April 17, 2018
Kanye West plans to write a philosophy book
by Alex Primiani
The moment w’ve all been waiting for has arrived. According to David Turner at Jezebel, Kanye West is writing a book.
The news was revealed rather nonchalantly by West himself, in a conversation with designer Axel Vervoordt for the Hollywood Reporter. In true West fashion, he dropped word of his intention to write a philosophy book called Break the Simulation briefly, tying it to his musings on humanity’s relationship with photography, and his own relationship with time:
“I’ve got this new concept that I’ve been diggin’ into. I’m writing a philosophy book right now called Break the Simulation. And I’ve got this philosophy — or let’s say it’s just a concept because sometimes philosophy sounds too heavy-handed. I’ve got a concept about photographs, and I’m on the fence about photographs—about human beings being obsessed with photographs—because it takes you out of the now and transports you into the past or transports you into the future. It can be used to document, but a lot of times it overtakes [people].”
West also speaks of his desire to be “like water.”
“I don’t wish to be number one anymore, I wish to be water. I wish to be closer to UNICEF or something where I can take the information that I have and help as many people as possible, not to just shove it into a brand.”
His comments recalled the words of martial arts master and fellow genius Bruce Lee. A few years ago, Maria Popova discussed Lee’s famous goal of “being like water” on her blog Brainpickings. Water feels no pain, can take any shape, and appears to be manipulated by outside forces but really finds itself adapting by distancing itself from the emotion and tangibility of its present state.
Popova quotes Lee:
“Suddenly a bird flew by and cast its reflection on the water. Right then I was absorbing myself with the lesson of the water, another mystic sense of hidden meaning revealed itself to me; should not the thoughts and emotions I had when in front of an opponent pass like the reflection of the birds flying over the water? This was exactly what [Lee’s kung fu instructor] Professor Yip meant by being detached — not being without emotion or feeling, but being one in whom feeling was not sticky or blocked. Therefore in order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.”
West’s thoughts are also reminiscent of a much older thinker: Lucretius. In his long philosophical poem, On the Nature of Things, the Roman poet examines the world and its functions in extreme, compartmentalized detail. One of the landmark texts of Epicureanism, his poem offers a philosophy of living. (It’s also one of the first written texts to suggest that matter is made of tiny, indivisible particles — or to call these particles “atoms.”) West wants to be like UNICEF, and to not be “shoved into a brand.” What he wants is to be infinitesimal, to be everywhere, and to react to everything. So deep.
All this to say, hooray for Kanye West’s philosophy-book-in-progress Break the Simulation. And Yeezy, if you’re reading this — can we get a look at that manuscript, please?
Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.