"It's simply very easy to subordinate oneself to a worldview that's supportive of one's own interests."
December 23, 2009 12:54 AM   Subscribe

A reading by Wallace Shawn: "I like to be reminded of these poor people, the 'unobtrusives', and then, I like to be reminded of my lack of interest in them." [C-SPAN video player] (Previously: 1, 2)

From Shawn's new book, Essays. Alternate (truncated) Youtube video. Also: Wallace shawn reads Howard Zinn; Interviewed on Al Jazeera (Pt. 1, 2); Shawn interviews Noam Chomsky [PDF].
posted by benzenedream (71 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
"they lived in these giant houses... these giants... because they could spin gold out of human suffering"
posted by dongolier at 1:04 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


i love the 2nd essay he reads on CSPAN (33min onwards): its an amazing synthesis of war, pornography, addiction and nationalism.
posted by dongolier at 2:06 AM on December 23, 2009




I first learned of Wallace Shawn via his play, Aunt Dan and Lemon.
posted by goofyfoot at 3:16 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I first learned of Wallace Shawn via his acting, in Pincess Bride.
posted by eclectist at 3:51 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice use of the 'inconceivable' tag, btw.
posted by hydatius at 3:58 AM on December 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


I think his analysis is a little over the top. Certainly, the rich take more then their fair share from the workers, and certainly there are a lot of people who's lives are terrible (especially around the world) but I don't generally think of waiters as being poor and miserable. Most of the people who work in factories in the U.S. these days make decent money, in fact there is a lot of political support for creating more blue collar jobs because people like them so much.

In fact, I would guess that most of the people who eat in nice restaurants are the same kind of people who would might be working in them at some point in their lives, like when they're younger.

(Note: I only watched the first 10 minutes on youtube. I might come back and watch the rest later)
posted by delmoi at 4:13 AM on December 23, 2009


Certainly, the rich take more then their fair share from the workers ...

Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed ... in Greenland?!
posted by bwg at 4:39 AM on December 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


I first learned of Wallace Shawn from his mother, who sent out a birth announcement to friends and family.
posted by billysumday at 5:04 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wallace Shawn isn't so much interested in the suffering of the poor, as he is determined that his suffering over the world's disparities of privilege and income. The flaw in his histrionic breast beating and ingeniously contrived denunciations of his own class, is that there is already an entire philosophy, indeed, a whole movement, highly organized and well-thought-out, that embraces his emotional and intellectual world view and offers its members theology, praxis, and purpose in life. It's called Christianity.
posted by Faze at 5:12 AM on December 23, 2009


Lolxtianbreast
posted by condour75 at 5:35 AM on December 23, 2009


Maybe Faze's post could be better framed as a Sarah Palin tweet:

Y does shwn cmpln whn he cd b Christian and slv all prblms w Jesus?
posted by fleetmouse at 5:37 AM on December 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


In fact, I would guess that most of the people who eat in nice restaurants are the same kind of people who would might be working in them at some point in their lives, like when they're younger.

It's the reverse that isn't true.
posted by enn at 5:46 AM on December 23, 2009


Faze: "The flaw in his histrionic breast beating...."

Faze: "indeed, a whole movement, highly organized and well-thought-out, that embraces his emotional and intellectual world view and offers its members theology, praxis, and purpose in life. It's called Christianity....."

I'm sorry; who's the drama queen in that little play in your head?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:08 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey guys, I've got an idea, how about this time, instead of letting Faze derail the entire thread with his characteristic single bit of excreta, we don't?
posted by enn at 6:27 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's called Christianity.

What are you on? Clearly it's called Islam. Or was it Judaism? Buddhism, perhaps?

Most world religions share tenets of charity, compassion, and community. Christianity is not even close to unique in its world-view. What makes Christianity unique isn't even its God, as that God is shared directly with Judaism and Islam. It's mostly just about a radical hippie Jew who stole Odin's schtick of hanging from a culturally important piece of wood (Yggdrasil/crucifix) for a culturally important number of days (9/3) and gaining power through the ritual (knowledge/rebirth).

