The Thing with Warhol & Watts

Andy Warhol Philosophy Happiness Religion Books Philosophy

Sometimes I feel the Universe picks my reading lists for me. Like when I read Mrs. Dalloway after Ulysses, not knowing the first was inspired by the second.  Or when I got The God of Small Things at an airport on my way to, of all places, Kerala.  And so it is that I read The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975) right after finishing Alan WattsThe Book (1966).

Andy Warhol’s book was written by him and is a hilarious repertoire of his views on just about everything, except God. Not once does he mention religion, spirituality or God. Alan Watts’ book is a mostly serious argument on how we are, in fact, God. So he mentions God, or IT, a lot.

But, the rich aftertaste of each is uncannily one and the same. Using very different words, they produce the only thing.

Here are a few examples:

1. Types of things

When Warhol says –

…you can’t do things that you’re not the type to do. It’s a bad idea.

Watts, in his type of way, agrees –

Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe.

2. The same thing

Mr. Warhol was all for things becoming the same thing because it made things fair –

You see, I think every painting should be the same size and the same color so they’re all interchangeable and nobody thinks they have a better painting or a worse painting And if the one “master painting” is good, they’re all good. Besides, even when the subject is different, people always paint the same painting.

Although things becoming the same thing did not make Mr. Watts very happy –

…fast intercommunication between points is making all points the same point. Waikiki Beach is just a mongrelized version of Atlantic City, Brighton, and Miami.

He did allow that all things were in the end, and in the beginning, the same thing –

Change is in some sense an illusion, for we are always at the point where any future can take us.

3. Death and sadness are not a thing

Because life and death are one single thing, and life can be happy, death can be happy, too. Mr. Warhol saw it happen-

I was in the Far East and I was walking down a path and there was a big happy party going on, and actually they were burning a person to death…I’m not saying you should be happy when a person dies, but just that it’s curious to see cases that prove you don’t have to be sad about it, depending on what you think it means, and what you think about what you think it means.

And, of course, Mr. Watts gave this matter a lot of thought-

Individual feelings about death are conditioned by social attitudes, and it is doubtful that there is any one natural and inborn emotion connected with dying… (Death) is the natural and necessary end of human life — as natural as leaves falling in the autumn.

4. How things can be better

Since you are your own thing, and since it’s all the same thing, and since death is a thing that is coming, there is only one thing to do. I’ve posted it before, but it’s just too much of a good thing –

Andy Warhol Books Art Culture

You can and should change the way you think about things so that your viewpoint fits the type of way that you are IT.

Mr. Warhol knew it –

Being smart could make you depressed, certainly, if you weren’t smart about what you were smart about. It’s viewpoint that’s important — not intelligence, probably.

Allan Watts taught it and explained it with an excerpt from James Broughton’s great poem “This is It” –

This is It

and I am It

and You are It

and so is That

and He is It

and She is It

and It is It

and That is That

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