David Bowie died.
I'm not even going to pretend to act like I was a big fan of his discography. I wasn't. I'm not even going to pretend that I liked the singles. I didn't. I didn't dislike his music, it just never really struck a chord with me for whatever reason. That being said, this fact only proves what Bowie's importance was to culture. Not music, not style, not fashion, not art... culture. I've spent the last 24 hours trying to put Bowie's death into perspective. I got nothing. Words like 'important' and 'brilliant' are so unbelievably passe when it comes to David Bowie that me trying to eulogize what he represented into mere words is insulting to his memory, so I won't do that.
One thing I've taken from the reaction toward Bowie's death is how intensely personal his impact was on every individual. No two stories really seem to be the same when people recount their favorite memories connected to Bowie's output. That's what makes his passing so unique. There's no singular meaning to it. It is a loss. For all of us. I can't tell you I know what you're going through. I don't. That says a lot about what David Bowie meant. He was yours without being anyone else's. What you had with him was special. That was as true with his music, his personas, and now his memory. All I have to go on for the rest of this post is to talk about what David Bowie meant to me (the fact that I don't have a ton of connection to his music should really exemplify how far his influence reached) because that's all any of us really can do to grieve.
David Bowie taught me that being yourself meant you could be anyone else. You could create personas borne from entirely new worlds and a backstory of your own fancy and that was you. This sounds stupid but that really struck a chord with me. By watching Bowie just immerse himself into these personas, I saw that you didn't have to be resigned to the life behind your face. That your face could create new lives. All it took was a little showmanship and commitment. For a teenager who struggled mightily with the way people perceived him, seeing this kind of bravado gave me a lot of courage to experiment with my personality and create new me's that could say and do the things I never would. That sounds really dumb, but it is something I carry with me today. Even in my own creative endeavors where one of the main characters on the television series I wrote is another version of myself. David Bowie reinvented himself over and over again because he could. Because the gears never stopped turning. His creativity and imagination are absolutely unrivaled. For that reason, he is one of my biggest influences. We are our own greatest conduit for creation. Muses and collaborators are dilutions.
The other thing Bowie taught me is that life is really just one giant performance. We wake up, get dressed, put on the face we want, and we show the world us. We play to their reactions and, more importantly, we can incite them. Bowie walked into a room and controlled it. He knew what he wanted out of the crowds and he got it from them. That kind of visceral connection to PEOPLE, not audiences, is unheard of. I think about it constantly. From a psychological perspective, you almost want to call it magic. There's no logical explanation for how he had his way with people. We could talk about someone like Hitler (who Bowie once said was an original rock star, citing Hitler's control of crowds) and how he was able to control people because of propaganda, war fever, etc. There's an explanation to it. Bowie's was raw charisma. I've spent countless hours trying to balance abrasiveness and charisma into a personality like Bowie's. It's impossible. Everything he did made you want to hate him, but instead you watched and waited for his next move. He lived the life you were too afraid to live.
I could tell you I'm having a hard time about Bowie's passing tonight, but I would only be lying to you. I can't tell you I'm sad that he's passed on because I know he's not suffering anymore. I can't tell you that he had so much left to do because the fact is he had conquered the world over decades ago. I can't tell you that he needed more time because I have never seen someone of his stature be so at peace with their impending end. What I can tell you is that David Bowie put on a show for the world every day of his life. I can tell you that he unconditionally lived his life on his own terms. As for myself? You taught me what I needed to know about creativity and showmanship. I know you lived in the stars. All I have left to do is join you there one day with the tools you gave me.