I claimed I wasn’t going to write anything about Bowie, and here I am with a second post in the same week. I’ll keep it short.
This week we’ve been reminded—to glorious, beautiful, excess—that David Bowie spent his life showing us that it was okay to be different. We didn’t just get to share his music, we got to share his life too. He was, as David Bowie rather than David Jones, always present and on display. He was a man who led his life, as much as it is possible, exactly the way he wanted to.
And you can’t help feeling that he also died in exactly the way he wanted to. I’m not, of course, suggesting that he would have chosen to die of cancer. But, with that knowledge in hand, he staged his passing with absolute grace and control. Looking at his final photos you could be forgiven for thinking that he might even have approached death with a sense of joy: once again, embracing the change, daring to be different. Daring to be something different than ‘alive’.
We’ve all been looking at his last album, and the videos for Lazarus and Blackstar, as parting gifts. We’ve processed them as the final acts of a man who turned even his death into an statement of art. However, in the last few days, I’ve also begun to see them as a continuing example to the rest of us. Just as he used his life to show us that it was okay to be different, so he used his death to show us that it’s okay to pass when your time comes. He, perhaps, has shown us that knowing our days are coming to an end can empower us to take ownership of the time we have and the manner of our passing. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas and Bill Pullman, we don’t need to go quietly into the night.
Our deaths, as with our lives, belong to us.