I’m assuming this blogspot will probably not print my response to their shortsighted limited view on one of the greatest talents to grace humanity. So I’m emboldening my own words below.
Does your bible not say “judge not lest ye be judged” somewhere? The splinter that may or may not be in David Bowie’s eye was nothing compared to the logs in the eyes of the catholic church. If you don’t like his music that’s your opinion, but don’t judge him on your narrow minded criteria cuz he was way past anything your feeble minds can contemplate.
It’s the 21st century. You’ve been burning the wrong books. You’re stardust whether you believe it or not. Just. Like. Ziggy.
There. I feel so much better.
A few years ago Bill Maher made fun of Mormons who had developed ceremonies where they were able to baptise dead people in absentia, thus assuring a place for people who didn’t believe in the Mormon heaven whether they liked it or not. Mitt Romney’s own atheist father was subjected to this practice, which would be a violation of Mitt Romney’s father’s individual rights if it weren’t for the fact we can’t prove souls exist so it’s a transgression being done upon someone who is to dead to mind. One could argue however it’s an offense to the memories of that person in the minds of those who shared his lack of a desire to be Mormon. I would not be surprised if there are religious zealots out there who have done outrageous ceremonies where their beliefs override David Bowie’s own desires for his own flesh or spirit, and his soul has been rocketed to some rightwing nutjob heaven where he’s being forced to sing hosannahs to a god who never appreciated him in his life and in fact chastised himself and countless others as dissidents and malcontents and sinful transgendered androgynous expletives and blasphemous heathen et cetera. Imagine being that god who very carefully put down meticulous laws about behavior and faith but must allow David Bowie into heaven because some fervent believer in Newark or Stockholm or Perth or all the above prayed really really hard and their god was like “Oh alright so long as he behaves himself.”
I bet Elvis is right next to him going, “yeah I know. Sucks doesn’t it? Our own fans are making us spend eternity singing to this other god. I believed in the Southern Baptist One True God. How was I supposed to know he was really catholic?” In writing up this piece I’m reminded of Elton John’s song he wrote about John Lennon’s death called “Empty Garden.” I should probably link that one in here too.
Elton John’s way of dealing with his mourning led him down a melancholy path where he asked his god if his old friend could come back one last time to play. That’s one way to use one’s imagination to deal with loss and massage the sadness away. Some aren’t as good at this as others. I’m sure there are believers out there who insist David Bowie – and anyone else they can’t bare to see burning for all eternity in their imagined hells – recanted all his transgressions on his deathbed and was saved at the last second so everyone can have a happy ending. I’m sure Christopher Hitchens and Adolph Hitler are both also in that heaven scratching their heads all confused.
“How did we get here?” asks Adolph.
“Someone believes we recanted.” Hitch demures.
“Does that make any sense to you?”
“No, but we’re not using their brains to think, and that’s the only place where these heavens actually are.”
“Will there be bratwurst in this heaven?”
Hitch hands the bewildered Hitler a cellphone. “We may have to order takeout.”
This is where our heavens and hells actually reside. Fiction. That’s what you’re reading by the way, just in case you were about to start worshipping the idea of Hitler and Hitchens going halfsies on sushi. I understand some Asian cultures have a host of hells. The hell of being skinned alive. The hell of the upside down corpses. The hell of Pat Robertson telling you what doesn’t damn you eternally only makes you stronger. They reside in the land of fiction, across the street from Never Never Land and Toontown. All these and more can be yours in your dreams and nightmares so long as you believe, or even if you don’t, cuz someone else will just believe really really hard in your stead, against your will.
Or alternately, clap if you want to torture fairies for all eternity boys and girls! Cuz that’s what the catholic church figuratively wants billions of people to believe – that it’s okay to imagine people who are different from you will suffer forever for disagreeing with the church, and by proxy with you provided you agree with the church. If you don’t, well they got a hell set aside for you too but they’re not gonna tell you that until after the offering plate goes around a few times.
