Lao Tzu Profile

Lao Tzu Profile

Carolyn and I have long appreciated the writings of Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching, and have incorporated his philosophy into our lives.

Lao Tzu (or Laozi, and there are also around 10 other possible spellings of his name) was a semi-legendary ancient Chinese Taoist philosopher. The name Lao Tzu is a Chinese term that is usually translated as “the Old Master.”

It’s difficult to separate myth from fact about Lao Tzu; little is known about his life. Traditional accounts say that his original name was Li Er or Lao Dan and that he was born in the 6th century BC, in the village of Quren, which is in the state of Chu, a southern region in China.

It’s thought that Lao Tzu served as an archivist and scholar, an official who worked as a keeper of the imperial archives, for the Zhou court at Wangcheng. Zhho was a royal dynasty of China that lasted from 1046 BC to 256 BC, and Wancheng was an ancient Chinese city that today is known as Luoyang. This position as an archivist reportedly allowed Lao Tzu to access and study the classic works of his time.

Early accounts of Lao Tzu vary. In one account, it said that he was a contemporary of the Chinese philosopher and politician Confucius during the 6th or 5th century BC and that he met Confucius on one occasion, who was impressed by him, and Confucius mentions him in his writings. Another early account said that he was the court astrologer Lao Dan, who lived during the 4th century BC reign of the Chinese ruler Duke Xian of Qin.

In another account, it is said that Lao Tzu married and had a son who became a celebrated soldier. It is also thought that Lao Tzu never opened a formal school, but that he attracted many students and loyal disciples. In the later part of his life, he moved west and lived in an unsettled frontier region of China until the age of 80.

When Lao Tzu moved to this new region in the west, it is said in one account that a guard at the gate of this region asked him to record his wisdom for the good of the country before he could pass, and the text that he wrote was said to be the initial draft for the Tao Te Ching, although the present version includes additions from later periods.

The oldest surviving text of the Tao Te Ching so far recovered was part of the unearthed tomb of Guodian Chu Slips in 1993 and dates back to the Warring States period, which was an era in Chinese history characterized by warfare and lasted from 481 BC to 403 BC. The text of this early copy of the Tao Te Ching was written on bamboo slips, which was the main medium for writing documents prior to the introduction of the paper.

Some Western scholars think that the person known as Lao Tzu is a mythical character and that the Tao Te Ching was actually authored by a group of philosophers, not a single person, although more recent archeological discoveries have provided evidence that many Chinese scholars believe affirm the existence of a historical Lao Tzu.

The Tao Te Ching is a fundamental text for Taoism. Along with Confucianism and Buddhism, Taoism is one of the main currents of Chinese philosophy. Taoism is a philosophical or religious tradition that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao. The word “Tao” doesn’t have a clear definition, because, according to the Tao Te Ching, “The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao.” However, the term generally means “way,” “path,” or “principle,” and in Taoism, it denotes something that is both the source and the driving force behind everything that exists. Some think of it as “God,” “the Great Spirit,” or “the Great Mystery,” but if it can be expressed in words, then by definition, it is not the Tao.

There are numerous myths about Lao Tzu. Some traditions worship Lao Tzu as a god and believe that he entered this world through a virgin birth, conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star and that he remained in his mother’s womb for 62 years. According to this tradition he emerged from his mother’s womb as a grown man with a full grey beard. Other myths say that he was reborn 13 times after his first life, and in his last life, he lived for 990 years, traveling around China and teaching about the Tao.

Today there are numerous translations of the Tao Te Ching, and the influence of Taoism on Chinese culture and the Western world has been deep and far-reaching, influencing literature and the arts, as well as science. The Taoist perspective on natural elements, and observing how the natural world works, helped to create Chinese medicine. A search on Amazon currently reveals over 60 popular translations of the Tao Te Ching. Wayne Dyer created Living the Wisdom of the Tao, which contains the complete Tao Te Ching along with affirmations, and our friend Timothy Leary wrote a translation of the Tao Te Ching called Psychedelic Prayers.

Much of Carolyn’s artwork and poetry has been inspired by Taoism. Below are several of her Taoism-inspired paintings.

Some of the quotes that Lao Tzu is known for include:

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.

Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.

If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present. 

Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. 

Do you have the patience to wait until your mind settles and the water is clear? 

