Inspiration in the Face of Death: My Blackstar Revelation

David Bowie by David Mack

David Bowie by David Mack

It’s been a couple of weeks since David Bowie returned to live among the stars, and the trending tags have stopped popping up every time his name appears on a post. A few folks here and there who were very dedicated lifelong fans are still in active mourning and lovingly sharing clips of his performances and other mentions of the impact his passing has had on them and others (my favorite of which is a letter from a palliative care doctor sharing, “I had a discussion with a hospital patient, facing the end of her life. We discussed your death and your music, and it got us talking about numerous weighty subjects, that are not always straightforward to discuss with someone facing their own demise. In fact, your story became a way for us to communicate very openly about death, something many doctors and nurses struggle to introduce as a topic of conversation.”).

But I am just now ready to share my experience with David Bowie’s death. I do not fall in the camp of devoted, long-time fans - to be clear, I absolutely adore his music, his artistic expression, and have always blown away by his ability to craft moving, interesting, provocative music. I just didn’t have the personal relationship many did in which his work defined certain eras of my life. I have always appreciated his work and recognized his massive creativity and musical genius, but largely it was not his music that made up the soundtrack to my life. I don’t feel like it would be fair to call myself a hardcore fan. Until now.

David Bowie crafted his Backstar album very much as his artistic finale. He wrote and performed it, created the haunting videos that accompany it, in full knowledge that he was dying. He wrote it and seems to have timed it to be released as close to his last day as possible to bid the world farewell in a masterful, dramatic, perfectly crafted performance art piece, the final act in a lifelong drama that impacted the lives of millions


As moved as I have been by the heartfelt outpouring of grief and honor I have been witnessing for Sir Stardust, what has been growing in me over the last couple weeks as I have absorbed this information is that I am TOTALLY. AMAZINGLY. INSPIRED.

This brave and triumphant act of staring death in the face and using it as a catalyst to create an Earth shattering work of art is, to me, the pinnacle of what it means to live free, to live true to yourself, to be ever willing to face pain to bring one's revolutionary vision to light. This is the utter height of human success. This has changed everything for me.

The bar has been raised. I have set a new goal for myself inspired by what David Bowie shared with the world last week. My new goal is to live as artfully, as fully authentically, as profoundly and in the fullest flow with and acceptance of the uncontrollable tides of life and death as I can muster with every living spark of personal energy I can harness up until the very day I die, and if possible, beyond even that day.

I don't aspire to be an international superstar (though, I think I would dig it). The point of my goal is not to impact millions and millions of people (though, that would be cool). The point for me is to strive for the standard of living up to the greatest possible expression of who I can be personally, for me, and perhaps for the handful of people closest to me. Should living so authentically inspire or positively impact or powerfully move others, then that is all the better. 

My life has irrevocably changed as this inspiration moves through me. In every scope of my life, in my relationships, my work, my own artistic expression, how I think about myself, I find myself wondering what more I can do to be in my fullest expression of truth, my most creative, most embracing of possibility and fully susceptible to my muses. I have been feeling more present with death and my own mortality. To be clear, I hope to live a very long life. I love life, big time. I want to experience as much brilliance and beauty and wonder as I can live for. But now I feel more acutely the inevitability of my demise, and in a way far different than before I understand death’s ripeness as the ultimate vehicle of personal transformation.

Today I listened to Bowie’s music, started with Blackstar, then reset at the beginning of his discography and worked my way chronologically forward so I could hear the nuances of his artistic progression. I was actually surprised by how much of his music I already knew and delighted to find songs that I did not know previously that are now gleaming rubies, which hid without gaze in a jewel box at my bedside my entire life but are now in my grasp, dazzling, and offering brand new meaning. Another gift of the Blackstar performance is that for a previously casual fan such as myself I have been offered David Bowie’s entire life work to experience as his stunning death knell. 

My heart is not broken by David Bowie’s death. I am not seeking to make it my personal tragedy, rather the opposite. I am bolstered, built up, and inspired by this artist’s gift, and I seek to laud him with my appreciation of such fine work. His death was a medium he worked in, for the first and last time, for his final performance, and he played it incomparably, exquisitely. I sing hallelujah.