I don’t usually comment on too many “non-religious” or “non-spiritual” things (since I try to stick with what I know), but I thought I would make an exception. A few days ago, I watched Sir Paul McCartney’s “Carpool Karaoke” with the television host James Corden video, as did 16 million (and counting) other people, and found it deeply moving.
Why? Not just because I’ve been a Beatles fan since the 1960s (and marvel that my 13-year-old nephew is, too: he saw Ringo Starr in concert just a few weeks back). But because this extraordinary episode has much to teach us.
First, it teaches us about humility. Of course, Paul McCartney has had 50 years of practice in dealing with fans from all over the world, and, of course, he knew that he was being filmed at the time, but notice how kind, patient and generous he is with everyone he meets in his hometown of Liverpool. (“I’m comin’ in your shop, Luv!” “Tell him I said hi!”) Notice a myriad other small instances of humility: how, for example, he confesses that he thought the Beatles’s songs wouldn't last for more than 10 years. To my mind, it’s hard to “fake” humility. Sir Paul is clearly someone who doesn’t need to prove anything. It’s refreshing to see.
Sir Paul is clearly someone who doesn’t need to prove anything. It’s refreshing to see.
Second, it teaches us about vocation. Clearly, Paul McCartney has a vocation and one that he has lived out well: as a singer and songwriter. That’s a bit of an understatement, isn’t it? But anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Beatles knows something about their hardscrabble beginnings (cf: the Cavern Club), how diligently and tirelessly they worked, and how each tried their best to live out what they felt they were called to do—even at the end, when the band broke up. (Martin Scorsese’s wonderful film on George Harrison, “Living in the Material World,” shows this as well.) It’s a joy to see someone so fully living out his or her vocation and continuing to live it out so completely. (My cousin told me that Paul McCartney astonished her in concert, just a few years ago, in his 70s, with his vitality and range.) Seeing someone live out their vocation so fully is like seeing a flower finally bloom.
Third, it teaches us about human connection. The moment when Sir Paul shares a personal story about the origins of the song “Let It Be” is followed by Corden sharing something equally as personal about what the song meant to him as a child, which is followed up Paul’s simple spiritual encouragement to Corden. To me, that particular moment is a marvelously real example of what Jesuits call “faith sharing.”
They have a lot of fun, these two, and so do those around them.
Fourth, it teaches us about humor. They have a lot of fun, these two, and so do those around them. Sir Paul has a healthy sense of humor about himself and his “mates,” which has always been one of the most appealing things about the Beatles. (See the superb documentary about their longtime fan-club president, “Good Ol Freda,” for more on the enormous fun that “the lads” had in their heyday.) The same kind of larky attitude is evident here. Life can be fun. Why not have a laugh from time to time?
Finally, it teaches us about grace. There are moments of grace all throughout this lovely video: the expression on the face of the owner of the eponymous barber shop on Penny Lane when Paul surprises her; Paul showing James how he used to play the guitar sitting on the loo; and the look on the face of the middle-aged woman in the pub when Paul starts to sing (you know that she must have been a big fan of the Fab Four back in the day).
So, in the end, this segment is indeed religious, in its original meaning (re-ligio: to tie back). It reveals how one person’s living out of his or her vocation can tie so many people together. And it is deeply spiritual as well, in that it shows us how the spirit can work in such beautiful, touching and unexpected ways. In such grace-filled ways.
Grace is all you need, to paraphrase John Lennon.
And Paul McCartney.