Lady Gaga– over the past few years she has become a household name, an idol to millions, and a source of never-ending controversy. Who is this mysterious superstar? Is she an earnest eccentric or a clever performance artist? Are shadowy forces ensuring her success from on high? And why is it that she and Cher have never been seen together at the same time? Perhaps questions such as these are unanswerable, and, like the Sphinx or the Bermuda Triangle, Ms. Gaga will remain an enigmatic testament to paradox and the unknown.
Nevertheless, as an independent bookseller, it is my sworn duty to bring light and knowledge to humanity. To that effect, I have written this essay with the intent of bringing my narrow learning to the field of Gag(a)ology. Recently it came to my attention that Ms. Gaga was seen sporting a German quote tattooed on her arm, translated roughly as, “Dig deep into your heart, where the answer spreads its roots in your being, and ask yourself solemnly, Must I write?” Now, as any aspiring neo-Romantic would know, this is a quote from the POAB-approved “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke. Elucidating on the subject of Rilke, Ms. Gaga commented that the German poet was “her favorite philosopher.” Nevermind the fact that Rilke only ever wrote poetry and letters rejecting philosophy in favor of the mystical, emotional and poetic elements of consciousness– perhaps she has no use for the distinction between poets and philosophers. By this token, if we were to take this interchangeability a step further, the Lady could be deemed a philospher herself.
I suppose there is no harm, then, in looking for Rilke’s influence in the philosophy of Gaga. The most obvious sign of Gaga’s Rilkean tendency is in her use of contradictory statements. Rilke was quoted as saying, “I fear in me only those contradictions which are inclined to reconciliation,” which is as good a statement as any to characterize the way Rilke nurtured and engendered contradiction and incongruity in his poetry. Gaga also shows a favor for statements that contradict themselves: “I wanna have a bad romance,” “You fooled me again with your honest eyes,” etc. Another strong Rilkean theme is the idea of embracing suffering. As he put it, “the purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things,” hopefully viewing defeat as a source of greater magnanimity and wisdom. Gaga perhaps parrots this idea in songs like “I Like it Rough,” “Here We Go Again” and the aforementioned “Bad Romance.” (Of course, we can also assert that John Cougar Mellencamp also explored this idea in “Hurts So Good.” An idea I will further develop if I ever again find myself located in 1982.)
A final thought on this matter pertains to the song ‘”Poker Face” and its connection to Rilke’s idea of love. As Rilke puts it, “once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.” Given a bit of mental acrobatics, it is possible to see in “Poker Face” the story of a woman whose love for another encourages within her a desire to protect her own solitude. Knowing that her poker face masks a vast and mysterious distance within herself, she must maintain it at all costs, and she knows that the longing, itself beneath the mask, is as important and integral as the love it contradicts, and so the P-P-P-Poker Face must remain intact.
Because little else is known of Gaga besides her infatuation with Rilke and Gag(a)ology is a field in its infancy, I’m sure future scholars will chortle at the assertions we make based on scant evidence today. I accept this somberly in the name of philosophy.
Posted by Kevin