Such a simple question, but not such a simple answer. I began writing What Is A Life shortly after watching a documentary on Yoko Ono and subsequently reading excerpts of her book, Grapefruit. There are people who claim that Yoko actually wrote Imagine. I certainly wouldn't claim to know one way or another but when you read some of her works you can certainly understand her influence in the song at the very least. To some, Grapefruit seemed like a jargon of nonsense strung together with nonsense artistry. A quick Wikipedia search will probably leave most thinking the same. But if you dig a little deeper you realize she was bringing up a very good point, albeit much like a Jackson Pollack painting where you need to really open up your mind and use your imagination to see. We, as a society, are beginning to lose our creativity. We are no longer being pushed to think outside the box. In fact, we're being driven to the opposite.
Think about it- we condition our children to begin thinking about their careers by the time they are sophomores in High School. By the time they are Juniors/Seniors in HS they should know what college they are going to, and what their primary study will be. Unless they are truly one of the lucky or gifted, they will have to saddle themselves with tons of student loan debt that they will likely be paying off for at least 10 years after graduating. All this for the goal of getting a job (usually one having nothing to do with your actual college studies) that will likely pay barely enough to pay off the student loans plus the cars and mortgages. In the majority of jobs today you are nothing more than a cog in a huge machine, easily controlled and easily replaced. Corporations that hold meetings and "huddles" where they insist they squeeze more and more out of you, even telling you how you need to make their brand your passion. Over the past 40 years we have been sold the notion that college is an absolute must to have a life in this world. Of that I vehemently and wholly disagree. EDUCATION is an absolute must. We always must be learning until the day we die. But our education system has become nothing more than a means to earn money. And when I ask myself why, the only thing I come to is civil obedience. People who are forced into debt have no time to be creative. They have no time to be inquisitive. They have no time to follow the signs that God and the universe continuously provide for their path of enlightenment, to the point they just don't see them at all. Less and less these days do you see people creating businesses they love, owning their own life and following their dreams. Corporations are slowly (maybe not so slowly) swallowing up dreams and siphoning every bit of value out of human beings for their own sustenance of greed.
The absurdity of the verses in What Is A Life are an homage to imagination. Wishes on a feather, bury the clouds and sow seeds of whim, windows of time on a golden swing.... All just random musings of the mind eventually pushed into some corner of your mind to die. Without opening your imagination, you never can truly see the beauty of things, you can't paint the canvas of your life. Eventually I started questioning in my mind what became the chorus:
What is a life when you no longer see? You're so busy doing whatever you can to make ends meet you don't even look up to see the beauty staring you right in the face?
What is a life when you don't hold the keys? You're not even driving the vehicle of your life. You've completely handed over the keys of your life to debt, to civil obedience, to what is the standard norms of society.
What is a life without a mind to feed? We're so busy following a designed path to civil obedience that we eventually completely stop feeding our imaginative minds to the point it starves and dies.
What is a life when you no longer bleed? This, to me, is the worst and final step. The loss of empathy, the lack of love for strangers, the lack of love towards another's struggle. We don't have time anymore to investigate, to listen, to understand. We want everything given to us in canned snippets tailored to our own opinions and be damned with the rest. The powers that be have deliberately divided us, and we no longer have any compassion or empathy for those that think and feel differently. In today's climate it's becoming extremely dangerous. We are applying labels and childish names to those who are different and we are throwing barbs and attacks behind keyboards where, if we are not careful, those keyboards become real weapons. Soldiers are conditioned to dehumanize the enemy because it's almost impossible to kill another human being that you have compassion for. I feel we as civilians are beginning to do the same, and the future is quite scary if we continue down this path.
The funny thing is I think most of my friends who read this (ok the 2 or 3 of you lol) probably understand. Artists are all trying to make our way in this world with a goal of bringing joy and happiness to others and provoke thought and discussion. But the problem is we are up against this machine designed to make the majority of people deaf and numb to it. I think that's what inspired the lyric "I'm a servant of love on a bed of nails". But at the same time we know the struggle is worth it. Artists can change lives. Artists can inspire. Artists can invoke change. Artists can heal. It sometimes feels extremely overwhelming, but it is incumbent upon us to keep pressing on, keep creating, keep imagining, keep pouring our love and honesty into what we do, share our struggles, share our pain. If it makes even one person out there stop and think, then it was all worth it.
Be kind and spread love. Always.