THE FAME THING
The following excerpt is from an interview conducted by Jason Goodman and Phil Weinrobe, printed in 3rd Ward Magazine:
3W: Human beings have a really hard time putting their minds around incremental change.
ABDI: The system actually functions by dehumanizing people. People actually go to that ego place, which really ties into the fame thing. When you go to the fame thing you’re just ego drive, ego overdrive, which is a very lonely place. I feel more isolated, so I have to buy one more thing. I feel more alienated, I have to buy one more thing. What we do is: we get together, we get shit-faced, and we just totally try to disconnect. We check out guys, girls, whatever you’re into, just disconnect, and talk about things that disconnect us. This is one thing that’s a gift out of what’s happening now. Hopefully, it’ll bring people together. Now that’s the curse of the fame thing, that’s the curse of the celebrity thing. All these shows that are on TV, this fame thing is about me over you. Wake up! But, hey, whatever these shows on TV are, people want to be famous. They’re taught we can get there, which is also insane. What? You’re going to have 300 million people be famous?
3W: I relate to what you’re saying, we’re all obsessed with ego and obsessed with being the best whatever, with fame it just takes us far away from ourselves.
ABDI: The only way you’re really going to consume something is if you’re really not content. The contentedness never happens externally. When you purchase something new, all that does is touch the place that’s already content, and then you get bored with it and you want to repeat that experience again and again. This is Bush coming over after this horrific thing happens in our country, and he says, “Go shopping”. The system has a consciousness. To me, it’s not just about the fact that there are three mean guys sitting up there trying to figure everything out. These systems have consciousness. Kind of what we’re talking about: culture, as you say, is not your friend, but culture is not some dead entity. When you read Alice Miller - Alice Miller is this amazing psychotherapist and she studied the Nazis - these dudes were God-fearing, church-going, family people. To me, these Nazis were monsters. The scary part is that they weren’t monsters. There were a couple of psychopaths, but there weren’t millions of psychopaths. How could a culture decimate eight million people? We’re the same people; we haven’t changed that much. Again, that ego thing you’re talking about is narcissism, the checked-out-ness. It used to be religion, then it became nationalism, now it’s become fame. To me, it’s the same damn ugly medicine that keeps repeating itself and no one’s learned to think. It’s culture. It’s got a consciousness and it doesn’t want to die.
3W: It’s crazy. I’m a person who is thinking about these things, and I also feel like I need total sensations. It’s hard to get away from.
ABDI: We don’t experience things directly anymore. It’s almost like we’ve lost our digestive tracks and someone else has to chew our food for us. Then by watching them chew we can actually taste the food because we don’t have any taste buds. “How does it taste?” “Well it’s sweet.” “What does that mean? I don’t really know what sweet is.” “Well, it’s got this experience.” We don’t have direct experience anymore. Do we choose not to go to that fame place? Do we choose to switch off the Internet that day and just sit down and create something?
3W: Saving money is an interesting connection, too.
ABDI: Same thing. What is the fame thing? You get the money. It is connected to that, it’s two sides of the same coin, really. Fame is a currency. Currency in the way that people keep up with it. It’s what I’ve noticed with people. If they know famous people, if they’ve seen them or taken a picture, it’s a currency. It’s become a currency. “Hey, I saw Joe Blow at this place, here’s my picture." It’s this impulse of taking a picture with a total stranger. It’s fame; it always just blows my mind. So, what does that say? It says this person has something I don’t have and by putting my arm around this person and having this picture taken, I am somebody now.
3W: Well, maybe we should talk for just a minute about my personal favorite celebrity who just died, Michael Jackson. He was a really talented musician and all these things. But, I think his greatest work was the sculpture that was his body. People were terrified by it, and they didn’t like to look at it. But he transformed himself into what he thought people wanted him to be.
ABDI: Absolutely. He was a guy who lived in the hyperreal as opposed to the real. He lived in the extraordinary - the ordinary wasn’t okay. He had to go to the extraordinary. His only experience would be in his peak thing, right, a huge playground, this massive thing. It’s an amazing thing that people don’t realize.
3W: And he totally killed himself with drugs.
