David Bowie and the power of transformation

January 11, 2016: David Bowie illustration concept word cloudYes, David Bowie’s death still hurts.  But there is only one way for me, personally, to mourn the death of David Bowie, and that is to look at how fearlessly he shaped and reshaped himself, becoming something new when his previous self wasn’t quite enough – and try to do the same in my own life, my own world, and my own events.

David Robert Jones was one of the great reinventors of our world – able to become some new thing in what seemed like a split second, and immerse himself in it so beautifully that we always new that it wan’t a costume. It was always himself – the ever-expanding being who not only took on new selves, but used every bit of his life experience to make the new self more complex, more intricate, more fascinating than the old. His changes might have been accompanied by costumes and props, but those were just the trappings that helped us understand the new Bowie faster. We never said, “Oh, that’s not what David Bowie does”; we always said, “My Gods – David Bowie does that, as well!”

As a person in the misfit community, my everysingleday is influenced by seeing people grow and change around me in ways that are much more visible, much more tangible, than is normal in the outside world. We meet so many people who start from “I wonder, am I into this?” – or “I’ve thought all my life I wanted that, but I’ve never…” and “…is it okay for me to want to be and do these things?” – and we have the joy of seeing them start to realize that yes, they are these things, they can be those things.

A fandom journey is a process of discovery and invention – and rediscovery, and reinvention. And we often need to hide almost all of it from outside eyes, but that’s okay. In fact, those moments when we can shed the scrutiny of the “normal” world, and be somewhere safe, and be our evolving, emerging selves – those are captured treasures, and they’re sweeter than wine.

David Bowie did his changes right out in the open, and he made the world accept it – no, he made the world love it. Even when he, himself, was challenged by his identity – what will the future make of his declarations, denials, and re-declarations of his bisexuality? – he still incorporated it into his own music and art.

Mr. Bowie had so many opportunities to stop, to be just one thing. By the time I first really heard his music, back in the early 1980s, he was already iconic, an elder statesman. He could have lived his entire life doing nothing but his existing work, his big hits to date, and still have had an incredible life’s work. He didn’t need to take risks, he didn’t need to change anything – or at least, it’s safe to say that he could have stayed stock-still and still been wealthy, still been successful, still been admired, still been a major artistic figure. But he never, ever did that. He kept working on new ideas and new things and new selves for as long as his body permitted.

For me, here’s how I’ll mourn:

I’ll dedicate myself to my own reinvention. To my understanding of who I have been, and what I’ve done – and who and what I might become and be. I’ll try to look at what I do – not just anything special or extraordinary, but my everyday moments – and take a moment to see them afresh, to look at them differently. I’d love to pick up my guitar and just start playing, and maybe I’ll do that when the day’s work has paused, but for now, I’m going to look for inspiration in a cup of coffee, in a memo, in a damn spreadsheet. I’m going to take any piece of my everyday that I can and infuse it with meaning and purpose; even the most mundane task, something I’ve done a thousand times before, is never something I’ve done in this moment, and this moment has potential unbounded.

Goodbye, David Bowie. Your voice has stopped, but you will inspire me as long as I live.

~Jeff Mach

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Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks).  He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.

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