Today, for the first time in a long time, I heard the song Imagine, written and performed by John Lennon and inspired by Yoko Ono’s poetry. And once again I was struck by how wildly radical it is (in a good way).

In a calm voice, to a very pleasant and catchy melody, Lennon essentially says that our three most sacred cows — religion, nationalism and private wealth — are destructive forces that we might think about abolishing.

He doesn’t sound angry about it. He’s just inviting us to imagine a world in which people were free of three of the most powerful ways that humanity becomes divided into separate tribes.

I can’t think of any other instance in which a revered popular figure sent such a radical idea out into the culture — and in such a clear and highly visible way. And yet somehow, by couching it in a calm and soothing presentation, he got that message out.

By all accounts Imagine is one of the most beloved and often performed songs in the world. More than half a century after its first release, it is the song that is played after great tragedies, to give people hope and help them pull together.


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