"Christianity" is about Jesus and what Jesus can do for you. That's it. Anything else that is a "Christian value" is rarely specific to Christianity and most often not even specific to religion. Compassion, community, and charity are human values that anyone, not just a Christian, can appreciate. It is frankly offensive to co-opt the better parts of humanity as "Christianity" and play the No-True-Scotsman fallacy to a T when Christianity does anything bad ("a REAL Christian wouldn't act that way...")
posted by explosion at 6:32 AM on December 23, 2009 [31 favorites]


I can't be the only one who found his presence in Moore's latest film very comic.
posted by atrazine at 6:51 AM on December 23, 2009


Still waiting for that My Dinner With Andre play set...
posted by Madamina at 6:58 AM on December 23, 2009


Compassion, community, and charity are human values that anyone, not just a Christian, can appreciate. It is frankly offensive to co-opt the better parts of humanity as "Christianity" and play the No-True-Scotsman fallacy to a T when Christianity does anything bad ("a REAL Christian wouldn't act that way...")

I cannot favorite this hard enough. Well said.
posted by zarq at 7:01 AM on December 23, 2009


Ah yes, and I remember his cameo on Cosby, as the white friend (never mentioned before or since) of the family who took a much younger wife. And had a hilarious toupee/neon sweater midlife crisis makeover.

Shawn, like all the other peripheral characters, are the only only things that make Princess Bride re-watchable, given that the leads are comprised of a chilly, slightly stupid woman in love with a mind-game-playing douchebag. Thankfully, their "romance" is merely an excuse for Shawn, Andre the Giant, Billy Crystal, and the rest to do some excellent stuff.

Sadly, my work computer will not allow the player to play, but thanks benzenedream for the post, I'll watch it later.
posted by emjaybee at 7:15 AM on December 23, 2009


Shawn, like all the other peripheral characters, are the only only things that make Princess Bride re-watchable, given that the leads are comprised of a chilly, slightly stupid woman in love with a mind-game-playing douchebag.

Life is douchebags, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:32 AM on December 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


Needs Grand Nagus tag.
posted by the bricabrac man at 7:32 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I first learned of Wallace Shawn from the Oracle at Delphi, in 586 B.C.
posted by vronsky at 8:05 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I first learned of Wallace Shawn at the dawn of Time Itself, the Big Bang, during a critical millisecond of nucleosynthesis.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:14 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wallace Shawn was my stepson in an alternate universe where I was the King of Prussia and his mother was an Austro-Hungarian princess with webbed toes.
posted by MikeMc at 8:27 AM on December 23, 2009


The phone call informing me of Wallace Shawn's existence is coming from inside the multiverse!
posted by lukemeister at 8:40 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I first learned of Wallace Shawn when I became self-aware, because I am he and he is me.
posted by Think_Long at 8:42 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I first learned of Wallace Shawn when he hired me to kidnap the princess and help him start a war. It's a prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition.
posted by inigo2 at 8:50 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I first learned of Wallace Shawn when I became self-aware, because I am he and he is me.

So, who's the walrus, then?
posted by hippybear at 8:54 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


SUP DAWG? WE HEARD YOU LIKE WALLY SHAWN, SO WE PUT WALLY SHAWN IN YO THREAD SO YOU CAN MEME WHILE YOU WALLY SHAWN!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:00 AM on December 23, 2009


Most world religions share tenets of charity, compassion, and community.

Which they copied from Christianity.
posted by Faze at 9:11 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Most world religions share tenets of charity, compassion, and community.

Which they copied from Christianity.

The deva asked,

    What causes ruin in the world?
    What breaks off friendships?
    What is the most violent fever?
    Who is the best physician?

The Buddha replied,

    Ruin in the world is caused by ignorance;
    friendships are broken off by envy and selfishness;
    the most violent fever is hatred;
    and the best physician is probably this Jesus guy from the future;
    I mean seriously you just go up to him and he touches you and you get better;
    he's a pretty awesome dude;
    also I kind of stole all these teachings from him;
    don't tell anyone.
posted by decagon at 9:24 AM on December 23, 2009 [8 favorites]


Try out this new advertising tagline for a horror movie about a dimension of evil:

"Listen: there's a HELL of a good universe next door; let's go."
posted by grobstein at 9:24 AM on December 23, 2009


Which they copied from Christianity.

what.
posted by 235w103 at 9:35 AM on December 23, 2009


Faze got out from under the wrong side of the bridge this morning? :P
posted by hippybear at 9:40 AM on December 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


Most world religions share tenets of charity, compassion, and community.

