Sunday, 19 December 2010

Jools Holland and Mindfulness

As Fats Waller used to say, "One never knows - do one?" In this case, one never knows where a mindful approach will turn up. Whilst leafing idly through the Saturday Guardian colour comic yesterday, trying to avoid the revolting blandishments of adverts for luxury goods from a previous era, I came upon a Q and A with Jools Holland, ex-pop star, excellent boogie pianist, leader of what must be the only big band left in UK (hope that's wrong) and of course TV presenter of odd manner and knowledgeably eclectic approach. (Just in case you've never heard of him.) Expecting something amusing but insignificant, I was delighted to find these pronouncements:

Q: "What is the closest you've ever come to death?
A: "Last night: sleep is its brother."

To which I say - spread the word, Jools.

Q: "What is the trait you most deplore in others?
A: I wouldn't like to make judgements."

One of the effects of mindfulness meditation is to make us less hasty to rush to judgements about others. This makes is easier to see where they are coming from, to see the whole picture of our interaction with them. It doesn't mean we accept any old nonsense from anyone, just that we should observe and think before seeking to reassure our fears and bolster our prejudices - which is surely what a lot of our judgements about people are actually used for.

Q: "What's your most unappealing habit?
A: You'd have to ask people who find me unappealing."

People sometimes call that sort of response "grounded" or "centred." I feel it shows a kind of realism and acceptance; I don't think he's just trying to be a smart-arse at the interviewer's expense, though it is quick-witted. He seems to me to be saying that naturally, and particularly given his fame, there are people who find him unappealing; they are the experts in such judgements- ask them.

But the one that startled me most was this - it was his opener:

Q: "When were you happiest?
A: Paradise is the moment you are in, so right now I'm happiest talking to you."

Whole books have been written expanding on that insight. If the present moment is the only place it's possible to live, then paradise, happiness, couldn't be anywhere else. (Nor could hell, of course.) He avoids putting happiness back in the past, he avoids making it a future fantasy. His presentmomentness is quite startling. What's the point of making comparative judgments about happiness? How are you right now? OK - happy - contented. Enough. You can't really categorise and analyse happiness, can you? If you try, it will evaporate. Happy memories are, of course, a delight, and so are future happinesses - say, a Christmas visit from family - but if I start wondering if this Christmas will be better than last, will the omnipotent grandson be as much fun as he used to be,'s nonsense. Gloria, enjoy, now, the pleasure of anticipating his visit. Then enjoy his visit. Grandson will be as grandson is. A wonder.

Jools says other pleasant and entertaining things too, but I didn't expect (prejudice, I guess) to find these sorts of potted insights in a star interview. I've no idea if he meditates, but maybe a mindful approach, wherever it comes from, helps him through the madness and pressures of the music/TV business.

So thanks, Jools, merry Christmas and a boogieful New Year.


  1. Wonderfully un-spun responses from the man Jules. His low-level loopiness does seem to bespeak a person of integrity and self-reliance. He is his own man.

    Much wisdom here which I for one will try to absorb.

    Love 'presentmomentness' too. Your neologism, GM?

    Thank you for this post.

  2. Thanks Charles - yes, he seems to be his own man. In the accompanying photo, he has a very level gaze. Not agrressive, just - level. Good sign.

    One soaks up neologisms - might have been me, might have been - who knows? Crap memory steps in at this point. Yes, probably me. But in any case, utility is all.

    Pleased you found the ramblings at least worth a thought.

  3. Do you think there is mindfulness embedded into playing an instrument? Being in the flow and all that?

  4. Well, yes, maybe so, particularly if you're good enough, so that you are not anxious that you'll make a serious error, lose your way, grind to a halt etc. Maybe great improvisors (e.g. jazz) get themselves into the flow. I think you can sense that happening when you catch a live performance, and you can sense when it doesn't. But ditto classical players, too. The payback for all that hard work!

  5. Life makes sense precisely because it doesn't make sense; it can only be rational as long as it is absurd. Otherwise it would be just like going to work. Which, if you're Jools Holland, means doing just what others do to get away from work.

    (P.S: Hi, Gloriamundi, it's Jonathan from over on Charles' blog; I'm not actually anonymous, it's just that I can't get past your 'URL' bouncer any other way. I bought a card the other day saying; "This is your computer speaking - you've no idea what you're doing, do you?" In the end I sent it to myself.)

  6. Thanks Jonathan. So when 'the toad "work"' squats on our lives, he makes us force ourselves into distortingly rational channels of thought and action, and we go to boogie-woogie to unrationalise ourselves? Sounds good to me. But- 'URL bouncer?'How proud I might be to host such a thing, if only I knew what it was and what it was for. But it's a nuisance if it anonymises everyone. Maybe I'll search for a de-bouncer...probably write off my entire comuter "system" - which pretends to be rational but is in fact absurd.