I just heard the Beatles singing Obladi Oblada on our Alexa. It came up on the Pandora “John Denver Station.” Go figure. It’s a fun, if strange, little song. It’s got a bouncy rhythm and simple lyrics in the refrain anyway, so we can all join in. Which I do, being me.
It brought back to my mind the movie we recently saw, Yesterday, about the young musician/songwriter, Jack Malick, who is hoping to make it big in the music business, but continues in relative anonymity for many years. Then, one amazing day, he has an accident that renders him unconscious. When he wakes up he comes to realize that the Beatles never existed. But he knows who they are and can sing a heck of a lot of their amazing songs.
Things move fast and furious after that as he begins living a lie and lets everyone believe that he wrote those songs. He makes a lot of compromises along the way, hurts people he loves, and starts to wonder if the fame and the money are worth it. Being heralded as the most amazing songwriter in the history of forever, isn’t that great if you have any decency in you, which Jack obviously does. He becomes very ill at ease in the lie his life has become. Or more correctly, the lie he has helped his life become. Every time he wants to claim it all as ‘his,’ someone reminds him that none of this was earned honestly. He is taking credit for someone else’s talent. His own songs were never going to be as dazzling, inspiring, or life changing as some Beatles songs. They weren’t even going to be as fun.
Things come to a climax, as is the way in all good movies, and Jack ultimately gives it all up. He gives it up because he was not comfortable selling his soul for money and fame. He gives it all up for love of a girl who loves him and who he took for granted for far too long. And this is ridiculously liberating, as we all knew it would be.
As the movie ends we see Jack, who now is an elementary level music teacher and he and the love of his life (who he almost lost) are delightfully, deliriously happy. Does he have a lot of money? No. Can he walk down the street without being smothered and/or terrorized with attention and the adulation from crowds? Yes. But he has some things that no one can put a price tag on. He has someone who loves and whom he love. And he is enhancing the quality of life a bunch of kids who can do nothing for him in return doing something that he loves – playing great music and singing great songs. He has found, in a word, success.
Here’s a wonderful Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that I’ve known and loved for decades that the movie’s finale brought back to my mind.
“To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.”
You may recall, or maybe you haven’t read it, but my last post featured a quote about success, too. It was from a far different personality than RWE. It’s Mother Teresa, St. Teresa of Calcutta. Her words have to do with God, of course, and how He doesn’t call us to be successful, but to just try. Or you might say, just to be faithful. If you trust that God’s got a plan and has your and everyone’s best interests at heart, success is not your concern.
Maybe it’s time to redefine what success means for you. I redefined it for myself years ago. What the world sees as a success is rarely what truly is successful. It’s not about numbers of people who know who you are or the numbers of dollars in your bank account. It’s about doing the will of our Heavenly Father. That’s what Jesus did. He’s our perfect example, I’ve said in this blog before.
For earthly success, I say it looks a lot like Jack Malick’s life at the end of the film. It looks a lot like Mr Emerson’s description above. The line about “giving of oneself” is probably the key to the whole thing. And if you can give of yourself for the sake of the Kingdom, that’s the pinnacle; that’s the best.
“Obladi, oblada, life goes on.” It’s true; it does. You could say it’s everlasting!