Which they copied from Christianity.


Which Christianity copied from Wallace Shawn.

But really, in what world do you live in where Christianity is older than Judaism?
posted by Think_Long at 9:49 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Jews also clearly copied the idea of a December-based festival from the Christians.
posted by kcds at 9:53 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well Christianity should have covered their paper by curling their arm around it and hunching over.
posted by Babblesort at 10:20 AM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


All I'm saying is that if Wallace Shawn isn't the first person in the world to experience this exquisite guilt and sensitivity to the unfairness of things. Far better men than he have given over their minds to these problems, and their collective musings are loosely (or strictly, depending on your sect) bound in the tenets of Christianity, as they are expressed in the Gospels, the other books of the New Testament, or in the subsequent (and incredibily brilliantly thought-out) ideas and theologies of later Christian thinkers, from Augustine, to Pascal, to Johnson and, yes, C.S. Lewis. Compared to the deep, rich and abundant intellectual history of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam offer only fortune cookie mental gimcrackery. (And everyone knows that Christianity is the super-enriched form of Judaism.) Once Christianity took off in the world, all these other mytho-philosophical world views started taking credit for its insights -- including Wallace Shawn, who (to get back to my point) seems to think he's the only person sensitive enough to ever have truly felt the pain of the world's unfairness and inequalities. If he feels so strongly about it, he should become a priest.
posted by Faze at 10:21 AM on December 23, 2009


I have always known of Wallace Shawn for I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, who was, and who is yet to come. Behold, I make all things new.
posted by electroboy at 10:36 AM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Compared to the deep, rich and abundant intellectual history of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam offer only fortune cookie mental gimcrackery.

Gotta love those fortune cookie gimmicks like algebra or the concept of zero.

Dude, it's a confirmation bias. You speak English, and Christianity is the dominant and default religion in English-speaking societies. If you spoke Arabic, you'd know tons of history of Islamic scholars instead.

Alternately, you're a trolly-troll-troll. I imagine the Krampus will be visiting you shortly.
posted by explosion at 10:37 AM on December 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


And everyone knows that Christianity is the super-enriched form of Judaism

Well, I most closely identify with Unitarianism - Judaism-lite at best.
posted by Think_Long at 10:42 AM on December 23, 2009


Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
I am large, I contain multitudes.
posted by Wallace Shawn at 10:49 AM on December 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


All I'm saying

14? Maybe 15?
posted by maxwelton at 10:57 AM on December 23, 2009


Faze:there is already an entire philosophy, indeed, a whole movement, highly organized and well-thought-out, that embraces his emotional and intellectual world view and offers its members theology, praxis, and purpose in life. It's called Christianity.

I was under the impression that Christianity was about accepting the Jesus of Nazareth was the divine son of God, and the re-enacting symbolic cannibalism of his human sacrifice was the only way to escape the eternal fires of Hell because Jehovah is a savage god who holds a grudge, and for whom only blood sacrifice is enough to please him, and that humans are a priori damned to suffer enternally because of Adam & Eve.

I thought Christianity was about Do it our way or burn in Hell?*

Did I miss something?

I first learned about Wallace Shawn when my parents sat down with me & my sister to watch My Dinner With Andre on VHS back in the last century. I learned about the frustration of meandering, conversation movies at the same time.
* Although these days, the "Prosperity Gospel" seems to be more about "Jesus rewards those who pray with money and cars".
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:58 AM on December 23, 2009


I will spend the holidays assuming that the user Wallace Shawn is actually Wallace Shawn, and thinking that's pretty awesome that he signed up to make that comment in this thread. Please don't burst my bubble until the New Year. KTHXBYE.
posted by davejay at 11:41 AM on December 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


there is already an entire philosophy, indeed, a whole movement, highly organized and well-thought-out, that embraces his emotional and intellectual world view and offers its members theology, praxis, and purpose in life. It's called Christianity.