Silence is a source of Great Strength.

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.

by David Jay Brown

Carl Jung Profile

Carl Jung Profile

I began reading Carl Jung’s writings when I was in high school, and when I first met Carolyn, Jung’s work came up in our discussions a lot.

Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, who helped to revolutionize the field of psychology. Born in 1875, Jung has been described as a solitary and introverted child, with early aspirations to become a preacher or minister. However, after studying philosophy as a teenager, Jung decided against those religious aspirations and decided to pursue a career in psychiatry at the University of Basel instead.

In 1900 Jung moved to Zürich and began working at the Burghölzli psychiatric hospital, where he developed a relationship with the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Jung and Freud became close friends and built a strong professional association; for six years they cooperated in their work. However, in 1912 a split between these two intellectual titans developed when Jung published a manuscript titled Psychology of the Unconscious. This historic book created a theoretical divergence between the two men; after this their personal and professional relationship was damaged, and over the years they became increasingly bitter toward one another.

In a nutshell, Jung believed that there was more to the unconscious mind than Freud. According to both Freud and Jung, the unconscious mind is the mental reservoir of emotions, memories, and brain processes that are outside of our conscious awareness; yet influence our thoughts, desires, dreams, and actions. One basic difference between Freud’s and Jung’s theories of the unconscious mind was that Freud believed that it is purely the result of our personal development, while Jung believed that there was also a transpersonal dimension to it, what he called “the collective unconscious,” that was shared by all of humanity.

Jung saw evidence for the collective unconscious among the common elements found around the world in dreams, visions, myths, fairy tales, art, and other forms of cultural expression— what he called “archetypes.” Archetypes are those images, figures, character types, settings, and story patterns that, according to Jung, are universally shared by people across cultures.

In mainstream psychology, Jung is known for introducing many commonly used concepts to the field, and that have also been adopted by the culture at large — such as his models of psychological types, and his notions of the anima and animus, the Self, the shadow, and introversion and extroversion. Another idea that Jung developed that Carolyn and I have both found useful is the notion of “synchronicity.”  Synchronicity is the coincidental occurrence of events that seem meaningfully related but cannot be explained by conventional mechanisms of causality. Synchronicities are those magic moments of strange association that just seem too personally meaningful to be mere coincidence — implying that we have some deep, psychic interconnection with the universe that can’t be easily explained through mechanistic science.

In addition to his work in psychology, and his prolific writing, Jung was also an artist, a builder, and a skillful craftsman. He built a small castle with 4 towers on the shore of Lake Zürich, known as the Bollingen Tower. Jung was known to have mystical, visionary, and psychic experiences. His psychological experiments between 1915 and 1930, where he engaged his mind with what he called the “mythopoetic imagination,” resulted in a series of “visions” or “fantasies” that were recorded as art and text in an illuminated calligraphic volume that became known as The Red Book. Hidden for years in a Swiss bank vault, this legendary manuscript was published posthumously in 2009. I’ve spent many an hour spellbound by this remarkable book; it’s a beautiful artwork and powerful spiritual insights.

Jung died in 1961. The last book that he wrote, Man and his Symbols, was published 3 years after he died. Princeton University Press published a 20-volume set titled The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, which contains Jung’s dissertation, essays, lectures, and letters from 1902 until his death. A number of his books weren’t published until after he died, and some of Jung’s manuscripts remain unpublished to this day.

Jung’s influence can be seen throughout Carolyn’s work. For example, an entry in Carolyn’s Alchemy of Possibility oracle is titled “Synchronicity,” and Carolyn’s painting Reflecting on my Shadow expresses Jung’s concept of the shadow — that dark side of the unconscious mind, the self’s emotional blind spot, which is composed of repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires, instincts, and shortcomings.

Some quotes that Carl Jung is remembered for include:

Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.

A dream that is not understood remains a mere occurrence; understood it becomes a living experience.

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.

by David Jay Brown

Gustav Klimt Profile

Gustav Klimt Profile

Carolyn and I have long admired the exquisite work of the late Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, who is Carolyn’s all-time favorite artist, along with Picasso.

Gustav Klimt was an influential Austrian symbolist artist who is known for his uniquely stylized paintings. His work had a lasting impact on the development of modern art, and his paintings are among the most recognizable and beloved pieces of art today.

