I am just finishing a fascinating biography of George that has given me a new insight into the man and his life: his struggles, his demons, his genius and his humanity. It is one of those books that I do not want to end. "Behind The Locked Door" by Graeme Thomson has been tremendous. It has given me a completely new understanding of the Beatles era, what that experience did to George, and how he attempted to cope with being one of the most famous people in the world after the Beatle era had passed and until his death in 2001.
How does his story fit into a satisfying retirement? I have found two parallels with my life that seem to be worth detailing because you might find they resonate with you, too. I don't think any readers of this blog are in the same famous category as that of a former Beatle. The lifestyle of those four men was beyond belief. The pressures, the inhuman schedules they had to maintain, the insanity of living in a bubble with the whole world watching would have caused long lasting changes to virtually anyone. Even so, as human beings they shared much with all of us.
Right after the Beatles broke up, George had two major successes: the album, All Things Must Pass was a huge hit, and the Concert for Bangladesh was the first worldwide concert with charity as the focus. But, then he started to slip, in both creativity and in public acceptance.
By the mid 70's his music seemed to be out of step with where music was heading. He began to sound like a curmudgeon, complaining about the state of popular music. By 1980, he was almost completely irrelevant as an artist. As technology and pop music styles evolved, his music remained locked in a time warp. Eventually he would start to make commercially viable music again, but for many years he railed against the changes and continued to record music that had little popular appeal.
After John Lennon's murder, George Harrison became almost invisible to the outside world for fear of a similar attempt on his life. All the security that surrounded him did not help. He nearly died in 1999 from a horrific attack by a knife-wielding lunatic who stabbed him over 40 times at his home in England. Even though he recovered from those wounds, brain cancer killed him less than two years later.
My tie to this story and his life? For the last 6-8 years of my radio consulting business I did not evolve. I stayed with the same message, the same ideas, and the same approach that had proved so successful for me through the 1980's into the mid 90's. Even though my industry had changed dramatically, I stopped learning and listening. I didn't change my message or my methods. As a result, my business slowly slipped away until, in the same year that George Harrison died, I found myself faced with retirement, several years before I would have felt financially more secure. I had been passed by. I had stopped changing and found my approach irrelevant.
The second part of George Harrison's life that I found relatable was his search for a spiritual answer to life's complexity and difficulties. Famously, George ended up captivated by Indian philosophy and religion. His support of Hare Krsihna, Eastern religions and love of the culture and music of that part of the world were well known and a dominating influence on his life.
At the same time, his lifestyle was often at complete odds with his professed belief in simplicity, moral boundaries, and the importance of staying centered on God. His use of drugs, casual sex, alcohol, and living in a 122 room mansion indicated a man torn between two worlds: the material world and the spiritual one.
While I lived the lifestyle of a rock and roll DJ in the 1960's for awhile, it was never even remotely like the excesses of a former Beatle. Even so, I was lost spiritually for many years, trying to make my way in a world that kept score with money and possessions. Not until nine years ago (I was a late bloomer!) did I finally figure out what was really important and really deserving of my dedication. My spiritual life became vital to my sense of well-being. My faith became real. The material world became much less important.
If you have any interest in the Beatles, George Harrison, or the story of a man who made it to the absolute pinnacle of success only to find it lacking, I suggest you read this book. But, even if you don't find the details of his life worth following, I think he has left two important lessons:
1. Life never stands still. If you don't evolve you will be left behind and risk becoming bitter, unfulfilled and marginalized. But, there is always a way forward if you open yourself up to new experiences and ideas.
2. Material possessions never can buy happiness. We are part of a much bigger story that has to do with trust and faith in something bigger than ourselves. Living strictly in a material world is a dangerous place to be.
|courtesy TM Blog|