I wasn’t conscious during the Beatles’ meteoric success in the 1960s. When they broke up in 1970, I was only six.
But that didn’t mean I didn’t completely fall in love with their music in the early 1970s, thanks mostly to the fact that my older siblings had bought a ton of their 45s and a few of the albums, too. I remember some of my early faves being Paperback Writer and I Wanna Hold Your Hand, the latter top of mind whenever I had one of my massive, secret crushes (I’m thinking of you, Karleen Thurnher, and that mustard cardigan sweater you used to wear in fourth grade!).
But now that I’m a bald, fat, old guy (my kids’ description of me, not mine) who has devoted his life to trekking the spiritual path, there’s another Beatles song that tops my list. That song?
Why that one? Because in those three words, Paul McCartney captured one way of describing the entirety of the spiritual path.
Paul’s dream about his mom
McCartney said the song came to him in a dream he had about his mother, Mary, who had died in 1956 when he was fourteen. The dream came in 1968 during the boisterous period when the band was recording the White Album. The sessions were tense, and they took a toll on Paul.
In the dream, McCartney said that his mother told him, “It will be alright. Just let it be.” Hence the opening lines of the song:
“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”
So poignant. So beautiful.
What did McCartney’s mother, Mary, mean by let it be? And what is the grand meaning of these three words from a spiritual point of view?
What does it mean?
There’s no definitive definition, but I’ll offer mine. I think what Paul’s mom meant was to get yourself out of the way. That they were having trouble making this record because outsized egos wanted different things. So she wanted him to get his ego out of the way and then let it be.
It’s very Taoist to me. Taoism is about working with nature, not against it. Being a part of nature, not a manipulator of it. It’s about living a life of letting things be as they are.
Here in America, those last few sentences are blasphemous.
“Let things be as they are? Are you f-ing kidding me?! If I do that, someone will take advantage of me and screw me! I have to insert myself into everything that comes my way to make sure things go the way I want them to.”
Unfortunately, for those who live that way, it doesn’t work. Why not?
As it says in Chapter 30 of the Tao:
“The master understands that the universe is forever out of control, and that trying to dominate events goes against the current of the Tao.”
What’s an example of this? Let’s say you opened a restaurant in January of 2020. You did all your due diligence, analyzed your market, secured the best suppliers, and had a kick-ass opening…
Unbeknownst to you, a bat in China had bitten some exotic animal that a poor Chinese person ate. The result? The world shut down. Who got hit worst? Businesses where people congregated indoors. Like restaurants. Your restaurant closed a few months later.
The bottom line: The universe is going to do what it’s going to do. It’s been doing that for 13.8 billion years.
The healthiest way to deal with that reality is to let it be. That doesn’t mean you let people walk all over you every day.
It simply means that you park your ego in the backseat as best you can. Every day. In every situation. And then…
Let it be.