Five spiritual gems from George Harrison in honour of his birthday. Harrison took an eastern mystical journey to seek God but though I come from a Christian perspective I love caressing and colliding his spiritual musings against my own Scriptures and creed.
1. WITHIN YOU, WITHOUT YOU (Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band)
“We were talking-about the love that's gone so cold and the people,
Who gain the world and lose their soul-
They don't know-they can't see-are you one of them?”
Though George Harrison would leave the faith of his Catholic upbringing to seek spiritual enlightenment in the eastern mysticism of Krishna, he is still quoting Jesus right in the middle of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band.
It is at a crucial time of invitation to follow him that Jesus tells his disciples that they must deny themselves and take up their cross daily. He then asks what would it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul.
It was prophetic stuff when Jesus said it and prophetic stuff in the middle of the sixties when Harrison brings it up on arguably the most prophetic rock album in history; a whole generation who “had never had it so good” in material terms were pulled up short and made to reconsider their idea of human fulfilment.
2. ISN’T IT A PITY (All Things Must Pass)
“Isn't it a pity
Now, isn't it a shame
How we break each other's hearts
And cause each other pain
How we take each other's love
Without thinking anymore
Forgetting to give back
Isn't it a pity”
One of George Harrison’s finest moments. Even on his amazing triple record All Things Pass this stands out. When listening to All Things Must Pass you should always remember that it was written during the break-up of The Beatles. Songs like All Things Must Pass, Wah Wah and this are infused by such events.
These lyrics could be a real poetic description of those dying days of the greatest rock band in history who are losing what made them spectacularly special because they were using each other and taking each other for granted.
It is a good parable of how we all treat each other. Isn’t it a pity has no solutions. It is a melancholic sorrowful warning of what we have done to each other since Cain and Abel.
As my wee country find sit way out of conflict, still hurting one another in word and political action I cannot help with sadness but sing along with George.
3. ALL THINGS MUST PASS (All Things Must Pass)
“Now the darkness only stays the night-time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good at arriving at the right time
It's not always going to be this gray
All things must pass
All things must pass away”
I have been known to listen to this one during difficult times. Harrison himself was living through the darkness of the break up of The Beatles as he wrote this. It is a spiritual message for sure, a philosophising about what U2 would later call “Stuck in a moment.”
It is a great truth when I need to seek a view from beyond the moment, a vertical perspective on the horizontal. It’s good to have a prayer of hopefulness that “it’s not always going to be this way.”
4. ANY ROAD (Brainwashed)
“Bow to God call him sir
But if you don’t know where you’re going
Any road will take you there”
This came on the radio one morning as I was relaxing on the north coast. I found myself thinking how wonderful it was that such a positive spiritual challenge was going out over the airwaves –
“But oh Lord we’ve got to fight
With the thoughts in the head with the dark and the light
No use to stop and stare
If you don’t know where you’re going
Any road will take you there.”
Preach it George, preach it! It was in disbelief that as the song faded out the presenter and his side kick went on at some length as to how they liked the song but what on earth was George going on about! They were totally confused saying it was deep but very shallow. WHAT?!?!
Whether it is in my personal spiritual seeking after God; or what kind of life I live as someone who thinks he has some clues to what faith in God means; or whether it is my Church and its vision for mission; or whether it is our wee country’s way forward we need to have a clear idea where we are going!
5. DEVIL’S RADIO (Cloud 9)
“I heard it in the night
Words that thoughtless speak
Like vultures swooping down below
On the devil's radio
I hear it through the day
Airwaves gettin' filled
With gossip broadcast to and fro
On the devil's radio”
A more light hearted #5 but lovely little boring lyric to a tight little pop tune on Cloud 9. Gossip! It’s an everyday malaise in Churches and communities.
Apparently Harrison saw the words Devil’s Radio on a Church notice Board. Gossip is an everyday annoyance come evil. The Devil’s Radio is a great image. And I’ll confess - guilty!