By Rev. Lauri Boyd, Minister, Unity of Columbia, MO
The song All You Need is Love was written by John Lennon in 1967 for a television special called Our World, which was the very first live international satellite television production ever. The broadcast took place at the height of the Vietnam War, and the Beatles wanted to use the opportunity to convey a positive message expressing a philosophy of love. John Lennon said, “I’m a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change.”
The lyrics consist of 3 stanzas of 3 lines each, interspersed with a chorus. The first stanza is…
There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung.
Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game. It’s easy.
The first time I heard this song I was 10 or 11 years old, and I remember thinking basically, ‘What?’ I mean, I got whole ‘All you need is love’ thing. It was a fairly typical sentiment for songs of that era. But what did they mean by, There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done? The other verses were no big help either, as they just went on in the same vein. I puzzled over the lyrics for a while and then just basically set them aside and forgot about them.
It was quite interesting to come back to this song now, as an adult, and after having studied metaphysics, and a bit of Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist philosophy.
So, a first meaning seems obvious to me now. The statements are in the form of a double negative…There’s nothing you can x that can’t be y. When you collapse out the double negative, the statement becomes an affirmation of what is possible. There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done translates to You can do anything.
Anything is possible. It is a reminder to us that we are more than limited human beings. The greater truth is that we are expressions of God made manifest. On a human level, it’s encouraging and empowering. It is a call for us to dream big, and to own our uniqueness. It is also a call to responsibility. When anything is possible, we have a responsibility to lives to our fullest potential.
There’s also another way you can look at this affirmation of possibility. You can do anything…and so can everyone else. Some people have interpreted that to mean that no one is special, because there’s nothing you can do that other people can’t do just as well. I prefer to see it as a reminder to honor the creative power within everyone. We are all God in expression, capable of doing great things.