I Am George Harrison
Okay, maybe not. I’m a generation younger, a USAmerican, and nowhere near as famous or as talented.
But I relate to George in ways that bear articulating. I am a deeply spiritual person. My seminary classmates used to scoff when I mentioned this, but I have a very deep sense of piety. Not “piousness,” or holier-than-thou-ness, but genuine reverence for God and God’s creation. That, of course, is balanced by my frequently irreverent sense of humor and snark. I try to allow myself to be irreverent but not blasphemous, aloof but respectful, and mostly silly but loving. Like Life of Brian.
I haven’t been crazy about some of the Beatles covers you can hear at The Beatles Complete on Ukulele. (If you want to hear the wonderful combination of Beatles music and ukulele you’re better off checking out The Beatles Uke by former Cars keyboardist Greg Hawkes or WS64’s YouTube channel.) But some of their essays are spot on (and sometimes they fall into the old “John was a genius, Paul is a weenie” trap that really grinds my gears, but I digress.) Their most recent post gives this succinct psychoanalysis of George Harrison:
George Harrison was smart enough to know that money and fame is a chimera, that materialism is a dead end. Well, life itself is a dead end.
Is that all there is? Que sera sera?
Sic transit gloria mundi.So passes the glory of the world. All things must pass.
George craved meaning, which is a rough go when you are a natural born cynic.
But inside the armor of every isolated cynic is a jilted lover of truth. He tried all the world had to offer and kept on looking.
I love that next-to-last line. “But inside the armor of every isolated cynic is a jilted lover of truth.” That is a slightly more articulate version of something I’ve been saying about myself for a while, “a cynic is really a heartbroken romantic.” I’m not so much a pessimist as an optimist with a broken heart. I’m an idealist whose high hopes have been crushed by the corruption and apathy of the world. I can be a real Reinhold Niebuhr, proclaiming that our responsibility is to do our best even though our best probably sucks.
I wish I could be a Paul McCartney who can sing “Good Day, Sunshine” without a hint of irony, a Bob Marley who can chant “Every thing’s gonna be alright” over and over and mean it. I have undying admiration for their ability to do just that. And I’m glad that I’m not a John Lennon, whose entire understanding of the world changes with every emotional whim.
Nope, I’m a George. I can sing “Give me love, give me love, give me peace on earth,” so long as it’s tempered with “give me hope, help me cope with this heavy load.” I can see the optimistic vision of the future; what a theologian might describe as God’s eschatological vision of the world redeemed and transformed; but I cannot deny the heavy weight of the world as it is. I can sing praises to My Sweet Lord, but not without warning you to “beware of sadness – it can hit you, it can hurt you, make you sore and what is more – it is not what you are here for!”
And like George I recognize that nothing can sweep away my cynicism like an old Hoagy Carmichael song played sweetly on the ukulele.
So what does it mean to be a heartbroken romantic, a jilted lover of truth when you are a preacher and a pastor for a living? Well, you sing love songs to the truth that you love. You uphold the romantic vision. You sing it with passion. And you embrace the reality that we just ain’t there yet. The darkness does surround us. There really are people standing ’round who’ll screw us in the ground. And our bridges between the darkness of the present world and the transformed eschatologically redeemed world are grounded and manifest in spirituality and action.
Maybe a George isn’t a bad thing for a pastor to be.