Bagism: Library

Peace Off!


John Lennon wasn't the type of person to hide his feelings. If he had something to say, he'd say it. If people didn't agree with it, well, that was just too bad! Thomas Bonifield was the unsuspecting recipient of John's infamous acid tongue -- or in this case, his acid pen -- and lived to tell about it.

Thomas Bonifield Explains...

After the release of the album "Imagine", I wrote a letter with my thoughts on it to John Lennon. My idea of John was a person who was open minded and who would welcome an exchange of ideas. The album represented a feeling of hopelessness to me. In my letter to John, I wrote that things were not so negative, and went on to share my religious beliefs in an uplifting and non-threatening manner. I was not condemning or judgmental in the least, but apparently I hit a sore spot with what I was saying.

I also included a booklet of "Four Spiritual Laws" upon which I wrote "this might help" (which I meant further explain my beliefs). That is why John sent back a matchbook from St. Regis that said "this might help, brother" written on the back.

I obtained John's address from the back of the album (the Apple address) and I was not sure it really would be delivered to him. I never really expected a response from John Lennon. As I said, I always thought John was open minded and open to sharing ideas; his angry response was totally unexpected.

Thomas Bonifield
January 26, 1993

John's Letter to Bonifield

scan of Lennon's Letter -- see transcript below

In Case You Can't Read John's Scrawl...

Listen, Brother,
Why don't you Jesus
Freaks get off peoples backs?
its been the same for two thousand
years
- wont you ever learn?
those who know do not speak
those who speak do not know,
your peace of mind doesn't
show in your neurotic letter, son.
one mans meat -- brother!
Peace off!
John + Yoko 71

The Great Debate

There is much debate over the line which I have transcribed as "one mans meat..." Many people have interpreted the line as "one mans weak..." Both seem to make sense within the context of the letter. The first could be a shortened version of the phrase "one man's meat, is another man's poison." John obviously has rejected the spiritual advice offered by Bonifield and so he may be saying "what's good for you may not be good for me." The alternate interpretation of "one mans weak..." fits the generally harsh tone of the letter when expanded to "one man's weak, and it's not me!" -- a not too subtle dig at Bonifield.

It's true at first glance that the first letter of the disputed word looks more like a "w" than an "m", but it really could go either way. Compare the "m" in the disputed word to the "m" in the preceding word, "mans". That one also looks a bit like a "w". In both cases, notice how sharp the turns are. Now look at words that definitely begin with a "w" (why, won't, who, and who again). Notice how the turns are rounded? Admittedly, the first letter is inconclusive, but I believe the key to solving this puzzle is the last letter -- "t" for meat or "k" for weak. Compare the final letter of the disputed word with words that end with "k". John uses the word "speak" twice, but the "k" in neither of them looks similar to the last letter in the disputed word. Now let's compare the disputed word to the three words that definitely end with a "t" -- (don't, won't and doesn't). The letter "t" in each of these words looks very similar to the last letter of the disputed word -- which, in my opinion, strongly suggests that the disputed word is "meat," not "weak."

Either way you interpret it, the letter makes sense. I've chosen to interpret it as "one mans meat" after carefully comparing the letters of the word in question to other words in the letter. If you arrive at the opposite conclusion, that's alright too. The letter is more interesting because of its ambiguity.

Many thanks to Chip Cooper, the proud owner of John's original letter, for providing a copy to use on Bagism.

 

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Produced by Sam Choukri
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Last updated on Oct 15, 1999