Are these thoughts accelerated the more you become aware of your own mortality? “I’ve always been aware of my own mortality. Because when I was growing up there was always a lot of death around me. My mother died, my uncle died, my grandfather died, all in a really short space of time. My father re-married and had a child with step-mother, and that child died.
“When I moved to New York in 1978, six men died in front of my eyes. I watched them take their last breath. I’ve always had that feeling of, What is the point of living and of life? Then you have children and you have so much love for them, and you think, Oh my God, if anything ever happened to them I’d kill myself. Not literally, God forbid. All these questions get thrown up and you’d have to be an idiot not to want answers.”
And have you found any?
“I have the answer, yes. We’re here to share, to give, to love. When you die your physical body no longer exists, but your soul, and what you gave and how you loved goes with you.
“I believe in reincarnation and ultimately that we are all united. I’m sure that this is not the first life in this physical body and it won’t be the last. Is this freaking you out?” she asks.
No. Have you ever undergone hypnotism and regressed back to one of these past lives?
“No and I have no plans to either. Too much work to do.”
Two Of Madonna’s favorite things are watching her son dance naked and sitting up until three in the morning with her husband “talking about life and stuff”. Marriage and motherhood, she says, has made her happier than she’s ever been. Indeed, the centerpiece of the album is a tripytych of love songs to Ritchie – Nothing Fails, Intervention and X-Static Process.
The British tabloids have painted a less idyllic picture of the couple’s marriage. There have reports of arguments in restaurants and fights over who gets to furnish each of their homes. The inference being that it’s all destined to end in tears.
“The evil eye of envy hasn’t stopped,” says Madonna. “The press don’t want me to be happily married and have a family. Real love requires a lot of work and sometimes there’s a lot of disappointment. But always there’s hope. If you rely love someone you’ll stick it out no matter what. “All those songs are a reflection of that feeling. I can have a horrible fight with my husband and be really pissed of at him, but it’ll never end on a bad note because ultimately I believe in true love and our relationship.”
You said that Sean Penn was the love of your life during the In Bed With Madonna film. “But I hadn’t met Guy then, had I?” she says with a theatrical pout. “I felt I knew what love was when I married for the first time. That’s the other dream I’ve woken up out of. Love isn’t what you think it is either.”
So how do you define love now?
“The idea of giving just for the sake of giving, and not getting anything in return, that’s what I’ve come to understand unconditional love as It’s no just a crush, it’s not something you can have fun with, it’s not simply feeling sexually attracted to someone or digging what they do talent-wise. It’s so much more than that.
Quite frankly, before I met Guy, I really had my head up my arse as far as relationships go. I wasn’t a very giving person. Having children, really falling in love, head and shoulders, it changes you. There’s no time for nonsense anymore. When I listen to nitwits going on about how [affects camp American luvvie voice] Oh my god, we’re so in love…I think, Yeah, right. Wait till you’ve been with them for four years.”
Recently Madonna dreamt a Nazi party had seized control of America. There were curfews and food was rationed. Jews had to wear armbands, but Madonna was a resistance fighter. The final thing she remembers about her nightmare is having a clandestine meeting with her brother-in-law, the country singer Joe Henry. By happy coincidence she plays an uzi-toting resistance fighter in the video for the American Life single. Her people have been talking it up as a profound statement about the moral wrongs of the war on Iraq, but Madonna herself is more circumspect. “It is an anti-war statement, yes,” she acknowledges, “but it’s not necessarily against this war. At any given moment there’s at least 30 wars going on in this world and I’m against all of them.”
Her ex-husband has been less disingenuous about his feelings. In December he visited Iraq and wrote an open letter to President Bush in the Herald Tribune taking issue with his handling of the conflict. “Sean’s one if the few,” she says. “Good for him. Most celebrities are keeping their heads down. Nobody wants to be unpopular. But then Americans, by and large are pretty ignorant of what’s going on in the world.”