The Wisdom of the Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones played in Israel. And that’s awesome.
The Stones are the world’s greatest band. They are also the world’s oldest. I am surprised that a band that’s been around as long as the Stones – and that’s toured for as long as the Stones – never made it to Israel.
But that’s what 50th anniversary tours are for.
The Stones aren’t just musicians. They’re insightful social commentators. Infused in their lyrics are messages of hope, despair, and a commentary on contemporary life.
And if you look carefully, important Jewish lessons can be found in their lyrics, too.
Here are the top five.
1. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
I know. Obvious choice. But a powerful life-lesson nonetheless.
“When I’m driving in my car, and that man comes on the radio, and he’s telling me more and more, about some useless information, supposed to fire my imagination.”
According to the Stones, blatant in-your-face consumerism has convinced you that you can’t be satisfied. Ever. What you have is not enough. You want more. You need more.
And if you don’t want more, that man on the radio will convince you that you do. But – as the Stones want you to know – that’s nonsense.
“Who is rich? The rich person is happy with what he has” (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1). I doubt the Stones were studying the Talmud when they wrote “Satisfaction,” but they were onto something.
You can get satisfaction. Appreciate what you have. Don’t make your happiness dependent on externals. Externals are out of your control. Be responsible for your happiness. Take stock in what you have and be satisfied with your lot.
Real wealth is up to you. You don’t need more.
2. You Can’t Always Get What You Want
That’s true. But when you try – sometimes – you get what you need.
You are not in control of situations. The events and things in life unfold around you. And you are not in control. It isn’t your call.
What can you do?
You can complain. You can bellyache. You can get upset. You can be miserable because nothing goes your way.
Or listen to the message of the Stones.
You can’t always get what you want. So what? God gives you what you need.
A great coach will push you until you hurt. He will work you hard. You will hate him for it. You don’t want to work that hard.
But you do.
And when you achieve your goals. When your team wins. When you succeed beyond your expectations. You are thankful. You thank the coach for pushing you. You didn’t like it at the time. But it was worth it; with perspective you see that.
It wasn’t what you wanted, it wasn’t pleasant, but it made you into the person you wanted to be.
And that’s an important Jewish idea.
3. Paint it Black
Don’t get stuck. Don’t be self-absorbed. Don’t be selfish. Don’t get hung up on your obsessions or inhibitions.
“I see a red door and I want it painted black. No colors any more, I want them to turn black. I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes. I have to turn my head until my darkness goes.”
Don’t think like that.
The Stones – in this clever analogy – are telling you, “Don’t.” Focus instead on the good. Be positive. Be a ray of sunshine.
Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, taught, “Happiness isn’t a happening. Happiness is your responsibility.” Gloom and doom are easy. They’re copouts. Woe is me. Don’t go with that. Take responsibility for your happiness. Focus on the good in your life. Make happiness your priority.
The choice is yours.
4. Time Waits for No One
That’s right. When it’s over, it’s over. And we all go to the same place: the grave. (See Ethics of the Fathers, 3:1.)
“Time can tear down a building or destroy a woman’s face. Hours are like diamonds, don’t let them waste.”
You only get one life. Don’t blow it. Don’t waste your time. And don’t waste your time on vanity. Don’t spend your life chasing nonsense and emptiness. Take time to invest in something real.
And if you disagree, death is proof. The richest man and the poorest bum both die. And there is nothing you can do about it.
Listen to the Stones. Think about your values and priorities. Think about your goals. Think about your purpose and mission. And invest in that.
Make the effort to invest in what’s really important.
5. Waiting on a friend
“I’m just waiting for a friend.”
Your friends are the most important people in your life. Your friends will do anything for you. A real friend will. And you would do the same.
Friendship is an investment. It takes effort and work. Your friends have virtues. Think about those virtues. Focus on them. Cherish them. And cherish those relationships.
And when all else fails, you can count on your friends. Invest in them. Wait for them.
The Stones are more than just a band. They are seasoned veterans on the road of life.
And they played a concert in Israel.
BDS be damned.
Tzvi Gluckin lectures extensively on a wide range of Jewish related topics. He is the author of four books including: Everything You Want Is Really Jewish, Discover This, and Knee Deep in the Funk: Understanding the Connection Between Spirituality and Music. He served in the Israeli Army, holds a B.M. in Jazz Studies from the New England Conservatory of Music, and is currently the director of Vechulai, an innovative Jewish think tank in Boston. For more information, visit his website at gluckin.com/.
Tzvi is also an accomplished musician. Listen to his new album and download it here:http://tzvigluckin.bandcamp.com/