So that’s what it’s about, just moment-by-moment. That’s how we’re livin’ now … cherishin’ each day and dreadin’ it, too. It might be your last.’”

As we wake tomorrow morning to another day of CoVid-19, economic struggles, raging fires, hurricanes and bitter political clashes, we might discover that the simple words (and big ideas) from “Hold On” — penned by “the sardonic Beatle” — might be the very ones we need to hope and persevere. They might, in fact, be the inspiration we require to … “Shine On.”

Enjoy listening to “Hold On” here:

And enjoy John’s “Instant Karma” (We All Shine On) here:

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World, Hold On…