Klimt’s most well known works date from the early 1900s. His paintings during this period focused on symbolism, eroticism, and the female form. Klimt used a variety of techniques and materials, including gold and silver leaf, to create his iconic works of art. His use of color, pattern, and symbolism helped to create an unmistakable style that influenced many of the artistic movements that followed.

Klimt was born in 1862 in the outskirts of Vienna, Austria. His father was an engraver and goldsmith, and his mother was an amateur musician, which likely had an important influence on Klimt’s art. Klimt attended the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts, where he learned the basics of painting and drawing, and was accepted into the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied for six years. During his early years as a painter, he created mostly landscape paintings and portraits in the academic style of the late 19th century, and was a successful painter of conventional architectural decorations. Klimt was also a talented architect and designer, who designed furniture and interior decorations, as well as a group of buildings in Vienna.

In 1897 Klimt co-founded the Vienna Secession group with other artists, architects, and designers. This was an art and design movement, which sought to promote modern artwork, architecture, and design in Vienna and elsewhere. Here Klimt was exposed to more modern, progressive styles of painting. He also studied the work of other great painters such as Rubens, Botticelli, and Klimt’s mentor, Hans Makart. Through this combination of formal training and studying the greats, Klimt was able to develop his own most original style of painting.

Klimt was also influenced by the mysticism of the Symbolist movement, and the medieval mosaics that he saw on his travels to Venice and Ravenna in 1903 were most inspiring. Some of his best-known works followed after this journey, including Kiss in 1908, and his portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, which was completed between 1903 and 1907.

Although Klimt’s artwork is associated with sensuous and erotic depictions of women, he never married. However, he found inspiration in Emilie Flöge, a well-known fashion designer who became his muse, life companion, business partner, and lover. They met in 1890 when she was 18 years old, and their unconventional relationship influenced each other’s work. Although the exact nature of their relationship isn’t clear, it is said to have proved stronger than marriage and lasted for twenty-seven years. Some art historians believe that the female model pictured in Klimt’s painting Kiss was Emilie Flöge, although the hair color suggests it might be the red-haired Hilde Roth, one of Klimt’s other lovers.

Klimt’s final years were marked by a number of health issues. He suffered from a stroke in 1911, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to work with the same ability. He continued to paint, although a more somber and muted palette characterized his later works. Despite his health issues, Klimt’s work remained influential during this time, and his paintings were exhibited in several major cities throughout Europe, including Vienna, Berlin, and Paris. Klimt’s work was also featured in a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1935.

Klimt died in 1918. He was buried in Hietzing, Vienna, and numerous paintings by him were left unfinished after his death. Klimt’s influence continues to this day, with his works held in high regard by art historians and collectors alike. His works are among the most expensive paintings ever sold, with one of his paintings— the 1912 portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II, which was previously owned by talk show host Oprah Winfrey — selling for over $150 million.

In 1941 the Nazis stole Klimt’s famous painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, and acting on behalf of the German state, the portrait was given to the Galerie Belvedere in Austria. However, in 2006, after a seven-year legal claim, an arbitration committee in Vienna agreed that the painting, and others, had been stolen from the family and that it should be returned to Adele’s husband’s niece Maria Altmann, who sold the painting for $135 million, which at the time was a record price for a painting.

In 2012 the city of Vienna had many special exhibitions commemorating the 150th anniversary of Klimt’s birth. Klimt’s paintings have inspired numerous artists, as well as many creative people working in different artistic mediums. For example, his paintings have been used as the basis for films and video games. In 2014 the science fiction role-playing game Transistor used Klimt’s work as a part of the game’s aesthetic, and the 2010 film Shutter Island recreates Klimt’s famous painting Kiss.

Klimt’s works are now located in various museums, galleries, and collections around the world. In the United States, there are collections at the Museum of Modern Art and Neue Gallery in New York City, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu.

In 2021 an artificial intelligence program was used to digitally reconstruct three lost paintings by Klimt. These three paintings were stolen by the Nazis and were likely destroyed in a 1945 fire. However, thanks to an advanced AI program, these remarkable paintings have been reconstructed in full color from old black-and-white photographs.

Some of the quotes that Klimt is known for include:

No part of life is so small and insignificant that it does not offer space for artistic aspirations.

Even the most humble object, provided it is perfectly executed, increases the beauty of our earth.

