Just as I can still remember what I was doing, as a fourth grader, on the day John F. Kennedy was killed, and where I was and who I was with on the morning of September 11, 2001, I remember distinctly the details of the night of December 8, 1980, 33 years ago tonight.
I was riding a bus home from the evening shift at Covenant House, the then famous shelter for runaway teens in Times Square, when it was still a seedy Mecca for nefarious characters and lost souls from all over the country. I worked there per diem as a social worker, supplementing the income from my full-time day job at another social service agency. On Thanksgiving of that particular year, just 2 weeks before John's murder, I worked the evening shift at the shelter serving a sumptuous dinner to the kids that had been donated to Covenant House by John and Yoko. Each place setting had a card with artwork from John decorating it and a greeting from John, Yoko and Sean Lennon.
On that bus on December 8, around midnight, I was pretty much alone, lost in thought when the bus driver addressed me: "Did you hear what happened?" He asked. I just kind of mumbled, not really wanting to engage him. "They shot Lennon," he said. I thought to myself, "Oh boy, this guy's crazy," because I thought he was talking about Lenin, the communist leader who died almost sixty years earlier. The driver persisted until getting through and rocking my world. "Yep. They shot John Lennon," he said.
I could feel the blood drain out of my face.
"They shot John Lennon?!"
What?! Who?! Why?!!?
What?! Who?! Why?!!?
Interesting, isn't it, that the bus driver used the pronoun "they?" It's not an uncommon usage, but who are "they?" Chapman clearly killed John and acted alone in doing so, but yet, when the driver said "They," it seemed somehow appropriate. On 9/11/01, the person who first told me about the attack also said "They flew planes into the World Trade Center," even though it was not yet known who actually did it.
Who are "they?"
Well, "they" are "us."
As John Lennon himself once wrote:
"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."
John came to understand something in his short time on Earth about the true oneness that exists in All That Is. Many of his lyrics, during and after the Beatle era, reflect some of that understanding. By choosing a lifetime in which he would be so monumentally famous, and die so infamously, you might say that John "volunteered" to play out the dualistic drama for us in his physical and emotional life, even as he sang about the true nature of our oneness and the synchronicity of everything that occurs:
"Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be."
Nothing truly, irrevocably tragic occurs, folks. We desire as souls to experience everything that we can conceive of, to know everything there is to know. In the "experiment" that was 3-dimensional physical reality in a linear time continuum, we explored how love, the essence of All That Is, can be expressed in that dimension. It was intense. And now, we are done with that particular experiment, which is why so many feel ready to move on from the experience of separateness.
Maybe that's what John was asking us to imagine - no Heaven, no hell, no religion, no country, no possessions... in other words, a world without duality.