Monday, January 11, 2016


Shana has been challenging me recently about the notion of legacy. Especially after Steven came home from school one day and summarized me as a guy who "buys a lot of collectibles."
And in light of the news today that David Bowie has passed away, I have been thinking about legacy more so than I would normally. The notion that you can contribute to the world so impactfully in such a meaningful way, and to do so on your terms without any blaring compromises. Nothing Bowie did was normal or expected--you could never have said at any point what his next album would sound like because you would have no idea what genre was inspiring him or turning him on at any given time. 

It was obvious to me that Bowie did things for himself, but not in a selfish way. But in an honest way. And sometimes that honesty backfired. Not everything he did was commercially viable, or critically acclaimed. There were some truly and unsettlingly weird moments in his career, even those that posthumously in retrospect still seem questionable. But again, they were so honest. 

A friend of mine posted on Facebook today that she was not the aspirational quote kind, but there was something that David Bowie once said that she found so wholly inspiring that she asserts to have thought about it every single day since she heard it."I forced myself to become a good songwriter," Bowie said. "And I became a good songwriter. But I had no natural talents whatsoever. I made a job of working at getting good. I wasn't one of those guys who danced out of the womb."

I think this is why his loss resonates so strongly with so many people I know. It's also a good reason for why he has inspired me today to further consider what my own legacy will be. He did things, a great many things, but it was not effortless. No, none of it was easy for him. Nor was it natural. Yet he was true to himself throughout the whole process. It would be impossible to argue that--how could you contest the authenticity of his career when he never did anything at any point that reeked of compromised commercialism? 

Thinking about all the things that I myself wish to accomplish, I can't help but analyze his life and what it was that pushed him to live his as a shining example of pure creative expression. And I think the one singular factor that made Bowie what he was to so many was his unabashed lack of fear.

He wasn't a calculating man. That would have resulted in a very different kind of career, one that most of us would not spend the time admiring. It also wasn't the hard work because a lot of people work hard and don't ever come close to achieving this weirdly amorphous achievement of equal parts admiration, credibility and influence. Bowie wasn't afraid. 
He wasn't afraid of looking weird. Because he did. 
He wasn't afraid of failing. Because he did.
He wasn't afraid of flying in the face of complacency. Because oh hell yes he did. 

If I had to admit anything to myself, it would be that I am afraid. Of failure. Of complacency. I embrace it. Sometimes I even retreat to it. I worry about how life would be if it wasn't exactly how it is. And today, on the day of David Bowie's passing, I lament. I mourn. I am saddened by his untimely loss. But most of all, I am jealous. 

I am jealous of his lack of fear. I wish I could embrace the Great Whatever and embark on the legacy I've been ruminating on for so long. 

"My entire career, I’ve only really worked with the same subject matter,” Bowie told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview. “The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I’ve always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety — all of the high points of one’s life.”


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