There is no self-portrait of me. I am not interested in my person as an object of painting.

Whoever wants to know something about me, they should look attentively at my pictures and there seek to recognize what I am and what I want.

Truth is like fire; to tell the truth means to glow and burn.

All art is erotic.

There is always hope, as long as the canvases are empty.

by David Jay Brown

Jiddu Krishnamurti Profile

Jiddu Krishnamurti Profile

Carolyn and I have long appreciated the spiritual teachings of the philosopher, speaker, and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti.

Krishnamurti was born in 1895 in South India. He was described as a “sensitive and sickly” child, and his childhood years were difficult. Because Krishnamurti was often seen as “vague and dreamy,” people thought that he was cognitively impaired, and he was beaten regularly, at home by his father and in school by his teachers. However, he developed a special bond with nature during his childhood and this stayed with him throughout his life.

In 1909, while in early adolescence, Krishnamurti met a man named Charles Webster Leadbeater, who was part of a group called the Theosophical Society. This meeting was to change his life. The Theosophical Society is an esoteric religious movement that was founded in 1875 in New York by Russian mystic Helena Blavatsky and others. Leadbeater saw something special in Krishnamurti, and became convinced that he was destined to become a great spiritual teacher.

As a result, Krishnamurti was raised and educated by the Theosophical Society in Adyar, India, and they prepared him for what they believed him to be, the “vehicle” of the expected “World Teacher” or “Lord Maitreya.” In Theosophy, Lord Maitreya is an advanced spiritual entity, and master of ancient wisdom, who “periodically appears on Earth to guide the evolution of humankind.”

In 1911 the Theosophical Society established the Order of the Star in the East (OSE). The OSE was an international organization based in India that existed from 1911 to 1927. It was established by the leadership of the Theosophical Society to “prepare the world” for the arrival of a reputed messianic entity, the World Teacher or Lord Maitreya.

Krishnamurti was named as the head of the OSE, and senior Theosophists were assigned to various other positions. That same year Krishnamurti and his younger brother Nitya were taken to England by the Theosophical Society. Between 1911 and 1914, the brothers visited several other European countries, accompanied by Theosophist chaperones.

As a teenager, Krishnamurti described having psychic experiences, such as seeing the spirits of his late mother, and sister who had died in 1904. As Krishnamurti entered adulthood he embarked on a schedule of lectures in several countries, and he acquired a large following among the members of the Theosophical Society. Chapters of the OSE were formed in as many as forty countries.

In 1922 Krishnamurti and his younger brother Nitya traveled to California, where they stayed in Ojai Valley. During their stay in Ojai, Krishnamurti had a series of transformative psychological and spiritual experiences over a period of several months. Then, in 1925 his brother Nitya died, and this was a devastating event for Krishnamurti.

After years of controversy within the OSE, in 1929 Krishnamurti left his mantle and withdrew from the organization. He renounced his role, dissolved the Order with its following, and returned all of the money and property that had been donated for this work. He stated that he had made this decision after “careful consideration” during the previous two years. Krishnamurti moved away from the Theosophical Society because he came to realize that neither gurus nor organizations are required for attaining salvation, and he said that he had “no allegiance to any nationality, caste, religion, or philosophy.”

Krishnamurti spent the rest of his life traveling the world, speaking to large and small groups, and writing influential books. He also interacted with a number of other brilliant minds. In 1938 Krishnamurti was introduced to Aldous Huxley and the two became close friends for many years. In the early 1960s, Krishnamurti met physicist David Bohm, and the two men also became good friends and collaborated together. They started a common inquiry, in the form of personal dialogues — and occasionally in group discussions with other participants– that continued, periodically, over nearly two decades. Some of these intriguing discussions were published in a series of popular books.

In 1984 and 1985, Krishnamurti spoke to an audience at the United Nations in New York about peace. His 1985 talk, titled Why Can’t Man Live Peacefully on the Earth?

Krishnamurti is the author of over thirty books, including The Book of Life, The Awakening of Intelligence, The Beauty of Life, The First and Last Freedom, The Only Revolution, Krishnamurti’s Notebook, and The Ending of Time: Where Philosophy and Physics Meet, which includes some of his discussions with physicist David Bohm. Many of his talks and discussions have also been published and much is available online.

