[Surviving fragment of The Twelfth Millennium, probably written in the 1990s]
When Christ said, “It’s as easy for a rich man to get to heaven as to go through the eye of a needle,” I took it literally—that one has to dump possessions to get through to nirvana, or whatever you call it. But an intellectual has less chance of getting through than me. They’re possessed of ideas ... Most people are choked to death by concepts and ideas that they carry around with them, usually not their own but their parents’ and society’s. Those are the possessions you’ve got to get rid of to get through the eye of the needle.
archild, twisted and violent as the times he lived in, John Winston Lennon was born during an air raid on the docks of Liverpool in the early stages of World War II. The fires that charred the rest of the world barely touched the young child as he learned to eat and take his first steps, and for him the war that had so affected the lives of his elders would always be something unfelt, unreal, distant as the memories of ancient Troy. During his entire life John Lennon would never be able to learn from the experiences of others; it was both one of his strengths and one of his weaknesses.
The world in which he found himself was now transformed; the flood-tide of war had retreated, and the landscape that emerged from the waters was entirely transformed. It was the world Noah must have seen on emerging from the ark. Such familiar entities as the British Empire, Colonial Africa, and French Indo-China blew away like cobwebs in a hurricane, and what was left was no longer familiar.
Dominating the scene now were the two surviving powers, each sporting its own style of government, as well as its own system of economics. It would be straight-across competition to see which setup worked better—or at least it could have been, if both sides had played fair. Neither intended to, however; both were prepared to do whatever it took to guarantee victory. Violence, subversion, economic coercion—nothing was forbidden in the Cold War between the empires of North America and Russia.
Great Britain, like most of the rest of the West, was allied with the United States in this subdued but deadly conflict, and inevitably it was American culture that impressed and filled the young Lennon’s mind as he grew up. Along with the very British Lewis Carroll he read the American James Thurber; the all too American sounds of rhythm and blues, skiffle, and rock ’n’ roll filled his ears. Liverpool was a port town, and American records drifted in with the tides that carried the shipping of the world to its seven miles of docks.
A natural leader, always the center of attention, Lennon soon found that it was not enough merely to listen to the exciting new music that filled his imagination; he had to make music as well. A band was the natural consequence, one that was at first fairly makeshift as friends were drafted to fill out the parts, whether they could play anything or not. Gradually professionalism began to creep in. While playing at a church event a friend introduced him to a neighbor, one James Paul McCartney, who not only knew the words to songs Lennon was only vaguely aware of, but could also tune his own guitar. It was a tough call. Lennon recognized that this new kid