Wow, I got all that without signing up for Christianity. Now I feel like I cheated. Are they going to bill me later?
posted by davejay at 11:42 AM on December 23, 2009


I'm sorry, Faze keeps typing, but the words, they aren't making any sense.
posted by sandraregina at 11:43 AM on December 23, 2009


Wallace Shawn, Wallace Shawn
You tread now in a place forgone
Ages ago, ages anon
When pipers played the breaking dawn
And Leda dallied with a swan
And throughout the woods capered faun
It's from this time your words are drawn
From the Bible










Unless I read it wrong.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:56 AM on December 23, 2009


I was under the impression that Christianity was about accepting the Jesus of Nazareth was the divine son of God, and the re-enacting symbolic cannibalism of his human sacrifice was the only way to escape the eternal fires of Hell because Jehovah is a savage god who holds a grudge, and for whom only blood sacrifice is enough to please him, and that humans are a priori damned to suffer enternally because of Adam & Eve.

Ooo, ooo! Do Judaism next!

I love it when people take the lamest and worst parts of a religion, mischaracterize some of it, and then ascribe it to everybody that identifies with that religion!
posted by jabberjaw at 11:58 AM on December 23, 2009


Keep in mind that many Christians don't align on this philosophy that the social justice is part of The Gospel. Especially tradition conservative evangelicals. They tend to be more concerned with moral issues and not social issues. In fact they will label as heretics the emerging movements in the church that do look at social justice as part of the core message of Christianity.

I have been looking into this and it turns out that The Bible mentions care for the poor over 2000 times. If mentions sexual morality about 50 times. Jesus himself never mentions anything about homosexuality.

I have been trying to understand where the traditional Evangelical Church has gotten so far off of message and why they are so threatened by a return to the core values of serving the poor and by dropping the whole gay marriage, moralist agenda.

Yes, Jesus offers eternal salvation but also addresses the salvation for the world he created when he mentions the Kingdom of God he in The Lord's Prayer "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven..."
posted by empty vessel at 12:01 PM on December 23, 2009


I have been trying to understand where the traditional Evangelical Church has gotten so far off of message and why they are so threatened by a return to the core values of serving the poor and by dropping the whole gay marriage, moralist agenda.

It's not unusual for religious followers to cherrypick Bible passages to support their own worldview. Notice that Evangelicals don't really seem to fixate much on hyposcisy, even though Jesus saved some of his most savage jeremiads for them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:06 PM on December 23, 2009


There's this guy named Wallace Shawn!
posted by hell toupee at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2009


I first learned of Wallace Shawn from my last post.
posted by hell toupee at 12:09 PM on December 23, 2009


(And everyone knows that Christianity is the super-enriched form of Judaism.)

Christianity dumped many of the basic tenets of Judaism (some of the Noachide Laws, circumcision, covenant with G-d, national revelation, kashrut,) and added elements that completely contradict Jewish beliefs (prayer through intermediaries, idolatry, worship of a triune god, a messiah with supernatural or miraculous powers whom they worship as a demi-god, (or if you prefer, as a single part of that same triune god,) etc., etc.,).

Christianity is a different religion. It may have been founded in Jewish principles, but it's certainly not Judaism, super-enriched or otherwise.
posted by zarq at 12:11 PM on December 23, 2009


I'm trying to figure out how we got from Wallace Shawn's essays to an argument about religion.

I also fail to see how it fucking matters that the subject of the essay happens to be about a person living a privileged life who examines his status and the status of those around him and sees ignorance and blindness to the suffering of people who do not enjoy those same privileges (and will probably never enjoy them) and tries to put a name to this phenomena, in order to elucidate in words, his chosen career and skill, something which he observes. In other words, he is being a good writer.

I give him 2 thumbs up and I enjoyed the reading.

The rest of you can go sit on a rusty spike.
posted by daq at 12:14 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


All I'm saying is that if Wallace Shawn isn't the first person in the world to experience this exquisite guilt and sensitivity to the unfairness of things. Far better men than he have given over their minds to these problems, and their collective musings are loosely (or strictly, depending on your sect) bound in the tenets of Christianity, as they are expressed in the Gospels, the other books of the New Testament, or in the subsequent (and incredibily brilliantly thought-out) ideas and theologies of later Christian thinkers, from Augustine, to Pascal, to Johnson and, yes, C.S. Lewis. Compared to the deep, rich and abundant intellectual history of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam offer only fortune cookie mental gimcrackery. (And everyone knows that Christianity is the super-enriched form of Judaism.) Once Christianity took off in the world, all these other mytho-philosophical world views started taking credit for its insights -- including Wallace Shawn, who (to get back to my point) seems to think he's the only person sensitive enough to ever have truly felt the pain of the world's unfairness and inequalities. If he feels so strongly about it, he should become a priest.