Krishnamurti was a lifelong vegetarian who exercised regularly and practiced yoga daily. He died in 1986 at the age of 90. Krishnamurti’s philosophy has remained popular in the years since his death; his books are in print, his foundations continue to maintain archives and disseminate his teachings, and his quotes are regularly shared social media.

Our dear friend Jai Italiaander became well acquainted with Krishnamurti. After spending five years in an ashram in Santa Rosa, Jai met someone at the ashram who took her to Ojai, where she became well acquainted with Krishnamurti, and his teachings became part of her life-long study of consciousness.

Some of the quotes that Krishnamurti is known for include:

You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.

Emptiness comes as sunset comes of an evening, full of beauty, enchantment and richness; it comes as naturally as the blossoming of a flower.

You are the world and the world is you… If you as a human being transform yourself, you affect the consciousness of the rest of the world.

It is a waste of energy when we try to conform to a pattern. To conserve energy, we must be aware of how we dissipate energy.

To live in the eternal present there must be death to the past, to memory. In this death there is timeless renewal.

One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end… You can only be afraid of what you think you know.

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. 

The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.

by David Jay Brown

D.H. Lawrence Profile

D.H. Lawrence Profile

When I first met Carolyn in the early 1980s, one of the writers that we passionately discussed was British novelist and poet D.H. Lawrence. We had both enjoyed his novels and been inspired by his sensual writings.

David Herbert Lawrence was born in 1885 in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, England. His father was a barely literate coal miner and his mother was a schoolteacher. Nottinghamshire was a coal-mining town, and Lawrence’s working-class background influenced his writings.

From 1891 to 1898 Lawrence attended a boarding school in Eastwood that is today named in his honor: D.H. Lawrence Primary School. Lawrence was the first local student to win a scholarship to Nottingham High School. Lawrence had a great love of books while he was young and throughout his life.

From 1902 to 1906 Lawrence worked as a schoolteacher in Eastwood. It was around this time that he began writing his first poems and short stories. In 1907 Lawrence won a short story competition, and he began working on a draft for his first novel. Lawrence enrolled as a full-time student at the University of London in 1908 and he earned a teaching certificate there.

For a while, Lawrence both taught and submitted his writings for publication to some of the literary journals of the time. His first novel, The White Peacock, was published in 1911. The novel explored the theme of love triangles and the damage associated with mismatched marriages. The book received generally positive reviews, and that same year Lawrence quit his teaching position in order to be able to write full-time.

In 1912 Lawrence met the woman who he was to share his life with, Frieda Weekley, and although she was already married when they first met, they eloped and left England for Germany. Once in Germany Lawrence was arrested and accused of being a British spy, although, thanks to an intervention by Frieda’s father, he was released.

That same year, the Lawrences walked from Germany, across the Alps, to Italy. This magnificent journey, with sights of incredible beauty, and Lawrence’s impressions of the Italian countryside, were recorded in the first of Lawrence’s travel books, Twilight in Italy. During his time in Italy, Lawrence completed his novel Sons and Lovers, and he also spent time with his good friend Aldous Huxley. Lawrence’s novel, about the emotional conflicts associated with suffocating relationships and the realities of working-class life, was published in 1913 and received positive reviews.

While in Italy, Lawrence also wrote the draft of a manuscript that was eventually divided into two of his best-known novels, The Rainbow, published in 1915, and Women in Love, published in 1920 as a sequel. In both of these novels, lesbian characters play prominent roles, and the novels were considered highly controversial when they were published. They were initially banned in the United Kingdom for obscenity. In 1922 the Lawrences moved to the United States and settled in Taos, New Mexico.

Lawrence’s final novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, was first published privately in 1928, in Italy, and in 1929 in France. The story is about a young, married, upper-class woman who has an affair with her working-class gamekeeper, and the novel revolves around the theme that love can happen purely from physical expression.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover wasn’t openly published until 1960 when it became the subject of an obscenity trial in the United Kingdom for its depiction of sexual intimacy and its use of forbidden language. It was initially banned in the United States, Canada, Australia, India, and Japan. Lawrence’s publisher won the obscenity trial in the United Kingdom, three million copies of the book were quickly sold, and the bans was subsequently lifted around the world.

