Thursday, November 22, 2018

Won't You Come Out to Play?

"Dear Prudence" written by Lennon and credited to Lennon/McCartney is the second track from the double LP The Beatles (colloquially known as The White Album). The White Album is The Beatles' licorice (as Jerry Garcia said, not a lot of people like licorice, but those who like licorice, really like licorice), an anti-concept with each track taking an individualized approach, with only one concurrent theme: most of the tracks were written in India. The track's subject is actress Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence, who was at the ashram when the Beatles studied with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi early in 1968. Farrow became so serious about her meditation that she became a recluse and rarely venturing out of the cottage in which she was living. Someone asked Lennon make sure she came out more often to socialize.

In the song, Lennon asks Prudence to "open up your eyes" and "see the sunny skies" reminding her that she is "part of everything." The song was a simple plea to a friend to snap out of it. Lennon said later that "She'd been locked in for three weeks and was trying to reach God quicker than anyone else." According to Farrow: "I would always rush straight back to my room after lectures and meals so I could meditate. John, George and Paul would all want to sit around jamming and having a good time and I'd be flying into my room. They were all serious about what they were doing, but they just weren't as fanatical as me."

Lennon didn't play the song for Farrow while they were in India together. Prudence later said that "George was the one who told me about it," as The Beatles were leaving the ashram. According to Farrow: "I was flattered. It was a beautiful thing to have done." The lyrics of the song are simple and innocent and praise the beauty of nature: "The sun is up, the sky is blue, it's beautiful, and so are you, Dear Prudence."

While on the surface the song could be seen as a kind rebuke to excessive spirituality, but at its heart "Dear Prudence" makes a powerful statement for an integral contemplative perspective: where Prudence (and by extension, anyone who listens to the song) is "part of everything" and is/are invited to "look around, round, round" and see the beauty in all things. The song is a reminder that there is really no line separating "spirituality" from the rest of life: it's all connected. The point behind a contemplative practice, after all, is not merely to lose ourselves in meditation, but rather to find, through the disciplined attention of silent awareness, that we really are "part of everything" and it's all beautiful — and so are we. Now that's some hippie shit right there.