In my version of the thread continuity, this comment never happened. Accordingly, the earlier comment "Which they stole from Christianity" is still an obvious and brilliant joke, which is why I favorited it.
posted by grobstein at 12:38 PM on December 23, 2009


I enjoyed the reading as well. As far as the religion thing goes it's like a match into a puddle of gasoline. One feels compelled to respond.
posted by empty vessel at 12:49 PM on December 23, 2009


If Wallace Shawn did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
posted by bicyclefish at 12:51 PM on December 23, 2009


If Wallace Shawn did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

I did invent Wallace Shawn.
posted by MikeMc at 1:02 PM on December 23, 2009


It is time to explain myself—let us stand up.

What is known I strip away,
I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown.

The clock indicates the moment—but what does eternity indicate?

We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers,
There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.

Births have brought us richness and variety,
And other births will bring us richness and variety.

I do not call one greater and one smaller,
That which fills its period and place is equal to any.

Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my brother, my sister?
I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me,
All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation,
What have I to do with lamentation?

I am an acme of things accomplish'd, and I an encloser of things to be.
posted by Wallace Shawn at 1:05 PM on December 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Just for the record I did not invent Dick Shawn.
posted by MikeMc at 1:11 PM on December 23, 2009


Most world religions share tenets of charity, compassion, and community.

Which they copied from Christianity.

"But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."
posted by ibmcginty at 1:27 PM on December 23, 2009


All I'm saying is that if Wallace Shawn isn't the first person in the world to experience this exquisite guilt and sensitivity to the unfairness of things.

Parse error. Unclosed conditional statement.
posted by odinsdream at 1:40 PM on December 23, 2009


I am an acme of things accomplish'd, and I an encloser of things to be.

It's such a wonderful experience here with Wallace Shawn.
posted by odinsdream at 1:47 PM on December 23, 2009


and that humans are a priori damned to suffer enternally because of Adam & Eve.

You don't understand what a priori means, do you?
posted by jayder at 2:35 PM on December 23, 2009


Which they copied from Christianity.

Faze, I'm normally comfortable with ambiguity and humor, but I've gotta know if you're kidding. You are, right? Because that is one of the funnier punchlines I've read on MeFi in awhile.
posted by belvidere at 4:41 PM on December 23, 2009


Parse error. Unclosed conditional statement.

Yeah. Sorry. That "if' snuck in there as an artifact from a previous version of that sentence.
posted by Faze at 4:45 PM on December 23, 2009


he should become a priest.
posted by telstar at 5:59 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


All I'm saying is that if Wallace Shawn isn't the first person in the world to experience this exquisite guilt and sensitivity to the unfairness of things.

Parse error. Unclosed conditional statement.

Yeah. Sorry. That "if' snuck in there as an artifact from a previous version of that sentence.
You're both wrong - he meant "if'n", as in "If'n you ain't the grandaddy of all liars!"
posted by kcds at 9:02 AM on January 3, 2010


re-enacting symbolic cannibalism of his human sacrifice

Uh. No. In case you missed it, "Christ" wasn't his last name. Christianity has held for millennia that Jesus Christ had a human nature and a divine nature, both. That's what the two-part name refers to.

The body of Jesus was flesh and blood, as any mortal body is, but Christ is salvation sent by God and the body of Christ is the Church. Partaking of it means being in communion with the Church. That's why it's called Communion.

Show me a priest who consecrates "the Body and Blood of Jesus" and I'll show you a celebrant of tradition that uncomfortably approaches symbolic cannibalism. Those who consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ are feeding the parish not symbols of human flesh but salvation by grace.

If you're going to pick out and deride the most interesting/odd bits of a religious tradition, you might start by actually understanding what you're talking about.
posted by jock@law at 4:02 PM on January 4, 2010


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