by Ethan Nichtern

(for more information on the Interdependence Project, visit

I’ll admit it, I’ve been listening to Lady Gaga this last week. Her new album The Fame Monster is out today. Call it a Bad Romance, and call me a dharma Paparazzi. And, forever interested in culture, I’ve been talking to people about her. We need to talk about her, don’t we? She might be the next Madonna, who has  been one of the biggest zeitgeist influences of the past generation. Even Madonna is talking about Lady Gaga. That means you’ve arrived on the scene and probably aren’t leaving.

It’s pretty interesting what thoughtful people think of this 23 year-old phenom. My fashion friends think she’s a genuine heroine of couture, artistically gifted with the IT factor. My Buddhist friends interested in deconstructed identity love her ironic dance with celebrity. My serious yogi/meditator friends interested in navel-gazing are pretty much the only ones who say “Lady who? Why you talking like a baby?”

So here’s the problem. I have this tiny addiction, call it a longing that won’t let me rest, to meaning. I want life to be meaningful, and I want my time to be meaningful. I’m averse to meaninglessness in general.  And it’s pretty clear to me that Lady Gaga has a codependently Bad Romance with meaning.

Of course, what I have is a bad case of ideological materialism, which is a bit more intellectual, but none the less deadly, than it’s physical counterpart. I’m working on it. That’s why I’m Gaga for Lady Gaga. It’s good practice for me.

I also have this lifelong realization that art and culture which focus too self-consciously on meaning and the spiritual dimension are often cringe-worthy,  lacking the aesthetic hook and couture-edge of their meaning-averse counterparts. Rare and uber-powerful are the exceptions to this trend. Saul Williams would be a good example for me, someone who constantly goes for the spiritual and pulls it off.

Why is this? Why, when an artist goes for something spiritual orpolitical, do we usually start yawning? Why, when an artist writes asong and video celebrating destructive codependent relationships, do weall start dancing our asses off?

I don’t know about you, but Idefinitely have a Bad Romance with 21st Century Culture in general.”Paparazzi” may as well be the Heart Sutra.

(picture from Lady Gaga’s Website. Video courtesy of the inseparability of Samsara and Nirvana)

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