Sunday, January 1, 2017

Rolling Stones – "No Expectations" (1968)

So take me to the airport 
And put me on a plane 
I've got no expectations 
To pass through here again

Are you feeling lonely and depressed?  Do you suffer from low self-esteem?

Sounds like you’re in need of some pop psychology.  If so, you’ve come to the right place.

Have you made your New Year's resolutions yet?
Sure . . . there are plenty of other sources of simplistic self-help guidance on TV and the internet.  But why turn to someone like Dr. Phil when 2 or 3 lines is just as qualified AND serves up its glib advice with a really good Rolling Stones song.

Today, we’re going to talk about expectations.

You may be familiar with the saying, “Happiness equals reality divided by expectations.”  I’ve seen everyone from novelist Jodi Picoult to billionaire Warren Buffett given credit for that formula.  

For those of you who always struggled with algebra, let me explain something very important about “Happiness equals reality divided by expectations.”

It's simple mathematics
If you want to be happier, there are two ways to go – make the numerator larger or make the denominator smaller.  

In other words, one road to happiness is to improve your reality – make your life better.  Of course, if you knew how to do that, you wouldn’t be looking for advice on a pop music blog.

So I’d suggest that you choose the prize behind door number two and try making the denominator smaller – that is, lower your expectations.

After all, it works for the Danes . . . assuming you can believe the New York Times, which is a big-ass assumption. 

From the Times:

Denmark is the happiest nation in the world.  More than two-thirds of Danes report being “very satisfied with their lives” . . . .  But why, researchers wondered, are Danes happier than Finns and Swedes, who share . . . a similar culture and climate?

The answer is, in a word, expectations.  Danes have low expectations . . . .

Good Santa, bad Santa
About once a year, some new study confirms Denmark’s status as a happiness superpower.  Danes receive this news warily, with newspaper headlines that invariably read: “We’re the happiest lige nu.”  Lige nu is a Danish phrase that means literally “just now” but strongly connotes a sense of “for the time being but probably not for long.”  Danes, in other words, harbor low expectations about everything, including their own happiness. 

As marriage therapist Winifred Reilly has written, expectations are particularly dangerous when it comes to relationships:

Expectations are based on a fantasy about how life (and our partner) is supposed to be, and, like it or not, fantasy and reality rarely match up. . . .

(“Rarely”?  How about “never”?)

Most of us are inclined to think that our expectations are perfectly reasonable.  Some of us even think they’re our due.  The truth is, most of the expectations people have are unrealistic.  When they’re not met, many think there’s something wrong with the relationship when the trouble lies with the expectations they brought.

Many people think expectations set standards when, most often, they’re a set-up for disappointment or frustration. 

I don’t think Reilly is telling you to compromise your values just for the sake of getting a relationship off the ground or keeping it going.  

What I think she is saying is that you need to see the other person as he or she really is and make your decision about whether to enter into a relationship accordingly.  You’re going to be disappointed if you evaluate someone on the basis of how well he or she conforms to your fantasy.

Many times, the initial infatuation is powerful enough so that you are blinded to the gap between reality and fantasy.  But over time, you may begin to see your significant other more clearly and become increasingly dissatisfied with his or her failure to live up to your fantasy.  

This usually leads to the expectation that causes more problems than any other: the expectation that your significant other will change to satisfy you.

Expecting change is a set-up for disappointment.  Requesting change is another thing entirely, though even the most reasonable and respectful requests are not guaranteed to be met.

We all know what happens when we insist on change: our partner resentfully complies or defiantly digs in.  Now and again we may get an “I’ll think about it” which is, quite often, a “no” in sheep’s clothing.

While I would never suggest people live in situations where they’re treated badly, figuring out how to live in a less-than-ideal world . . . is a fruitful endeavor.

It's January 1, and you're probably trying to decide what your New Year's resolutions for 2017 should be.  2 or 3 lines recommends that you resolve to lower your expectations and try to be satisfied even when you don't get everything you want.  

(Think about it.)
After all, as the 16th-century English author John Heywood said, “Half a loaf is better than no bread.”

(By the way, this guy Heywood really had a way with words.  He also came up with “Rome was not built in one day,” “Beggars should not be choosers,” “Rob Peter and pay Paul,” “Better late than never,” “Make hay when the sun shines,” “A penny for your thoughts,” and – my personal favorite – “All cats are gray in the dark.”)

*     *     *     *     *

“No Expectations” was recorded in May 1968 and released in December of that year on the Beggars Banquet album.  

It’s bluesy-sounding, but it’s not a traditional blues song.  For one thing, each verse has eleven bars, not twelve.  (I would have never guessed that until I counted them out.)

“No Expectations” is notable for Nicky Hopkins’s subdued piano and Brian Jones’s acoustic slide guitar.  “That was the last time I remember Brian really being totally involved in something that was really worth doing,” Mick Jagger said years later.  

Jones (who had five children by five different women) drowned in July 1969, less than a month after he parted ways from the band he had founded.  

Brian Jones and Mick Jagger
“He formed the band.  He chose the members. He named the band. He chose the music we played. He got us gigs,” Bill Wyman told the Los Angeles Times in 2002.  “He was very influential, very important, and then slowly lost it . . . and just kind of wasted it and blew it all away.”

Jones was not a songwriter.  “To be honest, Brian had no talent for writing songs,” Jagger told Rolling Stone magazine.  “I've never known a guy with less talent for songwriting.”  

But he was an exceptionally versatile instrumentalist.  He played guitar, slide guitar, sitar, organ, marimba, Mellotron, saxophone, autoharp, dulcimer, recorder, and harmonica on Rolling Stones recordings.

Here’s “No Expectations”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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