It Was 30 Years Ago Today…

Posted: December 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

I was an idealistic 15 year old On December 8th, 1980,  this was a pivotal and galvanizing day in my adolescence, and my life. The moment I heard the news that John Lennon had been killed, my perspective on the world changed.  I remember I lay awake that night, unable to sleep, listening to Lennon’s music and hourly reports on FM radio of people gathering in front of the Dakota apartment building where he had been shot. They were crying, holding each other and singing songs like Give Peace a Chance and All You Need is Love. They were like the rest of the world trying to come to terms with a senseless and tragic loss, but they were, in the only way they knew how at the time, connecting.

The following Sunday, most radio stations around the country and around the world, simultaneously fell silent for 10 minutes in hon0r of John Lennon. It was an unprecedented tribute to a man who had meant so much to so many. When the stations came back on the air, they did so by playing the same song all at once, Imagine... It was extraordinary.  In a day before twitter and face book, and CNN for that matter, this became our way of connecting. Albeit through silence, for those 10 minutes wherever we were, and what ever we were doing, we stood as one, sharing our grief and celebrating a life.

That night, RKO radio broadcast a 2 hour interview they had done with John Lennon on the day of his death. In that interview, I remember that he spoke of meeting Yoko Ono for the first time. He recalled how he had gone to an art exhibition featuring her work and one of the exhibits was white canvas on the ceiling with a ladder underneath. He climbed the latter to find a magnifying glass at the top.  When he picked up the magnifying glass and held it up to the canvas he discovered a tiny word written there. The word was, “yes” He recounted how poignant that moment was for him because the message from that small word was so positive.

Over the last several weeks, as we have been putting the World Wide day of Laughter together,  I have actually thought of that story, and those days more than once. When I was younger I wanted to be a musician and like most musicians, I was tremendously influenced by the Beatles. I was influenced almost as much by their impact on our society, our culture and our values as I was to their music and musicianship. Because of them, and Lennon in particular, I believed that it was it was incumbent on musicians and artists to take a stand. I believed  it was the responsibility of  almost all public figures to help  enlighten people on the things that the “main stream” media either would not, or could not.

As we look at the way things have changed over the last 30 years, and the prevailing culture, I wonder what someone like John Lennon would do today with  technology and social media. Because as a world, we are really for the first time now truly connected.  The possibilities are in fact mind boggling when it comes to the greater good.

Consider that there are currently well over 500 million users on Facebook and that number is growing exponentially. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world, behind China and India. This country though, has no borders, far less censorship and certainly less poverty. The average Facebook user in the US makes in excess of $50,000.00 per year. If we, for instance, wanted to make a small dent in world hunger and we asked the Facebook population to ante up the average equivalent of 50 cents US (half the price of a pack of gum) we could theoretically raise $250 million almost immediately.

To put this in perspective, Paul Newman, another personal hero, started Newman’s Own brand in 1982 and decided to donate all of the proceeds to charities. It has since become one of the most successful and significant non-profit, charitable organizations of all time. To date, after almost 30 years,Newman’s own has raised an amazing 250 million dollars, but in the example above, we do that almost overnight. I realize this may sound somewhat naive and far fetched, but the bottom line is, the possibilities of being connected as a people through this new media are positively endless and we must seize them.

This is a roundabout way of bringing us back to the World Wide Day of Laughter, where this is ultimately our goal and our mission. To take a feeling, or a tiny word like “YES”, or something as universal as laughter and  to marry to positive action. To do something  as one people, un-separated by borders in an attempt to maybe not change the world, but impact it significantly in a very short period of time.

When John Lennon wrote Power to the People in 1971, I’m quite sure he wasn’t envisioning anything like Facebook or Twitter, yet ultimately these may be the tools that bring that declaration to true fruition.  Through this new media, there is a new “power of the people” and we can all at least for a moment perhaps, Imagine there’s no countries, no need for greed or hunger, and that there is indeed a brotherhood of man.

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