“God” (John Lennon)

Somewhere between “All You Need is Love” (1967) and “Across the Universe” (1968), John Lennon converted from hippie to a man both harried and barricaded: the open advocacy of “love” for everyone transmuted into the defensive doctrine, “nothing’s gonna change my world.” (Bowie’s cover version of the latter on Young Americans appropriately encodes it as the ravings of a coke fiend). 1970s brooding, pained “God” takes this one step further and couples it with a strong dose of nihilism: a loss of faith in all kings, religions, and rock’n’roll, including the Beatles. All of these are now seen as myths and phantasms: “the dream is over.” But Lennon’s is an incomplete nihilism that continues to assert a Cartesian shot of truth with a splash of intersubjectivity: “I just believe in me, Yoko and me, and that’s reality.” Lennon here gets hung up on the same limit that has plagued all popular forms of nihilism: the “I.” Stuck with this seemingly ineluctable consciousness, nihilism never has a chance.


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