On January 10, 2016, the Man Who Fell to Earth took his last journey to the stars. When David Bowie passed—or as he says in his magnum opus to oblivion, Blackstar, when his “spirit rose a meter and stepped aside,” the world lost more than a legendary artist. We lost our most gifted dreamer, our visionary, our trickster. If Bowie’s fame came from his creations, his greatest creation was his very self. His ever-shifting identity, from Ziggy Stardust to The Thin White Duke, Starman to the Preacher, evoked everything from parody and tragedy to self-reflection and sarcasm.
He believed in self-invention. He believed in the future. And perhaps that’s why we feel his loss so keenly: Bowie believed in our power to remake our own world. We’re all “those children that you spit on/ As they try to change their worlds” that he sings about in “Changes.” Earth has been a darker place since we lost him. Perhaps because, fundamentally, he believed in us.
“Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming.”
Bowie believed that only change was constant. To fully live, we must change as the world changes. Tomorrow is in the hands of those visionaries who imagine that change and then become it. While he embodied this idea, Bowie always emphasized that everyone is called to self-creation. By creating ourselves, we seize our future.
“The Truth Is of Course Is That There Is No Journey. We Are Arriving and Departing All at the Same Time.”
Most people believe in a linear progression of personality, from some kind of proto-person to a final magnificence. But Bowie understood that life does not work in linears; we are always changing, always becoming and shifting. We must accept that change and flux remain constant; nothing remains the same. We’re not stair-stepping towards some final form. Instead, we’re constantly becoming.
“You can’t stand still on one point for your entire life.”
If you want to do something, anything, with real meaning, you have to shift and change. We are not made for immobility; we are called to remake ourselves. Bowie lived that writ large with his various personalities. To do anything in this world, we have to live that same remaking — perhaps not as dramatically, but creatively and intellectually.
“Once You Lose That Sense of Wonder at Being Alive, You’re Pretty Much on Your Way Out.”
Bowie believed in life. Self-creation and self-remaking are important, but only so much as they allow us to live a fuller, more immersive life. We are always pushing closer to life, and once we give up on life’s beauty, we’re finished: we lose ourselves. Only through constant marvel at life’s possibilities can we truly live it. To do otherwise is a kind of death-in-life.
“Trust Nothing but Your Own Experience.”
Don’t listen to gurus or self-help experts. Trust instead in what you’ve seen and heard on your own. Only by trusting yourself can you truly remake yourself in your own image, not someone else’s idea of who you should become. You have to find your own truth. To Bowie, that involves constant self-exploration and creation, rather than blind trust in authority — anyone’s authority.
“Don’t Let Me Hear You Say Life’s Taking You Nowhere.”
The opening lyrics to “Golden Years,” which Bowie originally wrote for Elvis Presley, could stand as an epitome of Bowie’s ethos. Life is always taking us somewhere: Bowie’s words are both a promise and a threat, a comfort and a warning. Only change is constant. We’re all going somewhere. What we do with it, and how we get there — that’s up to us.
“I'm Just an Individual Who Doesn't Feel That I Need To Have Somebody Qualify My Work in Any Particular Way. I'm Working for Me.”
Bowie didn’t need anyone else’s approval to make his work authentic or acceptable. He made it for himself. We shouldn’t look to other people for approval, either. We need to make our own selves and find our own truths without waiting for the world to tell us we’re doing a great job about it. We work for no one but ourselves.
“Love Dares You To Change Our Ways of Caring About Ourselves.”
Legend has it that Bowie stumbled across Queen recording in a nearby studio one day. Over the course of one night, he and Freddie Mercury co-wrote their smash hit “Under Pressure.” In the outro, Bowie tells us that love calls not only for the love of other people, but the love of ourselves as well. Again, we have to change: love itself demands that we remake not only ourselves, but our ways of loving that self.
“All Art Is Unstable. Its Meaning Is Not Necessarily That Implied by the Author. There Is No Authoritative Active Voice. There Are Only Multiple Readings.”
Bowie rejected authority in art just as he rejected authority in life. No one can tell us how to interpret a particular piece of art; like life, it’s subject to our own experience. Art changes with the world, and therefore must be constantly re-read and re-evaluated. There is no authoritative truth. And if the self is a kind of art, the self also becomes unstable, mutable, changeable. This isn’t bad or negative or scary. It simply is.
“It's Always Time to Question What Has Become Standard and Established.”
If something’s authoritative and established, it’s probably stale and unquestioned. We have to question basic truths, normal standards, and acceptable ideas. Only by examining them and perhaps flying by them will we live our authentic lives. We can’t accept blind authority, as Bowie says over and over. Instead, question everything.
“And the Stars Look Very Different Today.”
Some of the most iconic lyrics in Bowie’s epic “Space Oddity,” they remind us that every day is a new one. Everything is changing all the time. And as Bowie says, we need to change with it. Every day is a new chance at self-creation, a new chance to be who we want to be. We make our own tomorrows. Bowie believed in that. And maybe that’s why, six years later, we still need him so badly.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.