When I set out to write about the Sanzen of Lady Gaga the other day I resisted at first then quickly realized that off track was no less enthusiastic, me finding a way to write about another crappy distraction or “how I feel about the intersection of art and commerce” again. Music and movies and singers and actors – movies and records share similar edges, product shaped and bar code packaged shrink-wrap entertainment – the fury of buyers and sellers, of course. It’s all about the shipping charges to deliver our stage gods and goddesses, the price tags and checking account tracking numbers, no matter how well-intentioned, artful or otherwise this is about the happenstance of pop culture appetites and the bloody service ware of consumerism.
"You got ears?" You will hear. "You got eyes?" You will see.
I didn’t set out to blog at all about the nisshitsu of Gaga, for reasons even less off topic, but when I staggered over the Kewpie Doll of Pop’s latest wizdom I was instantly compelled to object, no matter how much I might fall victim to her sticky web of sensationalism. If you can’t make em’ speed you turn the sign upside down and clock em’ for going too slow. If you can’t catch em’ speeding give em’ something to slow down about – no matter how much it might not matter in the end. What was it that stuck me fast? In the face of much criticism and admittedly overdone fury, Ms. Gaga decided the solution to unchecked aggression and naughty old bloggers full of hate was to decree censorship and prime selection would treat the cure – only those deemed worthy should blog at all, according to her – true fans and music scholars alone, all others need not apply.[Lady G Tweeted] “The fans + music scholars are the best critics because they know the artist intimately. #STOPHarassingTheArtist we are here to entertain you [@ladygaga]
In Zen practice, the master rings the bell to signal that you haven’t progressed in your teachings. When a koan provokes “great doubt”, the Zen student’s response betrays them, revealing the distance from enlightenment. Kant says the enlightened need to know themselves and one’s own understanding without the instruction and guidance of others. But to be truly enlightened there must be a public freedom which embraces individuality – the greatest freedom is to make public use of one’s reason so that others can consider all sides of a subject, good, bad and otherwise. And so to become one, to become enlightened, we must first collaborate, come together and work out some ground rules and then depart, happily on the same page so that when we debate the chatter is informed and balanced and constructive. See?
I don’t know if a pop singer can ever be enlightened as such or even should strive for such purposeful independence – I mean it is from this sustenance of others that the cult of personality grows exponentially – the frothy romp of response to fans and critics stirred up. Shakespeare‘s wise and foolish father figure Polonius tells us ‘to thy own self be true‘, which might have saved him from Hamlet’s sword had he not busied himself in matters not altogether his business elsewhere. Perhaps enlightenment in this case is not that which is self-incurred, rather the result of shared improvisation that comes with improving, changing, adapting and learning new ways to entertain and engage one another. Yes, the audience is to the artist as the blogger is to the learned critic. It is as symbiotic a relationship as any in the wild kingdom, maybe better. It’s when the host, in this case Gaga, forgets or gets distracted from the knowing that without her fans and detractors, whatever the devil would people gauge her many successes and brilliant catastrophes?
Perhaps she had enough of the blathering, and who could blame her. Maybe the silly ol’ freedom to blog needs hefty handling, proper censorship and selective critics would solve the problem. Maybe true fans and scholars should be going on about all this while the rest of us enjoy our brioche and be off about it the next Iron Man flick She could be right for wronger reasons – are we frustrated by our own tangled nonsense? But who picks the best and of what is the best? Certainly you can’t have thousand of thousands of friendsters and lovers of the germinator bopping about in the mix, for how would you proceed to skim off the very brightest and most brilliant bloggerings? So we arrive back at the beginning of this wicked circle of deceit, the notion that our stars and celebrity pop gods and goddesses should be entitled to screening their detractors, to picking and tossing those nasty negative blogs and blogothons so that only the learned and best impressions are beaming. But that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? The idea of it? I think I’ll write a blog about it.
We blog to share and engage friends and others and distant blips in the universe about stuff we like and dislike, we comment and attract comments on passions shared and confronted to help as to belong somewhere. In the heat of the moment it’s like running after someone poked the tracker jackers nest just to watch the storm – what a helluva way to swell up and fade away! Words hurt almost as much as ignorance and the stings of those angry manufactured vespidae, much like silence and machined responses, swells only as long as it fails to elicit a response. Surely the answer is balance, without condemnation praise has no real value, without conversation we cannot reach a place of understanding. Without different blogs all the blogs would stick together in one heaping mound of gelatinous sameness and we’d have attack of the forty-foot pop star sticking to other pop stars and personalities until the pop monster and the blog monster are battling it out over a tiny planet of people with their keyboards removed and not allowed to applause for the winner and boo the loser. What a terrible Godzilla movie that would make!
Dear Lady G.,
Do what you do, babe. You’ve got it right, you never needed to tell people how to react, it’s always been about the explosion of reaction that’s fueled your rocket ship. Don’t let it matter now. Cheers.
As far as only “fans and music scholars” being allowed to cover entertainers in general, and your career and antics in particular, surely Ms. Gaga you must see the errors of such myopathy. One would be better to surround yourself with paid cheerleaders and staff writers pushing falsities and niceties alone for their morning news reports as to get only what you want to have with your biscuits and jam. Surely criticism, even ridiculously narrow-minded serial contrarians with heavy-handed axe grinding has a place, even if only to off-set those less tooled glowing reviews. Perhaps we can learn to be better bloggers as our subjects can be better for knowing so many care enough to face a blank screen every day, even those who have more attention and less objective checks and balances to curb their expressiveness.
Sanzen means going to a Zen master for instruction. If the master rings a bell to dismiss the student, this means the student’s understanding is not right and that their work must continue.
- Music For The Week – Lady Gaga – Applause (jusbach.com)
- Lady Gaga Premieres ‘Applause’ Lyric Video With Self-Shot Footage (mashable.com)
- Lady Gaga Releases “Applause” Lyric Video (102jamzorlando.cbslocal.com)