In The Power and The Glory, Graham Greene wrote: “Hate is a lack of imagination.” Perhaps it follows that love is an abundance of imagination. There’s plenty of both to go around in the world just now, so I suppose the thing to do is notice imagination, encourage it, and let it build.
Sometimes we think of imagination as the stuff of fantasy worlds—The Lord of The Rings scaled down to everyday life, if you like. And that’s a wonderful way to imagine.
But John Lennon’s Imagine reminds us that there’s more to imagination. We can imagine a life, a community, a world of relationships, and then we can grow that imagination into a real life. We can imagine a world where ‘there’s no countries …no possessions …no need for greed or hunger.”
You might not agree with all of Lennon’s sentiments. I don’t, he imagines a world with ‘no religion’, but I think religion can be and often is powerfully good. And I’m not convinced that ‘living for today’ is even part of the answer to the world’s ills. Lennon says 'it isn’t hard to do’, but imagining a real world that is dramatically changed is very hard to do.
Still, I think most everyone would agree that more imagining of kindness, sharing, abundance, and equality is a good thing—and that’s the underlying message of the song and the book.
There’s a forward by Yoko Ono, and an afterword from Amnesty International—both are good to read.
Ono writes: ”We should treat everybody the same, no matter where they are from or if they speak a different language. After all, the pigeon in this book welcomes all the other birds, whatever colour of feathers or shape of beak they have.”
The pictures are very appealing—an everyday sort of pigeon flies around its world doing good and welcoming all birds—they’re colourful and charming and do a wonderful job of connecting the song to children and their lives.
Amnesty International writes: “This book is about peace, which helps us enjoy a happy and safe life. For peace to flourish, we need to treat everyone kindly, equally and fairly.” Surely that is indisputable!
Imagine is nostalgic comfort reading of course, but it’s also a great way to open a discussion about what an imagined world full of love would look like. Perhaps you agree with Lennon, perhaps not. Either way, this a book to start thinking and talking about freedoms, rights, and especially our own contributions to the world.
If you’re looking for more books about human rights you might like these. And if, like me, you really appreciate a book you can sing-read, here are a few more we’ve loved:
Along the Road to Gundagai - fabulous song included.
Footloose - enough said!
What a Wonderful World - and check out this gorgeous rendition, be warned it will stay with you!
A You’re Adorable - plus here's a classic by Petula Clark and Guy Mitchell.