2011-07-07

Lady Gaga and Non-dualism

Fascinated as I may be by social media, I'm no user of Twitter, Facebook, nor any of the rest. (What I've heard of Google+ over the past week has been tempting me a bit, though.) Regardless, in the course of my work yesterday I happened upon a recent tweet (or at least a hypothetical tweet featured in a video) of Lady Gaga's: "you are ALL beautiful."

Immediately my mind began to wrestle with what the Goddess of Pop could mean by this. On the face of it, the message seems simple and cheery enough, but given more than superficial consideration we're obliged to concede that, strictly speaking, it can't be true.


Recall the second chapter of the Daode jing, which my teacher held to be the key to the entire text. There, we learn how differentiation necessarily creates opposites. These dualistic polarities support each other and define each other, as with the emptiness of a pot: the not-pot within the pot is what gives the pot its usefulness, and indeed, its very form. In my teacher's words, whenever there arises an 'A,' there also arises a corresponding 'not-A.' As the second chapter happens to point out, it is by defining or distinguishing beauty as beauty that ugliness is known.

Granted, Lady Gaga may not feel obliged to recognize the A/not-A dualism that I find undeniable. Perhaps her tweet really is just an unreflective expression of positive sentiment, without intended philosophical implications. However, even if so, I'm unable to leave it at that.

As some of you may know, I have a certain fascination with Gaga as a religious entity. More properly speaking, she strikes me as an almost deific embodiment, an avatar in the original sense, of her own art. We might go so far as to call her a living fetish (again, in the original sense, and here all the more appropriate considering the Latin root's emphasis on artificiality, on being something made). Perhaps it is because I tend to view her through this peculiar lens of superimposed significance that I'm reluctant to let her tweet alone as just a nice thought.

If "you are ALL beautiful" is more than that, then it is nothing less than an expression of enlightenment from beyond dualism. It is a logic trap (at least for obsessive philosophizing types like me) that forces us to wrestle with beauty as an intuitive, firsthand, aesthetic, and emotional experience and as a social and cultural construct. By leading us to consider the proposition that all, even the ugly, are beautiful, Gaga forces us to question whether her assertion is false, or if our conception of beauty is the falsehood. The former option is unappealing, for to say Gaga's tweet is untrue is to affirm ugliness, which is at best cynical and mean, and at worst hurtful and oppressive. Moreover, we may have many other personal and social reasons to be inclined to give Gaga the benefit of the doubt, as for example my suspicion that she's a sort of demigod.

On the other hand, if we accept her statement, we are thereby obliged to deny the dualism of beauty and ugliness. Gaga's "ALL" can only be beautiful if there are no such things as beauty and ugliness, or rather, if there is no distinction, no definition of beauty to create ugliness. All of this is apropos to Gaga's own gorgeous monstrosity, and her all-inclusive invitation to be one of her 'little monsters.'

Perhaps I'm off the deep end here, having a bizarre little tea party with my Lady Gaga and Laozi dolls. However, I can't help wondering what the Lady herself sees and thinks at the epicenter, perhaps even as the axis mundi of her own created cosmos.

4 comments:

  1. Entertaining logical exercise made even more interesting because I took Ken's class this year. ('14)

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  2. Most excellent. How did you end up finding my little collection of ramblings?

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  3. Interesting post. There seems to be a sort of hidden global meme surrounding Lady Gaga and her possible godhood. Maybe you should do an analysis on the possible apotheosis of pop culture icons, although I have a feeling that's been done to death in more academic environments.
    Anyways, looking forward to the day you decide to post more on the topic of Magic the Gathering.

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  4. Thank you, Zim. Probably I should familiarize myself with whatever deification of modern cultural icons there may be, but to be honest I've never been interested in the phenomenon before Gaga. Something different about her... Or perhaps that's just subliminal messages in her music talking.

    In any case, more about Goddess Gaga is on the docket for future analyses.

    As for Magic, I'm afraid it's been out of my mind since I rolled off the MTG wagon a year and change back. Between getting increasingly displeased with developments in the game by the end of Zendikar block and moving away from the folks I used to play with, that hobby has definitely fallen by the wayside once again. However, this time I won't be so foolish as to jettison my collection, as I did after giving up on Magic in my childhood...

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