I find myself stopping at points this morning, and just letting out deep sighs. There are passings and there are passings, you know? For me, and I assume many others, the loss of David Bowie has hit very hard.
It’s a strange sense I have, this thing with Bowie.
I loved his work. It’s widely varied and sometimes quite strange, but it’s unique and special. It catches my brain. When something by David Bowie comes on the radio, you never have to ask who it is, you know? It’s Bowie. Pure and simple. David Bowie was the only David Bowie there was, and you could not miss him even if you didn’t set eyes on him.
Not that you could miss him if you saw him, either. The man was freaking beautiful.
Startlingly. Fascinatingly. Freaking beautiful.
When I was a young guy, I didn’t get him, of course. He was just weird, you know? Iggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars? Holy moley, eh? What the hell is that? I hope you can give me a break, though, because I was eleven when that came out, and as I was growing up my mid-western American environment wasn’t exactly conducive to the idea that a sexually androgynous weirdo from outer space was supposed to be cool (or even vaguely acceptable, for that matter).
It didn’t take long, though, to separate the truth from the … uh … preconceived biases.
All you had to do was actually listen to him. And watch him. David Bowie meant something, and only a purposefully tone-deaf idiot could miss it.
Read that clause: David Bowie meant something.
When we lose a public figure, an actor, or a politician, or a musician, we lose something special. These people often carry memories with them—good or bad, these people make a difference to us by their actions and their creations. For me, I’ve come to thinking that this is the ultimate definition of a life’s purpose. Every person is valuable, but your purpose, your reason for living, lies in what you do or what you create rather than in something intrinsic to your mere existence. I think that’s the case for all of us, but some of us—the most public of us—work on a canvas that is just a bit bigger than the rest.
Public figures mold the world by their actions and creations. Where we mold maybe ten people, or maybe a hundred, or even (if we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and a huge spoonful of hubris) a thousand people, public figures can touch and change millions. David Bowie was no different there. For over fifty years, his work changed the lives of people around the world. My guess is that his art will continue to touch people for years and years.
But, to me, Bowie was that rare person who was even bigger than that.
By this I mean that the mere fact that there was a David Bowie walking on the planet made a difference. Standing there unapologetic in his moment of time, being who he was without spiteful intent but just because he was going to be it and to hell with the rest, making art—not just playing music, not just making a great time, not just entertaining—making art every time he stepped into a project, forcing you to accept him as he was, making you look at yourself in different ways merely by his presence. The overall collective of images and expressions that made up David Bowie meant something merely by existing. Do your thing, his existence said. Just do your thing and let everything else sod off and you’ll be fine.
We often lose public icons, but it’s rare that we lose a true artist.
Today, though, we did.
And that’s why I’m stopping here and there in the middle of my day, and sighing, not with sadness, but instead with a sense of loss that spreads all the way into the fabric of who we are.