EAST END OF LONDON, JACK THE RIPPER and the Whitechapel murders. The Poor Houses of the 19th century. It is a troubled part of town even today with a high percentage of impoverished ethnic minorities.
But – the Rolling Stones. There I was last night at the Olympic stadium in the East end with sixty thousand other fans paying deep homage to the creased, old buddies who started such a spectacular social revolution in the 1960s, demanding liberation their way and on their terms, as Mick snaked his way through a flawless two hour gig covering God knows how many kilometres across the stage. Ronnie pranced in his diamond sparkly shoes and red military jacket, with ‘Keef’ holding more evident rigamortis in place than the others, standing staidly on the same spot pretty much throughout, rather than wildly gyrating himself asunder – but we all know that…! ‘Keef’, incidentally, is the way South Londoners pronounce ‘Keith’, so that is why it is sometimes written in the vernacular.
Some things are a must, and this was one of them. Three hundred years between them was entirely invisible as they cavorted and spun like whirlwinds around the massive set, bellowing out freedom from the enormous amps. Ronnie looked a little drawn after his lung cancer operation, but the energy of those boys has to be seen to be believed. I used to see Ronnie’s silver Mercedes parked outside Mick’s house about twenty years ago – you couldn’t miss it – the licence plate was RONNIE. Mick used to jog with his then wife, Jerry Hall, in the local park. I remember I saw the band at Zurich airport in 1966 when Brian was still alive. Charlie is seventy-seven next week! Unbelievable.
So what does a quiet (ish ) spiritual philosopher make of all this?
Firstly, ‘spiritual philosopher’ is a label so it is meaningless, but useful. Secondly, she was not quiet last night. I am not sure if people understand the name ‘Rolling Stones’. It comes from an old English proverb which says ‘rolling stones gather no moss’. This means, of course, that moving through life quickly, nothing sticks, or there are no attachments. It is the 1960s version (and pre-arrival of Eastern philosophies to the West) of Cobain’s Nirvana, and all the others harping on the same theme. Our roller boys were on to something early, it has to be said, helped of course, by copious booze and even more of the other… Wonderful rebels strutting their stuff.
The idea that life cannot be enjoyed to the full as a spiritual seeker, or after ultimate truth has been realised, is completely false. This fan took off her shades, turned up the collar of her leather jacket, and vamped up her voice to the loudest to sing, ‘Start me up’, and there were no holds barred when for the second time, the band at the finale played ‘Satisfaction’. Jigging and bopping in the aisles was out of my control (what control?), and for the record, so what? I was trained as a classical guitarist, which means that I performed the most unseemly acrobatic contortions to see what Ronnie was doing with his left hand, something which is a Pavlovian vasana. That will take time to clear! Everybody was remarkably well-behaved because most of the heads were grey (if coverage was still present!), although sad to see were the fallen and plastered elderly casualties of one too many beers; those trying to recapture moments of forgotten youth, love and sex, as younger fans propped them up asking, ‘Are you all right? Who can we call to pick you up?’
To live in the present and as presence is to enjoy life to the maximum. Whatever arises is simply there. This is all there is, and so to deny the moment is to deny the sanctity of life. And of course, the body/mind becomes depleted during the humdrum of daily life – everybody needs a break. The body knows what it needs, and the impetus to get up and run around is an unconscious and involuntary action; cobwebs need clearing to keep circulation of mind and body, and if you need to let it all hang out – that is another mandatory must. For God’s sake, do it. Today, according to H.W. L. Poonja, ‘nothing ever happened’. This means that there is no yesterday because there is only the current now. I have a memory which pulls up last night, but actually, it is receding. The actual reality is my writing these words. What is present is the energetic vibration of those diamond sparkly shoes and a honky-tonk tune from last night, and a great feel-good factor of thorough unmitigated wellbeing.
Exiting at the end, and moving quickly through the stench of weed and tens of thousands heading for the railway station, I jumped into a waiting cab whose driver was a local born and bred Muslim. The East London mosque is the first of its kind in the UK. Muslims are celebrating Ramadan now, and my driver had just started his shift after his first meal of the day. He was devout, and launched into an exhaustive description of his planning of prayer-periods five times a day, made difficult because of his job as a taxi-driver. I regret, I started to slip and zone out. Too much energetic one-sided conversation about Mecca and women in Islam at midnight. I do remember he informed me that God created men as superior because ladies keep the house, and complimented me on my apparent knowledge. I don’t remember I said much because I hoped he would dry up – I must have hummed and hawed about it with some measure of authenticity. No idea, but I did learn more about Islam, and the projection of God as the external Creator who knows everything. My father did, of course, mention this in the early days, but Islam was almost unknown in my childhood days in London. It was certainly exotic. According to my taxi-driver, muslim women are taught to cover up with veils so men will not rape them. Aha.
As I tipped him, offering him something towards his feast, I left his vehicle with the thought that if I had fallen asleep, I might have awoken up with a veil over my face. I was fully expecting him to ask me what religion I followed – that would have been very difficult. I think I would have snored inelegantly to put him off.
But, body and mind had a blast yesterday. So mind, first thing this morning, grabbed her cell-phone and booked tickets to see the Tina Turner show in theatre land in three weeks’ time. Energy in motion – it can’t be stopped. That – and the whimsical thought arising of rivers deep and mountains high.
Selima Gurtler is a spiritual writer, philosopher, poet and Jnana yogi.
Her modern teachings to Self-Realization and Liberation are uniquely flavoured through the perceptive eyes of her Indian and European heritage.
Free copies of her books are available for download here: https://www.emwpeace.org/publications/
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Grace Archbishop Desmond Tutu are patrons of her work.