ABDI: That’s pain, that’s how painful it is. That’s how far away you get from yourself and you forget that you need anesthetics. The metaphor for that is lost on people. It’s not even using heroin, he’s using anesthetics, drugs that anesthetize people. It's crazy, and yet it totally makes sense. We have this projection on people; we have this addiction to perfection. Then, when these people don’t meet our expectations - Tiger Woods is an amazing example in that way, right? He became a totally perfect clear projector screen. He had no emotions; he was a good boy. Is he black? Is he Asian? He won’t even give you that. The shadow gets so huge, totally in reversion to how good you pretend to be, how perfect the projector screen. Because there’s nothing really genuine, really authentic. And this is how these things always work out, and people are always shocked. How did that happen? It’s like, “It’s not shocking, it’s Michael Jackson”. Because the projector screen is so strong, the flip side of it gets ghastly. The flip side is us napalming the bejesus out of babies. These are the things we need to examine. Michael Jackson and Tiger Woods are perfect examples of people carrying culture and its shadow. Michael Jackson is us. He was carrying that for all of us.
3W: He was this mirror. He kept mutating because we asked him to, and then we couldn’t even stare ourselves in the face. We couldn’t even look at him.
ABDI: There’s this mass consciousness that doesn’t want to change and only wants to be changed when disaster comes - has to be forced to change, doesn’t want to do the fucking work, which is all this stuff.
3W: It’s like Bret Easton Ellis really nailed that with American Psycho. There’s this character who’s this Wall Street success, but couldn’t help just killing everyone around him in really perverse, sexual ways.
ABDI: I used to speak to some Vietnam vets in the Bronx. Those guys saw some shit. I can’t imagine these kids now doing this close combat. We’re taking these guys, basically using them, and then throwing them back 24-48 hours later in the community. It’s like the highest rate of suicide, homicide; we’re living that nightmare. It’s not like in some distant future. These are the things that aren’t working. But, nobody’s questioning why. That’s where the fame thing comes in, the celebrity. “Pay attention to this, Tiger Woods has like eight girls that he banged, check that out.” While your neighbor is losing his home, your neighbor just came back from Iraq, your neighbor just shot his wife, your neighbor’s a drug addict, but there’s not drug treatments so he’s going to go to prison for 20 years.
3W: I guess what you were saying earlier goes person by person.
ABDI: The machine is too big; the machine is way better armed than you’ll ever be, the machine’s way smarter on that level. Forget about the machine, the machine is going to eat itself alive; we have to step out of that. It’s not going to be about shifting the system because the system has a consciousness and this system is so profound. It can co-opt anything. It’s a very intelligent virus.
3W: Everything becomes style.
ABDI: You have to step out of that. It’s not about becoming something radical, spiritual, or a monk, or a caveman, because that’s another thing. The question is how do you live your life in integrity and real authenticity? Are you a rose bush, are you an oak tree? If the system needs oak trees, it will tell everyone they’re an oak tree. If you’re a rose bush and you’re trying to eat what an oak tree eats, you are going to die pretty quickly. You have to figure out what you are, and then feed that while you’re in the system.
3W: And then you grow up in that environment and nothing seems real except for what’s hyper, hyperreal. Even that is unsatisfying as years go on.
ABDI: People are living in fear - that’s how you keep people in line. It was the nuclear bomb, it was the Russians, it was the Chinese, always fear, fear, fear. Now, it’s the Arabs. Once these systems are in place, how can you step out of it? The only difference now is that we’re running against a finite line. People laugh when it’s said there could be food shortages, actually laugh at you. There’s a very distinct possibility in our lifetimes that we are going to hit against that again. Right now, there are riots in many countries because of food shortages. This is how this myth gets perpetuated. “We’re fine, it’s nothing, stay asleep. Everything is under control.” That’s the part that’s going to shift it to the next level.
ABDI: Yeah, sacrifice, but also the fact that this can be pleasurable. That’s what I’m saying to you. For me, there’s a lot of serenity in the work that I do - trying to help the world and forgetting about myself. When I forget about myself, my big Self steps in. Now that can’t be all the time, because the reality is that you have to feed all parts of you, but that’s a really powerful experience. But that’s lost on this culture, that’s lost on celebrity, definitely lost on fame, cause that’s all about “me”. “What else can I do about me? Let’s talk about me, let’s talk about me.” That energy never gets into you.
3W: It’s always hungry and it’s never satisfied.
