This holiday season, perhaps more than any other recent holiday season, the greatest gift we can ask for is peace. Thanks to Yoko Ono’s IMAGINE PEACE (photo above), a synchronized video program on 15 of the largest digital screens in New York City’s Times Square running each night through the rest of 2012 just before midnight, that dream of peace takes visible form, at least for a few fleeting moments. John Lennon’s song “Imagine” calls for a pie-in-the-sky dream of peace and harmony, but what are the holidays for if not for imagining a world better than it is right now?
Yoko Ono, who was an artist of international stature well before Lennon walked into her life, champions a worldwide initiative of anti-violence through her IMAGINE PEACE project. In the Times Square video installation, “Imagine Peace” appears in 24 languages against a blue-sky background from 11:57 pm to midnight. “Every day for three minutes we will think of world peace together, watching this blue sky,” Ono asks. “I love you!” “Times Square Moment: A Digital Gallery” and the Art Production Fund partnered with Ono to turn Times Square into a nightly peace-in. On December 21st, Make Music New York organized a sing-a-long with the video, asking those gathered to sing Lennon’s “Imagine” as the film began as well as to spread the word through social media. (An amateur video of the sing-a-long can be found here.)
I’ve formed powerful associations between the Lennons and Christmas over the years. Of all the non-traditional Christmas songs, “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” is my favorite. As the holidays approached, I’d play that song for my sons in the car on the morning drive to school. I’d like to think it became their favorite song, too (but I think Bruce’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” might be more than a close second). After the Newtown Shooting, however, hearing that chorus of children singing with John and Yoko sounded as haunting as it was uplifting.
I still remember receiving for Christmas 1980 the vinyl version of Double Fantasy, just a few weeks after Lennon’s murder on December 8th by lone, crazed gunman Mark David Chapman. Listening to new songs such as “(Just Like) Starting Over,” “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy),” “Watching the Wheels,” and “Woman” after nearly memorizing the whole Beatles’ catalog was a dream come true for my 8th grade self. But just as quickly as a new generation grew to know and love Lennon, he was gone in a senseless murder—teaching that same generation the meaning of the word “assassination.” More than three decades later, senseless gun violence still teaches new forms of tragedy, and yet we seem incapable as a society of learning anything from them.
“It's Time for Action, Action is Peace,” Yoko Ono calls. “Think Peace, Act Peace, Spread Peace, IMAGINE PEACE! Together we have the power to change the world. I LOVE YOU!!” This Christmas, commit senseless acts of peace—hold open a door, smile, sign a petition, do something that adds to the positive karma in the universe. Even if you can’t make it to Times Squre to see Yoko Ono’s IMAGINE PEACE in person, you can still imagine peace in your heart.
[Image: Yoko Ono’s IMAGINE PEACE, featured nightly at 11:57 pm until midnight every night throughout December 30 as part of the Times Square Moment: A Digital Gallery, a presentation of the Times Square Advertising Coalition (TSAC) and Times Square Arts. Photo by Ka-Man Tse.]