To say that The Beatles' Yellow Submarine deeply affected me would be a profound understatement. Walking into Blockbuster that overcast Saturday, I would have never guessed a few hours later I would not only be supremely happy, but also living with a new view of life, and whatever might be beyond life.
At that point in time, my friends and I were still in deep mourning for our good friend Jay Chitty's death, Jared and I fretted over job prospects (or lack thereof) while Spencer and Scags nervously awaited responses from med schools, and I was strongly considering quitting the golf team.
Spencer had been telling us about the glory of Yellow Submarine for months, unable (or unwanting) to quite give an idea of the plot: "You guys just have to see it." I snubbed him, thinking "I'm over the oldies stage of my life, thanks." Little did I know I was in for a revelation.
I'll give you all the same treatment Spencer gave me (trust me, go see it), but suffice it to say that the moral of the story is "All You Need Is Love."
That got me thinking--isn't it rather amazing how ubiquitous the term "love" is, and yet there isn't really a solid definition (although my personal favorite is "a neurochemical con job"). Isn't that awfully similar to God? I mean, traditionally almost everyone believes in God (of one kind or another), yet there are no certain definitions of this greater being.
Then I started to think, well, what do people really want out of this God character? A trip to heaven? Well perhaps that's it, but for how many people and what percentage of the time are they thinking in those terms? How many prayers are simply "Please God, just let me into heaven"?
Instead, people turn to God in times of need or want or hardship (note that the poorest have also traditionally been the most religious). What they seek from him is a little help (as a friend would) and unconditional love. Well, would that be much different if it were just unconditional love returned? I know that would help me through almost any hard times.
I also find in my experience that people who worship God often put their faith more into other people, too. But really, in both cases they're just seeking love. They deeply believe it exists, so they try to find it on earth as well (not to say the rest of us don't, just in different ways and to a lesser extent). They treat love as devine when they can't find it in another being.
The Bible even goes so far as to say that "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8). Does that not end the argument right there? Oh, perhaps they don't quite mean that literally...
Yet, they need absolutes in their lives, and if they can't find them immediately on earth, they need to believe there is an absolute beyond life. I believe the more absolutes you accept, the more obstacles you put between yourself and others. I've recently had multiple jewish friends dumped by significant others because the parents didn't want their children marrying people who were inevitably going to hell.
In my mind, there are so many different definitions of the afterlife throughout time, there is nothing certain enough to stop me from deriving pleasure from this life--which, interestingly enough, comes from love, be it friendly, marital, or material.
Now, this is not to say there isn't a God. I am not so atheistic to deny his (or her) existence, but if he or she does, I think people significantly misrepresent his or her role in their everyday lives. I'd also like to think that if this God is so great and loving, why can't he accept me for who I am? Why must I grovel to win his affection? Can't he be everyone's homie? And how could (and why would) he create a world where some people believe in him and others don't?
I think there was a lot to be said for the counterculture movement of the late 60s. Idealistically, they had it right--all you need is love. Unfortunately, they let that thought consume them and failed to do much productively (other than artistically).
After watching Yellow Submarine, my roommates and I, who were already very close, became inseparable. You would rarely catch one of us without another, and you'd rarely catch two of us without smiles on our faces. We love each other deeply, and we aren't afraid to say so and put faith in that love. Yet we still got our shit done. Jared and I are gainfully empoyed in our fields of choice, and Spencer and Scags are very happily working in research labs.
Am I so cracked out to adopt this theory? As our Finnish friend Eija posited on a trip to Estonia, "What do you all think is at the end of the universe? I think sand. Prove me wrong." Well? Have at it...