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John Lennon’s “Imagine,” one of the greatest hits and best-selling songs of the twentieth century, was first recorded in May 1971 and released later in the same year, in the middle of the Vietnam War. This year marks the 50th anniversary since the beautiful melody and rather sensational lyrics shook the world.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
I hope someday you’ll join us.
And the world will be as one.
The heart of these lyrics inspires us and our daily lives, here and now. It encourages us to reflect on, imagine, our lives beyond our own small boxes, unite with our fellow humans, and create better relationships with them and all creatures around us.
But now, after all these fifty years of learning, where do we stand? Are we living in a better, more peaceful world, enjoying diversity, equality, and inclusion in our daily lives? No inequality, gun violence, or hate crimes in the world? How can we create a path toward future generations living in peace and harmony?
In 2017, ten months after my late husband, Patrick, passed away, I went to Hawaii to join the Lantern Floating event held at Ala Moana Beach every year on Memorial Day. While Patrick was alive, we had joined this event almost every year for many years.
But that year, I came to the event with my younger sister and her daughter, who had flown to Oahu from Japan for the occasion. It was for the first time for me to put a lantern afloat on the Pacific Ocean. The lantern was for Patrick and everyone. As I placed his lantern on the sea, it didn’t go anywhere; it stayed with me for a long time, as if he didn’t want to leave me.
Then, finally, the lantern slowly
began to move afar. I kept
walking into the deeper sea,
following it; I didn’t want to
lose him. Tears welled up in my
eyes and kept streaming down
until I could no longer recognize
his lantern. His lantern was
accompanied by many
thousands of other lanterns
Photo by Author, Oahu in Hawaii and went far beyond my reach.
In the end, all the orange lights, ranging in color from the persimmon to orange-red, merged into the sea, vermilion against the infinite dark sky.
Over 50,000 people at the beach—some local, others from various states and countries—witnessed these ascending spirits beyond us that day. We all were strangers to each other but shared our mutual love and wishes for peace and harmony across the two realms: the present and the spiritual worlds. We were bound through this imaginable world that brought us together, enabling us to live without distinctions. At that moment, we became One.
One month before the Lantern Floating in Hawaii, I visited friends in Maryland, where Patrick and I had started our lives together in 1990. Our housemates back then, Lloyd and Elisabeth, kindly took me to various places that I’d planned to visit. I secretly took out a small keepsake in azure containing Patrick’s ashes and scattered them on the ground at each location.
During this trip, I also spent two days in Washington DC, where I took the metro to memorable places we’d shared, including the National Mall. Patrick passed away on Independence Day in 2016, one of our favorite holidays. That day back in 1990, five months after my arrival in the States, we’d shared our first and the most memorable event at the Mall.
Among many museums that I visited, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was the newest and was one I’d never seen before. At that time, a timed-entry reservation was required for its admission. Despite not having a ticket, I was lucky enough to be permitted to enter the museum. It offered so many profound, insightful exhibitions in History, Culture, Community, and Interactive Galleries. I wished I had a full day to explore, but I spent only five hours there.
Most of my time there, I walked around the History Gallery, absorbing American history from African Americans’ points of view. I’d known some history before this, but not so in-depth.
Photo by Author at NMAAHC in Washington D.C.
When I saw the pictures and the sculpture of a slave ship and its cargo, and many photos of segregation in our American lives, I was utterly in shock, frozen. I stood in front of each exhibit for a while. The images were beyond my comprehension. But I had to admit: it’s been real. I didn’t want to move from those spots until I’d embraced the images and made them part of my own experience.
With what it is here and now, how can I help all of us to live in harmony?
We all have families and friends. Some people experience profound love and harmony in those relationships; others experience them to be more challenging. But in reality, looked at without judgment, every family has a profound love and deep connections and also experiences difficult times and sometimes suffering. So it must be with you and me.
Imagine that you are about to lose a family member, like your father, a person with whom you may have had a complicated relationship and difficulties. No matter how you were with him before, once you’ve decided to do so, you may seek to understand him, reconcile with him, and find peace with him. To achieve this, first, imagine a better picture—you and your father in harmony— then seek out how you would realize it and finally act to realize it.
The journey you’ve decided to take to find truth in your father will require courage; you would endure no matter what it takes and how difficult it might be. Tenacity will help you to stay on course. Through the act of finding the truth—a light—in him, in the end, you will also find your own light in you, connected with his light. Imagining finding light in your father eventually leads you to find your own truth and light.
This connection is not just between you and your father; we all are connected in this way, and those connections are just waiting to be discovered. When you find common ground with anyone, you begin to open the gateway to many more possibilities— strangers and the unknown.
Join me in this place; imagine goodness and light in all. Through a small act of trust, starting with your family, build a bridge one by one and connect with others for something larger than you, than us, in the ocean of the light. It’s never too late, so start now: imagine.