Vulture

Skip to content, or skip to search.

you don't say

Allow Actor-Philosopher André De Shields to Blow Your Mind

Currently appearing opposite Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen on Broadway in Impressionism, André De Shields recently had a deep chat with us in which he kindly laid out his personal philosophies. Below are some choice thoughts we couldn’t fit into this week’s already remarkably wide-ranging Q&A, including ones on Barack Obama’s great failing, the proof that Shakespeare smoked pot, and the origins of Ponzi schemes.

On One World
There’s nothing homogeneous about the universe. So why should we be? Borders have always been illusory. I learned that a long time ago when I worked in Alaska. You know, living in New York, you watch the weather report, and the cold front is always coming in from Canada. Well, you go to Canada, the cold front is coming in from Alaska. Then you go to Alaska, the cold front is coming in from Siberia. Well, just follow that, and you’ll be back in New York again. Why is it that when someone says, “We are one,” we are dismissed as new-age innocents or naïve? That’s one of those immutable truths.

On Thinking Versus Feeling
Perception is everything. And perception is visceral. Perception is feeling, not intellect. I’m not dissing intellect. But Western society has been Cartesian for so long, you know. Everything we experience as important really starts here [points at his gut]. Love, anger, joy, diarrhea, you know. And that makes so much sense! I mean, forget that it makes sense. It’s so true.

On Organized Religion
I’ve already shared mine with you: The universe always says yes. I’m terribly organized. Capricorn. Triple Capricorn. Freud would call me anal-retentive, but I’m not a Freudian. But I definitely agree with Karl Marx: Religion is the opiate of the masses.

On the Philosophical Approach to Acting
Now I completely understand that the top of one mountain is the bottom of the next. When that’s revealed to you, then it’s like, “Oh, wow. How brilliant is that, that I spend my time trying to make it? I don’t waste my time trying to be king of the mountain. Or saying, “Here I am at, on the pinnacle, and I can take in the panorama.” Sure, for a second you breathe in this rarified air. But keep looking up, because the next mountain is waiting for you to scale, and then the next, and then the next, and then the next, and then the next.

On iPhones and BlackBerrys
One of the reasons why I do not have a gadget: Our young people spend their lives like this [looks down into his hands]. They have to invent something to make you do that [looks up at the ceiling]. You’re missing out on humanity. There’s no light in there. There’s no enlightenment in there.

On Other Ways of Avoiding Enlightenment
We’ll nail people to crosses not to be enlightened. We’ll break their bodies on racks not to be enlightened, we’ll work out any sort of Ponzi schemes not to be enlightened. We’ll print as much money as we want until it’s worthless to avoid being enlightened. When did you ever see light come out of a dollar bill? Never. And you never will, ‘cause there’s no light in there. War is not the answer. Money is not the answer. Enlightenment is the answer.

On Barack Obama
He’s a smart guy. But he’s not enlightened, either. He’s throwing money after the same problem we’ve been throwing money after. Guys, haven’t you figured this out yet? No one will even touch it; no one will even say the word “enlightened,” ‘cause they’re afraid of being dismissed as naïve, dismissed as anti-capitalist, dismissed as pinko-communist, socialist, whatever. You know, “faggot” …

On the Middle East
The truth is, resources are infinite. There’s enough for everybody. If the deserts of Israel can bloom, why can’t the deserts of Sudan bloom? [As for Israel’s problems], that’s the illusion. There are only winners. There’re losers only because we believe there is not enough to go around, but there is enough to go around. If the motherfuckers stop hoarding.

On Global Warming
We talk about saving the planet, but the planet’s taking care of itself. The planet is saying, look, you folks are young. We do this every 25,000 years.

On the Bard
To thine own self be true. Yeah. And thou cant’st be false to anyone. That’s another one of those immutable laws of the universe. Shakespeare smoked marijuana. Of course, they’re not gonna tell you that.

Related: The Impressionist: André De Shields [NYM]

Photo: Lia Chang