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Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson sitting on a bench on a waterfront boardwalk

3 Rules for a Simple Life From Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed


The creative pair shares a three-point compass for a light existence.

There are moments in our lives which occur with simplicity and lightness and others that pass, arduously and with difficulty. There are times when we only live, without further ado, and let the existence and circumstances flow. And it’s no less true that at certain times we resist, question, and doubt – we complicate life.

Is it possible to choose between these two extremes? Or is life just like that: oscillating between the two?

Perhaps it’s impossible to know. Think of how all of the ancient Greek philosophers, rather than asking us to think or to reflect on the state of the world, had as their main purpose the teaching of the “good life,” the “Eudaimonia.” But it’s no less true that sometimes wisdom can be found in a popular saying, in a few words spoken by a person we respect, or in the sudden epiphany that gives life – to life itself. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” says Hamlet.

On this occasion we’ll opt for the simple way. Life can be simple. At least this was the advice of Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, one of the most creative couples in the history of rock music.

This past April, Anderson gave a speech on the occasion of Reed’s posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Among other memories of her time with the musician, Anderson shared a small triptych of her rules for living. Three simple tips to live by:

Lou crosses my mind every hour. After a year and a half, I’m still waiting for him to call and sometimes he actually does call and suddenly I remember one of his phrases or some random words or songs we made up. And I’m reminded also of the three rules we came up with – rules to live by. And I’m going to tell you what they are because they come in really handy because things happen so fast it’s good to have a few catchwords to fall back on when there’s not enough time to think.

The first one is don’t be afraid of anyone. Now can you imagine living your life so that you are afraid of no one? And second is get a really good bullshit detector and learn how to use it.
 And third is be really, really tender.

Simple, right? Perhaps, after all, you may walk lightly through the world.

Photo by Annie Leibovitz.

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