Distant karma: Lennon still shining on after 30 years

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Enterprise columnist

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Someone posted “A date which will live in infamy” as their Facebook status last week, acknowledging the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I posted this response: “Dec. 8 is pretty infamy-ish too.” While Dec. 7 is the official date of infamy for the United States, for John Lennon fans, Dec. 8 is the date that lives in infamy — truly a date forever stained with tragedy and sorrow.

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What was your first tragic “that moment I\’ll never forget where I was” experience? JFK\’s assassination? The Challenger explosion? 9/11? Mine came on Dec. 8, 1980. I guess shock and tragedy sear mundane details into memory, because I remember every detail of that evening, right down to the book I was reading — “Maturity and Aging” (how ironic) for a psychology class at UC Davis. I was lying on my stomach on this tacky old plaid couch, highlighting key passages in bright pink, and the music on the radio stopped. The DJ, his voice curdled and thick, announced John Lennon\’s death. It literally took my breath away — a gasp that sucked in and couldn\’t be released without the escort of frantic tears.

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It was my first personal experience with something too horrible to be true, something my brain simply could not wrap around, something that compels you to run out the door and grab the first person you see by both shoulders and shriek, “Have you heard? Oh my God, have you heard?” and then collapse into each other\’s arms and weep.

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For me, that shock of disbelief over John\’s death progressed through the stages of grieving — denial, anger, bargaining, depression — right up to the brink of“acceptance.” And stopped. I don\’t think I ever truly worked through that stage successfully. Maybe because John still seems very alive to me?

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Even from the everafter, John still inspires and challenges me. His words and music are like peering through a kaleidoscope — time and experience turn the lens, and the images tumble and swirl into new and novel patterns. Just last week, on the 30th anniversary of his death, I listened to “Mind Games” afresh, and it struck me from an entirely different angle and it made me smile.

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Although I obviously never knew him in person, John impacted my life in tangible ways. He was my example for fearlessly speaking the truth regardless of whom it pisses off. He was the embodiment of my favorite Edward Albee quote: “Never be afraid to be loud and unpopular.\’\’ He taught me that if you want to keep your integrity intact, you have to choose between honesty and popularity. Believe me, the truth is often unpopular, and if you hurl the you-know-what squarely at the fan, some of it splatters back on you. So what. It washes off.

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Speaking the truth and weathering the consequences, and rebounding each time with renewed determination to jump back in feet first and do it again — this is what forges lumps of coal into diamonds. And nothing cuts like a diamond. Except words, maybe. Heat and pressure, baby. If you can\’t take them — embrace and relish them, even — don\’t pursue a career in opinion, whether your words are set to music or not.

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John was the muse not just for my mind, but my heart too. He and Yoko became my template for love… God and Goddess, yin and yang, earth and sky, sun and moon. Together, they were a perfect complement to each other, two halves of one whole. I recognized this on an instinctual level, but sadly, had no personal experience with it. What John and Yoko had — I believed in it, but only in theory. Their love was real, but also some sort of anomaly that happened to regular people with about the same frequency as becoming a rock and roll superstar.

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I\’d resigned myself to a life devoid of this experience, never dreaming it would be John himself who\’d guide me straight into it. This time however, he didn\’t touch me through music or books or words, but through a new media — the Internet. When the internet became part of life\’s fabric in the late \’90s, I discovered an infinite source of information about John — websites and chat rooms, where Lennon fans could endlessly and inexhaustibly pore over every bit of Lennon minutiae imaginable.

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Over time, I began to favor one particular website, and our little group of dedicated fans evolved into a support group of sorts. Actually meeting each other in “real” life became an ongoing challenge: Who had met the most of us? Me, I\’m always up to a challenge. And I met several of them — lovely, interesting, diverse people, whose paths I\’d never have crossed without one common thread: John Lennon. It gave “Come together … over me” new meaning.

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Yes, I met this one and that one. And then I met The One. And I wasn\’t even looking for him. And as one of John\’s songs says, for the first time in my life, my eyes were wide open. And I knew for certain, as another song says, love is real.

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So, when people ask me how The Cutest Man In The World and I met, I often respond, “John Lennon introduced us.” And they smile and wait for the punch line. But … there isn\’t one. I\’m totally serious. Do you think someone who\’s dead could do that? I don\’t. You know, all in all, acceptance is overrated. All we really need to accept is that we all shine on. I know John does. I can see him in my sweetie\’s eyes. Love is real. And it is all we need.

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— Follow Debra DeAngelo on Twitter. Links are posted at and http://www.edebra.com and http://www.wintersexpress.com. Find Debra\’s columns online at http://www.wintersexpress.com, http://www.edebra.com and http://www.ipinion.me

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