I’ve mentioned to friends many times that growing up without a father, I was afforded a latitude of sorts to model myself after whomever I chose as surrogate. Certainly, there have been many, but David Bowie was the father of fathers in that regard. Lest anyone be confused, no, I never met him. I was only a fan, and I am confident that many of his fans have feelings akin to mine.
In an existence that demands conformity, he didn’t merely assure us that it was okay to be ourselves, he pushed us to be proud of what made us unique. And just as we got our minds around that, he added that we could make ourselves into whomever we wanted to be and completely revise ourselves whenever it simply suited us. So for 43 years, I have done so. The symbol tattooed on my wrist represents chaos. Change is my essence, but that essence was given to me and today, I must express my gratitude for it.
It is a sad truth that many of us creative-types lost our North-Star yesterday, as it became the Blackstar, a singularity collapsing in on itself as it succumbs to its own gravity. In order to be a professional creative, you must have faith in your vision, endure the struggle to realize it, and mute those little, nagging voices that constantly pressure you to conform your vision with what has safely come before. It takes bloody-minded nerve. It takes heroic bravery. It demands clarity of purpose, even if that purpose is merely some instinctive feeling that draws you in an unexpected direction.
Creative individuals go into the unexplored and return with the spoils that others are too fearful or incapable of getting for themselves. All of my life, the example who showed me that there is no territory too far afield has been David Bowie and I never would have had the bravery to take the chances that I have were it not for him. I don’t know that I would have had the faith to finally leave behind my struggles with substances were it not for his example. I don’t know that I would have believed that you could remain vital and creative throughout the whole of a career were it not for him. And these truths are bewildering because on paper, nothing he did should have ever worked out. He took his strangest cracks and made them chasms between himself and the mainstream, which only drew the mainstream irresistibly, gravitationally to him. While he worked hard to maintain his relevance, he never chased it. He just simply reinvented himself in such a way that the mainstream couldn’t possibly ignore.
David Bowie often identified with aliens but David Bowie was not himself an alien. He was a human being and his death reinforces that truth. But being human does not preclude dual status as alien.
Many of us grew up unable to relate to our surroundings, or indeed our own natures. David alone was culturally able to bring our quirks and disconnects into harmony. Without him, this world couldn’t have made sense for many of us. He was as weird as anything gets at times, yet he was famous and loved for it. If he could be so loved by so many, then surely the rest of us aliens could be too. Bowie made it clear the way to earning that love was to be ourselves, as strange and remarkable as we all are at our most essential.
Today, I am undeniably distraught at David Bowie’s passing, but it is the way with fathers that they must die one day. It follows that in his passing away, we have been passed his responsibility: to show all the young aliens we meet that they too can be at home on Earth, that they should be brave enough to follow their visions and be whatever they are and whatever they want to become. We must show them that there is nothing to be afraid of out there but accepting our unrealized selves. For the brighter they shine, the more they will enrich all of our lives.
David Bowie’s relentless persistence, bravery, and dogged creativity are a formidable legacy to be certain. But a legacy is only valid so long as its inheritors work to keep it alive. We have Bowie’s entire life to see, from beginning to end now. Let us keep him and his legacy alive in the way that best befits his memory.