David Bowie didn’t subscribe to any of that. Or so we guess. Who knows, really? Oh I’m sure he dabbled. In many interviews he admitted to having tried pretty much every religion under the sun. If you have one, he at least gave yours a scant glance. When pressed, David Bowie would lean towards atheism, but even that didn’t satisfy him, nor should it. It certainly doesn’t satisfy me. I’m atheist by default, not by choice, and my guess is Bowie was close to me on that level.
But that’s the slippery slope isn’t it? Everyone who looks at a star like Bowie is gonna see themselves in the reflection. We accentuate the positive and delineate the negative. We ignore anything we see that’s not like ourselves and focus on what seems familiar. About a decade or so before his death, Bowie admitted to being “a couple months” away from atheism. He admitted there was still a sliver of hope that he was wrong. A desire to believe there is some grand plan and some grand orchestrator is out there somewhere and from his perspective all of this makes sense. Those couple months lapsed a long time ago. Where he really stood at the end is hidden in his lyrics, and we will forever more be arguing as fans of his work – what exactly did The Blackstar mean?
Bowie’s final album was made available a couple days before his death. Isn’t it just like him to make his own death something that drums up interest in his music? He knew his time was coming. That’s pretty obvious from the lyrics in his songs and the music videos themselves. In the video Lazarus, he shows himself laying in bed as if he were standing up, and he starts the video coming out of a standing closet, then ends the video (spoilers!) walking backwards into that same closet as if he were slowly falling down. I could be wrong, but my guess is that closet wasn’t a reference to being homosexual (or bi. whatever) – it was a coffin. Again, we’ll be arguing what he meant for generations to come, and he knew that, and in that way David Bowie assures his immorality. His longevity. So long as we listen to his music and muse over his meanings, he will live on forever. I like to imagine he observed that in fans of Freddie Mercury and Elvis Presley and other contemporaries of his. They’re still alive after they’re dead, so long as we remember.
It’s not just his final album we will be keeping alive. In the song “Seven” he sung about forgetting and he sung about days to live and ways to die. He mentions how the gods forgot they created us and so we in turn neglect them back, but we still listen to their shadows and dance among their graves. One could question if contemplating the dead by keeping their thoughts alive inside our own minds might be disrespectful, in that it’s a way of dancing on their graves. However, I doubt David Bowie ever saw dancing as an offense. In fact he celebrated dancing in songs like “Let’s Dance” and “Dancing in the Streets” so I’m sure he’d be all for us dancing on his proverbial grave, so long as we’re having a good time.
There are going to be uptight closed minded people who will claim David Bowie lived a sinful and decadent life. These people would not rise Bowie up to sainthood. They prefer praising people like Mother Teresa who taught thousands if not millions of people that suffering was their god’s way of showing them how much he loves them. I’ll take David Bowie over Mother Teresa any day of the week.
Bowie showed us we don’t need sainthood. We don’t need anyone raising us to some crazy status. We are already there. We are all already stardust. We were that before we were born. Religions often make people feel like they are nothing without that religion, but what drew so many to David Bowie from so many walks of life was that he showed us we were already there. You are already special. You already matter. You are matter and energy and you exist. What more do you want? There are others who will try to tear you down, but seek out the ones who will help build you up, who in turn you can help build them up. Seek to create, even if it’s just a silly song about a laughing gnome or a video with a unibrow girl who has a tail. Whatever it may be. Just do it. Get out there and find yourself and challenge the universe to be more than you are being. Just go be. Be yourself. Maybe be someone else for awhile if it helps you find yourself. People were following David Bowie’s footsteps long before Lady Gaga made her mark in the sand. Build your sand castles. Find bears and puppies in the clouds. Make a wish upon a star. Make up memes no one else has conjured before. Whatever it may be. Just go find you. You’re already something. You’re already someone. Start acting like it.
We are stardust. Now, go put on your red shoes and dance the blues.