David Bowie has died. And with that, it feels like a star system with a fair amount of presence in the universe has collapsed. I rarely mourn the loss of an artiste. But to me, this feels like a personal loss. Apart from the incredibly cool persona, and I suppose personality, he had — and I hate to use the word cool here but how else do you describe a man who explored extremes of the gender borders we set for ourselves, who travelled to the stars and beyond and wrote about them in a language that would proceed to move your spirit — his music and lyricism spoke to me. Hell, even his name stood out for me. But, more than anything else, his acceptance of weird not being weird, of strange only being an idea in the head of those who lived outside of him, those who weren’t on his side, is what spoke to me from the start. And, for me, the most splendid thing was that his entire life reflected the quality of his music. Or maybe his music reflected his life. And that kind of oneness, that kind lack of dissonance in his creative and public life is, for me, the mark of a true artiste. Don’t you think? When how you are creative is how you live, when your choices and loves show in the depth of your art, when your limits and your lack of them reflect in the work you do — and all of it happens unconsciously.
And so I feel Bowie’s death isn’t just a loss to music, or lovers of music, but a huge loss to all those who sought creative authenticity and integrity. It is a massive hole in the universe where those who don’t fit in our given moulds seek to express ourselves in the way we know. It is the death of that place in the sun that’ s made of brave, nonchalant loners who allowed the rest of us — who were weird in our quiet way — to explore and understand and wear our uniqueness. There’s a Bowie-size hole in that place, now. And it’s a huge fucking hole. It is funny that the death of a man and an artiste I love so much that I write to you about him is making me reflect on not death and life but on what creativity means. What creative integrity means, what it means to be authentic in your art and what it means to allow your life to reflect in your work. Those roads that this is taking me down are beautiful and perilous. I can see why insanity would ensue in the pursuit of creative integrity. But what’s one more step further down the insanity path, I say. 🙂
What happens to these places that these giants among us — in this case, this god among us — leave behind? Are there enough eulogies, enough YouTube plays, enough quoting, enough tweets and enough newspaper obit space to fill the exact shape of David Bowie? How does one fill the crook of his finger, what do you put in the space of his imperturbable face? How do you fill his eyes that saw, and his throat that went around the world and came back? How do you fill spaces that dead giants leave? And if you don’t fit them, what happens to those spaces? Do we walk around them, gingerly sidestepping their blazing, iridescent, too-fucking-bright-that-i-need-shades outlines? Do we walk in fear of being burnt by that iridescence if we walk too close and claim to even be inspired by these giants? What is being truly inspired, then? That something you’re good at follows in the style, tone and timbre of these giants? Or is it to completely become one with your giant and have nothing of you left, but then, when you make your art, you’re producing something that is entirely new, like alchemy? Are we willing to be that swallowed up by this brilliant, star-bright space that our giants leave us in order to produce true art? Or are we willing to sit far away from their glow and be a moon?
I am sorry for rambling. But I write from grief. In as much one can feel for someone one has loved from far away. But also from the closeness of sleep where you fall asleep to Starman, Rebel Rebel and Oh! You Pretty Thing taking you across to a dream where you are much more than you are.
I will stop now or I’ll never be done. I feel better now. I would never have had the courage to say this to the world in general, but for you. Because, hey, in the face of all those experts on Bowie’s music, I am just going to sound stupid, because I say nothing about his music.
(For Surekha Pillai)