Kage Baker loved the Beatles. Really, honestly loved them; madlydeeplytruely. Not carnally – except for George; George was IT as far as Kage was concerned – but with the religious fervor of one who has assigned faces to the 4 Evangelists.
She was 12 in 1964, and always considered it the Perfect Year. Maybe not the best year of her life, nor the happiest, nor the most productive: but it was Perfect. That year, 1964, was perpetual summer, pure gold with the voices and faces of the Beatles everywhere; for the rest of her life, one tattered calendar in the house was just recycled over and over through 1964 (and every few years, it made sense, too. I took it down for the last time in February … ). I think, for the first time in her life, Kage solidified her personal image of Divinity in 1964.
Not the Beatles per se, no – they held status more at the level of archangels or Bodhisattva. But the idea that God has a face, a man’s face, a mask that one can gaze upon and love and interact with: that was born that summer, powered by the perfectly normal 12-year old lust she shared with millions of other little girls. Most of those millions wept and had cathartic hysterics, had their tastes in men and music affected for life – and then went on to ordinary lives enriched by the experience of adoring John Lennon or Paul McCartney as their mothers had adored Frank Sinatra. It’s part of being a 12-year old girl, I think.
In Kage’s mind, though – something sparked, flared, and divided into 4 fountains of flame that never ceased. For a couple of years, she poured part of her creativity into a sort of secular theology. The world was divided into quarters, each of which was personified into an Aspect. Each Aspect bore a face and a voice and a character. Seasons; elements; virtues and sins; weather and condiments: she assigned “George” skies, “Paul” drinks, “Ringo” dawns. “John” moods.
John was the Angel with the flaming sword; he was Justice and Law. He was high noon, a bright-tiled altar in sunlight on a hill covered with sunflowers and red roses, a thousand dancers in a ring on a field of gold. He was also violence, madness, and fury. He was glee and all passions, coloured glass and broken glass and molten glass. He was Horus and Gawaine and Shiva.
Today, October 9th, was John Lennon’s birthday. He would have been 70 – which is in itself absurd, John would never have been so old! The world remembers and honors him today; he is the world’s passion and has been now for half a century. Which situation would, I fondly believe, have rather made him laugh …
Kage would have laughed. But she’d have approved too, even as she saw the delicious absurdity of the world solemnly canonizing John Lennon the same way she did when she 12 years old. He was worthy of it, after all – the worship and the absurdity both. And Kage knew, we need masks to approach God, we need to look in human eyes in order to survive the gaze of Divinity; we need people who can stand the divine fire long enough to let us see it burn in them.
So, happy birthday, Johnny. Wherever you are. In your honor, according to the old rites, I’ll drink whiskey and stare into the sun today.