Remembering George

George Harrison in the Oval Office at the invitation of President Ford, 1974.  Public Domain

George Harrison in the Oval Office at the invitation of President Ford, 1974. Public Domain

I didn’t call the Beatles by their first names – or even clearly know their names – when they first came to America.  Although the media wouldn’t let you forget Beatlemania, I was more of the Beach Boys persuasion at the time, and later got caught up in the San Francisco sound.  Then, in 1968, the Beatles did something amazing to me – they went to India to study with a guru.  They opened a door I had only vaguely known was there.

George was the Beatle whose life and work were forever altered by eastern religion, as was my own.  He learned to play the sitar with a master, while I learned the harmonium, (a wonderfully simple instrument that allows even a novice to produce a credible melody).  For a time he belonged to an organization I did, dedicated to meditation and the study of eastern philosophy.

In Vrindavan, India, 1996.  Public Domain.

In Vrindavan, India, 1996. Public Domain.

In early November, 2001 at the age of 58, he underwent a last ditch treatment in New York for lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain.  When that failed, he travelled to Los Angeles, where he died on November 29, surrounded by family and friends.  Deepak Chopra wrote:

“He always would say that when I die I want to be fully conscious of God, I want to be totally at peace, and I don’t want to have any fear of death. And believe me, being close to him, I know that he died very conscious of God and in peace and not afraid of death.”

Blood line ancestors pass on their physical substance to us.  Ancestors of the heart pass on their spirit, encourage us by example, and show us what a life well lived can look like.  For inspiration, I still listen to Harrison’s last album, Brainwashed, released posthumously in 2002.  His son, Dhani helped finish it and included this quote from the Bhagavad Gita in the liner notes:

“There never was a time when you or I did not exist. Nor will there be any future when we shall cease to be.”

Here is a very nice clip on one of my favorite George Harrison songs from the Concert for Bangladesh, 1971.

On this day, when I listen to his music, I remember a man I truly admire, who was genuine, who found his own path and followed it to the best of his ability.  “You got to walk that lonesome valley by yourself,” as the old song says, but we do not do so alone.  Somehow the spirits of those who went before are there to inspire us.