Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Last of the Nazirites

"Don't you ever let a soul in the world tell you that you can't be exactly who you are."
— Lady Gaga

Have you ever heard of the Nazirites?  Let me tell you about them.

Since childhood I have known about the Israelite holy men and women known as the Nazirites.  I knew the story of Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist but I never really thought much about it.  It was only when listening to historian Ray Vander Laan's "That the World May Know" series that I learned the most important thing about the Nazirite vow namely the reason it exists.  See I knew from my days in Sunday School that the Nazarite vow required three things:
  • Abstain from wine, wine vinegar, grapes, raisins, intoxicating liquors and vinegar distilled from such.
  • Refrain from cutting the hair on one's head
  • Avoid corpses and graves, even those of family members, and any structure which contains such (Apparently for some this ban on dead things also meant not eating meat)
What I never thought to ask was why they had to do these things, why did these things made them "Holy unto the LORD"?  None of those things were wrong or immoral so why would abstaining from them make one holy?  Maybe the answer is in the fact that "holy" doesn't mean what you think it does (or at least back then it certainly didn't).  As I've written before, "holy" meant "different", "set apart", "unique" - which is exactly what the Nazirite vow set you up to be.  A Nazirite didn't look like everyone else, they couldn't fit in to society like everyone else.  To put it a different way, a Nazirite was a freak, but the important thing here is that they were freaks for a reason.  They had a purpose, they weren't just different for the sake of nonconformity.  Instead they were living reminders to the people of Israel that they too were supposed to be different, that they were a nation set apart by God and that they were not supposed to look like and live like all the other nations of the world.  Nazirites lived as freaks to remind those around them that they weren't supposed to blend in.  It brings my favourite quote from Angel to mind:  "Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh, and cruel. But that's why there's us - champions. Doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world is as it should be, to show it what it can be."

Those were the Nazirites of old.  Now, let me tell you about mine.

"For being different, it’s easy. But to be unique, it’s a complicated thing."
— Lady Gaga

There are a lot of words people use to describe Lady Gaga but I don't think the word "holy" is usually among them.  Yet if "holy" is to mean "different" and "unique" then she has to be the holiest person I know by a long shot!  There really is no one else like her.  Some artists reinvent themselves with every album they release but she seems to reinvent herself anew every morning.  She sets a new standard for concepts like "different" and "unique", she's a hyper dramatic, beautiful freak.  She may be full of shit but she is never less than true to herself.  She changes all the time and yet she is always aggressively her, sometimes only more so - every prop she ads on only makes her more her.  She stands out wherever she goes, she blends in nowhere and she is impossible to miss.  She is truly, fundamentally Holy/Different.

Every bit of me is devoted to love and art. And I aspire to try to be a teacher to my young fans who feel just like I felt when I was younger. I just felt like a freak. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm trying to liberate them, I want to free them of their fears and make them feel that they can make their own space in the world.
-- Lady Gaga

You know what, my description sounds a little clumsy.  I think she said it a lot better than me in her latest column for V Magazine (I'd very much recommend the entire article):
"Art is a lie. And every day I kill to make it true. It is my destiny to exist halfway between reality and fantasy at all times. They call me “theatrical,” but I posit profusely that I am theatre, and that theatre is me. I am a show with no intermission. It is this thing that summons me from the depths of reality and reminds me that the power of transformation is endless. That I (we) possess something magical and transformative inside —  a uniqueness and specialness waiting to be exiled from the depths of our identity. I have said before that I am a master of escapism, which many attribute to my wigs, performances, and my natural inclination to be grand, but perhaps that is also a lie. Maybe I am not escaping. Maybe I am just being. Being myself."

Now while she is clearly unique, that in itself is not enough to qualify her as a Nazirite.  After all, you can't throw a brick into a room full of artists without hitting someone "different" looking!  Merely looking strange is not enough, for a Nazirite is never odd just for the hell of it, a Nazirite is different for a purpose and that purpose involves other people.  Here is where she transcends most of her peers.  As you can probably tell from her quotes, she certainly does use her uniqueness as a platform to reach out to others, to remind them that it's OK for them to be different too.  To see how successful she is with her message, look no further than her fans.  Especially to unpopular, bullied teens and those in the LGBT community - in other words, those under the most pressure to suppress who they are and conform to societal expectations - she has been a light in the darkness.  This is her message and it is heard far and loud, you don't have to be like everyone else, you can be a freak and be proud.  You don't have to try to fit in, there's no shame if you don't, you can be who you are and be loved and valued for it.  If you let her, she will remind you that being yourself is a good thing.

"You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way."
— Lady Gaga

So then, may I present to you - Mother Monster, Champion of the queer, Friend of the odd,  Goddess of the Night, Queen of the freaks, High Priestess of the Holy Darkness,  Hammer of the Status Quo, Enemy of Conformity, The Voice of change calling you out from the desert of bland, the Strange Beauty, the Lying Truth, Patron Saint of Aggressively being yourself:  Lady Gaga, Last of the Nazirites!

"I want you to walk out of her tonight not loving me more, but loving yourselves more."
— Lady Gaga

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You have no clue what you're talking about.She is an illuminatus at her core the complete opposite of the Holy men of the Bible.