Getting into a Rut: Notes on The Philosophy of Andy Warhol


Andy Warhol writes about time spent alone – in a “rut”, as he calls it.

How he gets into a rut: “Go to my room, fluff up the pillow, turn on a couple of TVs, open a box of Ritz crackers, break the seal on a box of Russell Stovers, sit down with the latest issue of every magazine except TV Guide from the corner newsstand, then pick up the phone and call everybody I know to ask them to look in their TV Guides to tell me what’s on, what’s been on, what’s going to be on. I also enjoy rereading the newspaper.”

Sometimes people call him up when he’s alone like this, to talk about business. They always apologise for interrupting his rut. “They know how much I like it,” he says.

I think “rut” is such a good name for it. It makes me think of dirt, and I do always feel sort of grubby after a long enough time spent wallowing in the sort of way Warhol describes. Today it’s box sets and instant messaging.

I think Warhol explains well why time spent like this is so enjoyable. It comes down to the fact that when you’re not doing anything then it seems like time isn’t moving, and life might continue forever like this.

When time moves, things happen: new people, new problems. Warhol likes to keep things standing still for as long as possible.

Warhol doesn’t have much to say about death: his chapter on the subject is only a paragraph long. So perhaps he isn’t worried about that. Rather than trying to make himself immortal by doing nothing, Warhol is just trying to stop any more things happening for a while.

Warhol isn’t afraid of death, but he is afraid of “problems”: he just wants life to be as easy as possible.

Time spent in a rut is an intermission, or an “innermission”, he writes. You retreat into yourself, into an inner space where nothing is happening. Things only happen out there, in the world. If you’re here, where nothing is happening, then time isn’t moving, and you won’t have any problems for a while.

If you go out and do things, like going around travelling all the time, then life is going to move really fast. “I don’t like to travel,” writes Warhol, “because I really like slow time and for a plane you have to leave three or four hours ahead of time, so that’s a day right there. If you really want your life to pass like a movie in front of you, just travel, you can forget your life.”

Life is the opposite of a movie, for Warhol. Life shouldn’t just flash by. This explains why Warhol’s movies were so un-movie-like: he wanted to capture life, passing by slowly, so you almost can’t tell time is passing.

In his painting he aims for “quantity” above all else, he says. Doing the same thing again and again is the ideal: it’s easy, and there are no problems. Repetition is a way of staying in the same moment.

When we talk of someone “getting into a rut”, we usually mean to say: that person has a big problem. They’re stuck and they can’t get out. What Andy Warhol explains is that the reason we get into our ruts – to begin with, at least – is that they can seem like the perfect way to avoid the problems of the world altogether.

(Image is from Pixabay)

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7 Responses to Getting into a Rut: Notes on The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

  1. Therese says:

    My friend, the only one I ever really talked with here for the last few years (apart from my busy husband, of course) went back to his home country for good. And for the last 5 months, I’ve been feeling like I am forgetting what it’s like to have a conversation with a friend. I have so much time alone that now I don’t really complain about being on a plane 4 times a month!


    • leewatkins says:

      Oh no! You must miss him. Do you enjoy time alone? I find I can’t get enough of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Therese says:

        I enjoy time alone most of the time, but I like discussing my thoughts with a friend who understands me. And I enjoy listening to the thoughts of a friend with whom I may not agree but from whom I can learn. So yes, I really miss him.


      • leewatkins says:

        It’s nice when you find a friend like that. I think I wouldn’t be able to spend so much time alone if I didn’t enjoy reading so much, since books give me those voices to disagree with and learn from. I think you’re right, it’s important.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Therese says:

    Books are friends, too. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Operation X says:

    Eveeyone needs to retreat sometimes in order to recover from problems!

    Liked by 1 person

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