David Bowie… reflections on our human failings

Have been following the emotional outpouring on the death of David Bowie–from those who mourn his loss, and of those who call out, with equal passion–call attention to his sexual abuse–and not always different people.

I was 28 when he came out with his first album. The year my oldest son was born, Thirty-one when he emerged into the iconic image he was to occupy for the rest of his life. The only song I could name of his… I guess would be Changes.

There would be no one I could name–certainly no figure in the popular spotlight, who had the life changing impact for me that I’ve been reading on FB. More a solitary journey, that coming into my own life. Books. Camus’ Resistance Rebellion & Death. Leaves of Grass. Blake. There were artists that had that kind of force–Kathe Kollwitz, Daumier. There were no friends, no one my age, I shared this with.

Music? Nothing will ever change me more than that half hour sitting on the front steps of my parents’ house, 12 or 13… listening to… and hearing, really hearing… a recording of Bach. I think it was the Musical Offering. Nothing could be more different than the collective release and joy people have been describing–their first Bowie concert. I envy that… to have had an experience that connects–that brought people out of their felt estrangement, when all such analogous moments for me, have been to fortify my own spiritual isolation.

Also has me thinking of how difficult it is to emerge from the culturally accepted miasma of confused notions about what’s ok… and what’s not… into something like a clear understanding that there is no way to ‘get it’… to get what is right or wrong, good or bad–but through observing and listening to the effects of what you do, what others do, what the conditions of culture does– to others–on other lives. Real lives. Lives, not your own. It doesn’t come by ideology, isn’t learned by rules… “rules” are the biggest problem.

It’s a kind of learning that comes by fits and starts. There’s no sudden perfect enlightenment. Where all at once you see… that no matter how your friends, the supporting cast of your young life, sees sexual conquest as a good thing, as something to be admired–that you come to see what that has done to a life that is not your own, for whom that cacophonous drum of collective expectation, is a kind of death–if not a real, physical death. That what we do, without thought, has other names, deserves other names: abuse, rape, murder… spiritual, if not physical.

By fits and starts we learn to free ourselves. As abusers, would-be abusers or actual, and by fits and starts–as the victims of power and privilege. By fits and starts.

I hope, for the sake of those who loved this man, who found in his art a gateway wide open to wider awareness and freedom–for their sake, if not for his memory–a memory I don’t share… that through fits and starts, he learned. He learned to know what he had done–felt the shame and remorse of having hurt, having damaged another life… and moved past it. If he did… I hope… for all of us… who learn by fits and starts, out of lives where none have been free–of what we have done, of what has been done to us… learn to forgive. Not to erase the reality–but to embrace that freedom–that we can live a life of healing, beyond hurt, and hurting. What else is freedom for? What other meaning can freedom possibly have?