Thursday, 22 January 2009


I have just realised that I left my copy of Walden in the studio at the BBC, so here's a quote from The Smiths:

‘Fame, fame, fatal fame. It can play hideous tricks on the brain. But still I’d rather be famous than righteous or holy, anyday anyday anyday...’ Morrissey, Frankly Mr Shankly

I sit on my mountain at night sometimes and I look at the stars. And I think about the size of this universe. And I think of its birth and its eventual demise. And then I think about the planet, and it’s history since the swamp things first struggled to breathe out of water. And then I think of the history of humanity, and of Western ‘civilisation’ and then I think of all the lives being lived right now on the planet. And then of my own life. And being ‘famous’ stops being quite so important for a while. In fact, NOT making an impression on the planet is becoming increasingly interesting to me.

But I want to not make an impression on a REALLY BIG scale and convince as many people as possible to leave light footprints too...

Yes folks, this week I have been back in London (as you will see from my next video blog). Wined and dined by the record company, chauffeured into Broadcasting House for a session on radio 3, then training it down to Brighton to play a gig (I am writing this on the train down there).

It’s strange but true. One of my neuroses is a desire for recognition. Stick that in your hash-pipe and smoke it, Mr Buddha. Mr Guru. And yet, while I get a buzz out of being on the radio, I am also excruciatingly aware of the folly of such a goal. (Actually, I don’t want to be famous like a Spice Girl, I want to be famous like someone with artistic integrity who is a total genius, and recognised as such, in my lifetime, and well-paid for being so cool and clever. Like Van Gogh or Nick Drake, but with a great publicist and no mental health issues.)

There is a story in a Buddhist text about an actor who goes to the Buddha and says ‘I am an actor. I make my living out of entertaining people and making them laugh. Will I be reborn in the Heaven of the Laughing Gods?’

The Buddha asks him not to ask this question, but the actor asks the question three times, and if the Buddha is asked a question three times, the Buddha answers it. He says, ‘No, you will actually be reborn in a hell realm.’

The actor is incredulous. ‘But why???’

‘Because, not only do you delude yourself, you make your living out of deluding others.’

Heavy shit, huh?

My own thinking on this is that firstly, I think the actor did plays that were more ‘Home and Away’ and less Shakespeare (and by ‘Shakespeare’ I mean the bits of Shakespeare that weren’t like Home and Away). I think that plays, and the arts in general, can be used to delude people or to point them in the direction of truth, beauty, and an opening of the heart and mind. Indeed the arts are an integral part of many Buddhist traditions.

Secondly, I think that there is inevitably an element of bullshit in any walk of life - Life As PR Exercise (‘That’ll look good on your CV’). We live in a capitalist society, and you might as well just acknowledge that you have been reborn in that situation, with those limitations, and just get on with it as best you can.

[I was once standing outside an ashram in India and watched all the beggars, looking absolutely at death’s door and half insane, until everyone had gone into the ashram, then the chai wallah poured everyone a cup of chai and they sat around and had a chat until everyone started coming out of the ashram, when the whole pantomime resumed. It was exactly like that bit in ‘Life of Brian’ where the centurion is trying to get some sense out of the jailors. I was reassured of the basic universality of the human condition. NB the beggars were in general suffering from terrible deformities and/or leprosy and were most likely from the ex-untouchable class and had no other means of earning enough to eat. I am not arguing that they were scam artists that were unworthy of receiving money from the devotees from the ashram. But if you are going to be a beggar, I guess you have competition for market share the same as in any other sector of the economy, so you use what you’ve got.]

And thirdly I think that if it is in you, provided it is not totally unskilful (such as a penchant for paedophilia) it is better to express that aspect of yourself than to repress it, but to express it in a way that is of most benefit to all beings. My basic view, with regard to one’s emotional, creative and even physical energy is that first you must unblock it, then direct it, and then refine it. The tantric path. We are not perfectly enlightened Buddhas. Obviously. At some point you have to let go of trying to be Superman and just be yourself.

But I am getting ahead of myself. After all, many people, and the culture itself, think that fame is a noble pursuit. So, the first question should be ‘Is it though?’

You will have to wait for the book before I give my full lowdown on fame. We are fast approaching Brighton and I need to think about what I’m going to play tonight. All I will say right now is that Eckhart Tolle talks about looking at the ‘Born’ and ‘Died’ dates on a gravestone, and then the hyphen between the two. And that hyphen is what we all consider to be SO significant...

I am on The Verb on Radio 3 this Friday 23rd at 9pm.


jason palmer said...

Everyone pollutes, the only option is to stop breeding.

jason palmer said...


jason palmer said...

go to coniston

You will find the answers you seek in coniston, I did :)

gawd_almighty said...

Remember Updike's line: "Fame is a mask that eats into the face". Then celebrate the passing of another cantankerous old bugger, John Martyn, who was offered the same mask and chucked it into the bin at whatever pub he happened to be drinking dry at the time. Where are you in the mountains, anyway? Or are you keeping your location secret to avoid stalkers?

Padma said...

Hello Gawd

Yes 'in the mountains' is as detailed as I'm going to be :-). I kind of see this place as being in a parallel dimension, kind of like Middle Earth...

Yes poor old John Martyn. One of my early influences for sure.