I remember being hit by Euclid’s proof that there is no largest prime number. I was eleven. Some years later it was girls with their sweet eyes, the cadences of Keats and Johnson, nearly being struck by lightning on Mount Olympus, skidding out of control on a wet road and having nowhere to go.
And so it goes on. It’s Wordsworth’s “something deeply interfused…that rolls through all things”. It’s the Bhagavad Gita’s “brighter than a thousand suns” and it’s a patch of light falling on a wall near you.
The hit precipitates us into the world. Every world is a gift – but we have to find our way in it. Worlds are dimensional – which means we move on up but we can also get lost. Colour, sounds, danger, pain: it just gets out of hand.
There are only two responses: ‘That’s it!’ and ‘What is it, really?’ Diving in and pulling away. You can’t have one without the other because that’s what happens when you enter another dimension: you can go in opposite directions.
We’ve all seen tracks – lanes, roads, hiways – stretching out before us. A track that goes to the horizon or disappears round a bend – it can take you anywhere. It’s open like water, it’s shaded like promise. Those dark Arkansas roads, said Miles Davis. That’s the sound I’m after.
That idea – from a track near you to the sound of dark roads – is creation. It’s acute, dazzling – perhaps deadly. We do it all the time and it’s all around us
This is a disruptive business, caught up in confusion and alarms. Freedom and subversion eternally linked. We’re being fashioned into every conceivable shape: the glory, jest and riddle of the world.
Everybody knows what it is to be hit: by life, by death, by desire. Life is ungraspable, death is inescapable. In between lies the tumbling destiny of all who are born.
That’s the drama: reality making us like itself.
Andrew Rawlinson was a war baby (b.1943) and lived in 17 different places by the time he was six.
He got hit early on: Elvis, Jelly Roll Morton, Samuel Johnson, John Keats, Jack Kerouac, Cezanne, Pollock. And Zeus.
He added philosophy and Indian traditions to rock’n’roll, jazz and literature. He was a scholar at Cambridge and did a Ph.D on the Lotus Sutra at the University of Lancaster. He taught Buddhism for 20 years and put on a course on Altered States of Consciousness at Berkeley and Santa Barbara. He is the author of The Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers oin Eastern Traditions (Open Ciourt, 1997) and The Hit: Into the Rock’n’Roll Universe and Beyond (99 Press, 2014).
Monthly meetings with invited speakers are held in Hampstead. Doors open at 7:30pm for an 8pm start, when parking restrictions are lifted. Nearest stations are Hampstead (Northern Line) or Hampstead Heath (Overground). Contribution is £10 for members and £12 for guests.
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