ABDI: It’s that hungry ghost. The Buddhists have that wonderful image, right, of this big ghost with a pinprick for a mouth and it can never get enough food to feed it. And we’re all guilty of that to some extent, but the system makes sure that that keeps going on. Cause what is it going to look like? There is an economic reality; we’ve been trading since we had seashells. There is an economic reality when you have six billion, seven billion people on the planet. It’s not going to keep going this way, so what is the next step? Well, you get that by Phil being the best Phil, and John being the best John, and Jason being the best Jason. That’s how you answer that question, and I truly know that in my bones. It’s not about going out there and discovering the wheel, but each one of us go out and do that - instead of A trying to be his dad, A is A, that’s my gift to this planet.
3W: What can the reader can do to become more of who they are?
ABDI: I would say, first and foremost, look at the places where you’re not really you. We are basic archetypes where we rebel against the culture. I realized I’m trapped being a rebel because I’m still connected to my past. How connected am I to the past? That would be the first thing. The second is how many times a day are you people-pleasing, or not people-pleasing as a way of people-pleasing? Just start by examining yourself. It takes like five minutes a day. And then really look at your relationships with things. Just look at the way things are. You don’t have to drop out. You can look exactly the same externally, but you have a totally different experience in life, you can still take the subway, but from a different place. If you’re really angry, if you’re really sad, examine it. Give yourself a little bit of time to be bored, just a little bit of introspection. Something that I do is, I just take one thing every once in a while to work on. So, if it was anger, like in the morning, I would be like, “Look, I’m tired today, I’m tired, I’m going to be more angry, so pay attention.” At night, I would have a review, I would be like, “So that was good, you were tired, you knew you were going to be angry, so you didn’t work as hard today.” And whatever that thing was, examine it. I don’t want to be connected to my past, I want to have a relationship with it, but I don’t want to be a slave to it. We never examine. The second we wake up, we’re on the go. We don’t fall asleep until we pass out because we’re on the go, and we do it seven days a week. So give 5 or 10 minutes a day.
3W: Five minutes?
3W: Let’s talk about how we all think of ourselves as individuals. There are a lot of spiritual advisers and philosophers that are just rejecting that notion. But, there are also tangible things, like we all have individual fingerprints, we have different DNA, we are literally, undeniably individual.
ABDI: We’ve gotten so lost in the individuation and now it’s sort of the journey back into remembering we’re a whole. When that aspect of forgetfulness of individuation becomes hyper-individuation, that’s the Wall Street, that’s the psychopath. Psychopath does not have a memory of being connected to other people, that’s why it’s actually so disconnected. The problem with the psychopath experience is that nobody is experiencing it. That’s why you stab 10 people to death when you’re a psychopath; there’s no experience, there’s no body left, there’s no body home. Healthy culture tends to have a balance between perpetuating itself and allowing you to be the best you. To me, that’s a healthy culture. We’re in a culture that wants to decimate you if you’re not getting into the program. And it does it.
3W: It’s this drive to make yourself thin, to make yourself vapid, just a wrapper, that way you can become famous. Become a brand of self.
ABDI: One thing that you’re saying, which has become one-dimensional, which ties into what you’re saying, is chaos. People don’t want to deal with the fact that there is chaos. The fact that you can have all the spiritual understanding in the world and walk out and get run over by a car, this is what all the bullshit in the way of spirituality doesn’t want to come to. You can have the deepest understanding of it, but if your number’s up, your number’s up. That’s where the real courage comes in. If you know that every time you get on that bike, you could actually be done, and you choose to do it, that’s courage. Not in a stupid way, but you’ll approach it differently. If you’re sort of unconscious, you get on that bike, hit the throttle, do a buck 80 without giving a shit, you’re not really tasting anything. You’re in that psychopath mode. So the fact that it is chaotic and yet it’s all One, there’s nothing to be done, yet it’s this wonderful, horrific play that’s happening… To kind of straddle those things, that’s what’s really rare. That’s a new thing that’s happening culturally.
3W: The thing about a bike that is a great benefit and interesting, is I get scared when I’m not on a bike. I get scared thinking about what happened the last time I rode, how “it was fucking close” and how I should do this or that next time. But, once you get on and the motor is going… no more fear.
ABDI: When you’re riding, if you’re riding properly, the only way to survive in New York City is you don’t think about anything. You’re in the moment, so like the gift of this whole thing, that’s the pleasure, the moment. When you’re with your lover and it’s awesome, it’s in the moment. These spiritual people have been trying to tell us this forever. The magic is in the moment.