Lawrence’s work, opinions, and artistic preferences, were highly controversial during his lifetime, and there were many people who didn’t like what he was writing; as a result, he endured quite a bit of persecution and much misrepresentation of his work. Many critics viewed his erotic writings as pornography. However, although Lawrence’s depictions of sexuality were seen as shocking at the time that they were published, they seem rather tame by today’s standards.

There is also a deeper, almost mystical philosophy underlying Lawrence’s novels that many of his early critics missed. The leading characters in his most controversial novels go through rebirth experiences, and they grow into more fulfilling versions of themselves. Also, according to Lawrence, “the journey into the unconscious is accomplished through sensual experience.” This is an important theme for Lawrence. He urges us to explore the impulses and desires of the unconscious in order to find our deeper selves. Lawrence didn’t trust the intellect because he believed that the mind distorts reality, and that bodily sensations are more concrete and thus more real.

Lawrence also wrote five screenplays and nearly 800 poems in his lifetime. He had a lifelong interest in painting as well, and this became his main form of creative expression during his final years. In 1929 Lawrence’s paintings were exhibited at the Warren Gallery in London and the show was extremely controversial. Over 12,000 people attended, and after some people complained about the artwork, the police seized thirteen of the twenty-five paintings. Lawrence was able to get the paintings back— but only under the condition that he never exhibit them in England ever again. Lawrence’s paintings are now housed in a hotel in Taos, and in Austin at the University of Texas.

Lawrence died young, in 1930, at the age of 44, and he was buried in Taos. Since 2008, an annual D. H. Lawrence Festival has been organized in his hometown of Eastwood, to celebrate his life and works.

Some of the quotes that D.H. Lawrence is known for include:

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.

But better die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions.

This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed.

Life is ours to be spent, not to be saved.

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

One must learn to love, and go through a good deal of suffering to get to it, and the journey is always towards the other soul.

by David Jay Brown

John Lennon Profile

John Lennon Profile

Carolyn and I both really enjoy John Lennon’s powerful and magical songs and have been inspired by his life.

Born in Liverpool, England in 1940, Lennon achieved international fame as a singer, songwriter, musician, visual artist, and peace activist. He is best known as the founder, co-songwriter, co-lead vocalist, and rhythm guitarist of The Beatles, which is regarded as the most influential rock band of all time, and Lennon’s songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney remains the most successful in music history.

Lennon had a difficult childhood. His mom died when he was a teenager, he failed his pre-university examination in school, and he was known for his rebellious nature. However, he was accepted into the Liverpool College of Art after his aunt and headmaster intervened on his behalf. At the age of 15, Lennon formed a folk music band called The Quarrymen with several school friends. At The Quarrymen’s legendary second performance, Lennon met fellow musician Paul McCartney, who had also lost his mother as a boy, and asked him to join the band. The Quarrymen evolved into The Beatles in 1960, with George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

Lennon’s top-of-the-chart songs about peace and love were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement and the counterculture of the 1960s. In 1969, to many people’s dismay, Lennon quit the Beatles to embark on a solo career. That same year he started the Plastic Ono Band with his second wife, multimedia artist Yoko Ono, and they collaborated on many songs over the years. Lennon composed the song Come Together, as a campaign song when Timothy Leary announced that he was running for governor of California in 1969, and Lennon and Ono held nonviolent protests against the Vietnam War, called “the Bed-ins for Peace.”

Lennon was also an author and visual artist. In the mid-1960s, he wrote In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works, two collections of creative writings and line drawings. A beautiful selection of his delightful drawings, which have a Zen-like quality in their simplicity and elegance, can be found in the book, John Lennon: The Collected Artwork.

Lennon’s songs tap into something deep within the human spirit and have broad appeal across generational and cultural boundaries. He recorded 12 albums with The Beatles, and eight albums afterward. As a performer, writer, and co-writer, Lennon had 25 number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and he received numerous awards, including the 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year, for his best-selling album Double Fantasy.

Lennon died tragically in 1980 when he was shot outside his Manhattan home, but his music and spirit live on. In 1997 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a member of the Beatles in 1988, and as a solo artist in 1994. A year after Lennon died, his song Imagine hit number one in the U.K., and his song Happy Xmas peaked at number two in the charts.

Some quotes that John Lennon is remembered for include:

Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.

There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.

I believe in everything until it’s disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now?

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.

Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.

by David Jay Brown