Sophie Heawood: Yoko is entitled to live on her cloud of whimsy

Click to follow
The Independent Online

'Grapefruit is a hybrid of lemon and orange. Snow is a hybrid of wish and lament."

It would be odd if anybody in Britain wasn't currently keeping up with current events. But it would be even odder if anybody currently keeping up with it all didn't also currently feel that they couldn't keep up. There is so much breaking news that we are broken.

In recent headlines, we've had the bugger bugged, the hacks hacking, victims of crime becoming suspects, suspects becoming litigants, and journalists busily scrutinising all the other journalists until newspapers fold and empires crumble. Or not. A beautiful young woman drinks herself to death at 27; a woman whose daughter is killed was befriended by a powerful woman who sought to exploit her. Perhaps. Pending investigation.

Soon, we will have to expand Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and make space in that pyramid of human essentials, somewhere between the food and the homeostasis bits, for Watching Newsnight. And so, amid this whirling maelstrom of brain noise, I would like to share with you the place I go for serenity. It's still on the internet, yes, but it reminds me to put the internet down sometimes, and think about water, and ancestry, and ghosts, and moonlit branches.

This enchanted garden is Yoko Ono's Twitter account. On which she – or the elf or the pixie or the fallen tree who updates it for her – writes little messages like these:

"Tape the sound of your baby son crying. Let him listen to the tape when he is going through pain as a grown man."

"It's a miracle that all of us who are wired so differently can understand each other, and even love each other."

"Dance in your dream. Hug your mother and father. Make them hug each other. Hug your sisters and brothers. Make a family circle and dance together."

As an artist, Yoko Ono has worked with messages such as these for some time. Her book, Grapefruit, with its one-line instructions for a life less obvious, has been reprinted several times since publication in 1964.

"Hide until everybody goes home. Hide until everybody forgets about you. Hide until everybody dies."

She also creates art installations of these small, written wishes. Often, they are uplifting, like self-help mottos. Sometimes, the tasks they suggest would seem to be impossible, such as listening to audio of the Moon.

Most of them come with instructions leading to an outcome, but just what the outcome will be isn't clear. They challenge you to make a leap of faith without specifying what the faith is. At a select committee hearing, the concrete testimony of these messages would fall short at the earliest of hurdles.

And so the good people of Twitter enjoy chuckling at Yoko Ono for her wacky wiles, her artistic indulgence, her silly dreams. They repost what she has written, adding to her request to record the Moon for their mothers, that, on balance, their mum would probably prefer a nice CD by Abba or Norah Jones.

And I think about how Yoko Ono's daughter was abducted, her father put into a concentration camp, and her husband murdered. How she was blamed for the natural evolution of rock'n'roll, of the 20th century. And how, if she says: "Whisper your desire to the wind. Ask the wind to take it to the end of the world", she probably means it.

Yoko Ono probably gets it; gets it all too well. Even if she doesn't watch Newsnight.