When the final studio album by the Beatles was released this week in 1970, the band had already broken up. As fans know well, the years of grueling tours, their widening creative differences, and the suffering from their own successes, finally finished them off (I have no comment on Yoko). “Finally,” is a strong word, though, as none of the men were yet thirty years of age.
Critics responded to that final album by hurling rotten tomatoes, one writing, “It is the sound of a band falling apart. It is the sound of a band trying to hold it together. It is the sound of an era ending.” And so it was, but the title track has proven to be a lasting treasure: “Let It Be.”
Paul McCartney wrote the song after an epiphany. Completely lost, depressed, and lonely, he was longing for the comfort of his mother. Her name was Mary, and she had died when he was only fourteen. McCartney admits that he was wandering about in his mind, under the influence of God knows what, somewhere between insomnia and sleep, when his mother came to him in a dream.
“My mother appeared, and there was her face, completely clear, particularly her eyes, and she said to me very gently, very reassuringly: ‘Paul, let it be.’ She had visited me at this very difficult point in my life and gave me this message: Be gentle, don’t fight things, just try and go with the flow and it will all work out.”
Waking up inspired, McCartney went straight to his piano and began writing the now classic song, ringing with the assurance, “There will be an answer, let it be…Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.” It is a confession of surrender. Not apathy, indifference, or hopelessness, but a song of complete submission and trust.
To most of us, this sounds like losing, like quitting or giving up, but it is actually acceptance. It is accepting how the world really is; accepting the who, how, and why of others; and accepting who we really are – the marvelous, unique, beloved, children of God for sure – but creatures who can control exceedingly little within and around them.
So, let it be and let it go. Stop fighting and struggling. Put down the weight that is increasingly impossible to carry. Make peace with reality. Empty your heart and hands, allowing God to fill the space that is created. This relinquishment of control, this act of surrender, is a necessary and therapeutic way forward.
Yes, when it comes to things that you can do something about, you should do so, with zest. But when facing the questions to which you have no answers, the challenges that you cannot overcome, and the personal suffering that seems inescapable, the song given to Paul by his mother Mary is lasting wisdom. You can – yes, you can – learn to let it go and let it be, collapsing into a strength and Power greater than your own.