COLUMN SIXTY-SEVEN, JANUARY 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 Al Aronowitz)
A MYTHIC HERO
To me, George Harrison is
a mythic character, like an Atlas with the world on his shoulders, the kind of
mythic character for whom the constellations were named. To me, he is like the
stars above. He is still there and will always be there. His presence, his
impish sense of humor, his good cheer, his warmth, his spirituality and the
kindliness engraved on his face are all still there, ready to emanate from my
loudspeakers or loom in my memory. Not only in my memory, but also in the memory
of the entire world. A memory that will last as close to forever as conceivable.
"You will never die!"I wrote him in a letter I don't know if he ever received.
"Certainly your energy will never die!
Your energy will continue to help drive the future forever. There is
something mystical about your energy. Yes,
you are mortal like all of us, but your energy is IMmortal."
I am proud and honored to
have been a part of the legend of so mythic a figure---no matter how minor a
part of that legend I might have been. Still, mythic as he was, he was also
mortal, a flaw that plagues us all. When we die, only our energy remains---our
psychic energy. Obviously, George had the psychic energy to command the love of
millions. I held him so much in awe that it didn't matter to me whether he
considered me one of his dearest friends. What mattered to me was that I
considered him one of my dearest friends.
I kick myself with the
thought that I might have contributed to his throat and lung cancer by turning
him on to marijuana. I've learned
that the only thing wrong with marijuana is the smoke. Smoke is anti-life. But
then, George was also a heavy cigarette smoker.
I also kick myself for
letting him drift away from me after we had been so close. And now I must suffer
the great remorse of abandoning hope of ever seeing him again. Yes, I take
George's death as a personal loss. George played a big part in my life, too.
Certainly his remark that he "liked her smile? encouraged me into a romance
that wrecked my life. But I can't blame George for something that was my own
fault. I was a total asshole!
I've been out of
George's loop for several years now and I now find myself gobbling up J.D.
Heyman's expertly written The Final Days, the cover story about
George's Death in Us Weekly:
On Wednesday, November 28, the eve of Harrison's
death, Ravi Shankar, his Wife and their daughter paid a last visit, spending the
entire day by the former Beatle's bedside, joining Harrison's wife, Olivia
Arias Harri'son, and their 24-year-old son, Dhani, also a
musician. As he faded in and out of consciousness, Harrison was meditating, a
practice of the Eastern religious philosophy that he had embraced after studying
the sitar with Shankar in the mid-1960s. "We
used to say that Uncle George was more Indian than any Indian," said Anoushka
Shankar. "With each breath he took, he was saying 'Hare Krishna??
One friend who spoke to
those at George's bedside said George interrupted his "Hare Krishna? chant
to say his last words: an announcement that he knew he was about to take his
final breath. And then he died.
Obviously, George's spirituality didn't permit him to fear death at the relatively young age of 58 any more than I have reason to fear death at the creaky and used-up age of 73. It
a certain calm, peaceful
and beatific glow
was as if George's immersion into Hinduism, Krishna consciousness
and Vedic philosophy had prepared George to accept death as part of life.
He once had tried to ease
me into joining him as a fellow devotee of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi by sending
me to a meditation teacher. I was
dazzled by the teacher, who, although diagnosed with cancer of the cervix,
radiated a certain calm, peaceful, and beatific glow---just as George did. It
was a glow I perceived in all the Maharishi's followers I met and I was
tempted to become one.
"Will it lower my blood
pressure?? I asked.
"It might," George
And so I, too, started
practicing Transcendental Meditation, which requires the silent chant of a
mantra during morning and evening meditations. But I soon found myself too
preoccupied to remember to meditate in the evening and so I began to restrict my
meditations to the morning. Something I still do in my own way each day. And
each time, I think of George.
But the Maharishi
promised "heaven on earth," and he sounded too much like a cleric pretending
to speak for God. Although I believe there is a Devil, I doubt there is a God.
In fact, I believe all organized religions to be nothing but
scams, especially those that promise an afterlife. I believe that when you die,
your consciousness disappears into the same void that didn't exist before you
were born. I don't believe there is a heaven or a hell. As poet Gregory Corso
once said, "Don't worry about dying, because when you do you'll never know
it." I apologized to George, telling him that I could no more surrender my
consciousness to a millionaire Indian fakir than I could become a member of a
In Us Weekly,
author J.D. Heyman artfully and concisely sums up George's travels around the
world seeking "Hail Mary? cures that would lessen his agonizing pain or
extend his life. Frail and haggard, he even went to India to bathe in the waters
of the Ganges, a Hindu ritual to prepare for death. His wife, Olivia Arias
Harrison, is carrying out his wishes to scatter his ashes in the Ganges.
Olivia has had to suffer
her husband's ordeal with him. Searching through the Internet for a last-ditch
treatment for him, she found Dr. Gil Lederman, who performed experimental therapies at
Staten Island University Hospital, blasting tumors with high doses of radiation,
relieving pain in a cancer patient's final stages.
I learned George was in a hospital across the Goethal's Bridge from me, I sent
Olivia an email offering any help I could provide. Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney
and Apple Records Managing Director Neil Aspinall---all from his original
Beatles gang---visited George when he was in Staten Island and pretty soon he
felt well enough to sit up and play guitar. After George's death, Olivia
emailed me, saying, "I have a lot on my mind? and asking me to respect the
privacy of her email address.
youngest child of Louise Harrison---who also died of cancer---and Harry
Harrison---a sweet and convivial Liverpool bus driver---George lived a magical
and productive life, in effect moving mountains in his much-too-short appearance
on earth. To me, he was like mythic royalty, one of four kings reigning over an
era that they succeeded in filling with good cheer. The late Derek Taylor,
legendary Beatles press officer, once complained that nobody writing about the
Beatles was ever able to express how much fun it was to be them.
Except for the cancer
pain he had to suffer at the end and except for any other minor unhappiness he
might have had to endure, George must have had a lot of fun being George
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