Friday, July 15, 2011
I want to get good at the guitar. Keith Richards says just keep plucking. That's all I need to know. In a 1965 interview somewhere in Europe, at the precipice of Rolling Stones uberfame, he said he had started playing three or four years before and he was "almost caught up." I want to be as good as he was in four years. When I'm forty-four I need to be as good as Keith was when he was twenty-two. Double or nothing.
Keith says, the spaces in between are the key. Stark and stripped down. There's no right way to play the blues. You are always shifting between chords. The masters often found the easiest - or sloppiest - way to get the sound they wanted. Figure out the sound, not just how to play guitar.
Leaves sail the sun, and a plant is a boat going nowhere through space, but everywhere through time. Mysticism is the art of becoming plant-like. Performance is exploding one moment of time, supernova-ing it to its fullest capacity.
"Why, when you are 'nowhere' physically, you are 'everywhere' spiritually!"
- 14th-century anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing
Mick Jagger, asked what he thinks about just before going onstage said, "I think about slaying the audience. I think about going out and destroying them."
Looks like rain or looks like sun, can't tell - cool, almost brisk today, businesslike. All my loved ones whom I'm so far away from - I love you and think about you, all the time. I just need to be away. I'm not away, I'm right here, where I want to be. The sea is a far off prospect - it is way, way down the line.
Beautiful sunny. It's Sunday but I have no sense of time, day of week, it could be Wednesday or Thursday.
The total-blood transfusion myth about Keith Richards - that he went to some clinic in Switzerland and had his blood completely swapped out to rid himself of drugs - is not true literally, but it's persistent and appealing because it is true metaphorically. He really changed, as if at some hard-to-pin-point, he became a different man. There are endless montages of photos on Youtube of Keith that are trying to figure it all out. Everyone changes as they get older, but for Keith it's really hard to put together the old photos with the new ones. The sequence doesn't add up. It's mysterious. And the personality that emerged from the haze - well, deep karmic work was done, some hard-core purifying. And he was very, very up for it, done through and through by all those drugs. Chemicals scoured his soul, insides laid open to the heavens.
"But now you will ask me 'How am I to think of God himself and what is he?' and I cannot answer you except to say 'I do not know!' For with this question you have brought me into the same darkness, the same cloud of unknowing where I want you to be! For though we through the grace of God can know fully about all other matters, and think about them - yes, even the very works of God himself - yet of God himself can no man think. Therefore I will leave on one side everything I can think and choose for my love that thing which I cannot think! Why? Because he may be well loved, but not thought. By love he can be caught and held, but by thinking never."
- Anonymous Author of The Cloud of Unknowing
We know too much about the Rolling Stones - Mick says that "fame doesn't sit particularly well with anyone" and I shudder just thinking how it would feel to have all this private, intimate information out there about me. I mean, not only penis sizes and pet names for vaginas but everyone's opinion, true or mistaken, on penis sizes and pet names for vaginas. Well, I'd like you to know, Keith and Mick - and Anita and Marianne - all figures worthy of Biblical attention, our modern-day Jesuses and Marys and Magdalenes and Marthas and daughters and fathers and prodigal sons and whores and stone-throwers - that I am creatively and spiritually feeding on you but I will do something with it. If your lives are offered up at the altar, private and public at once, if it is a huge sacrifice, a huge feast, if I will eat you until I can hold no more, then I must end up at the altar myself.
I think Mick has given everything of himself to his stage presence. There is nothing left offstage but attempts to succor the pain of total giving. Yes, he is the "active" one in the Mary and Martha story. He is Martha, busy, trying to hold up her end, all her duties and responsibilities. Mick's activity is nothing less than high holy priesthood of rock and roll, channeling of immense physical energies - not always perfectly - perhaps increasingly imperfectly - but still expertly. It's what he knows how to do. But I wish he'd have a big turnaround, a big spiritual moment, and choose the "best part" - the Mary role, the contemplative side. I wish the Stones would put out a quiet blues album and see how it cooks up, of its own accord, in concert.
That's my prayer for Mick. Because it's tremendous what he's done - he's fed a lot of people, and now he needs to feed, himself. What's the food? Something simple, radical, basic.