The news of David Bowie’s death is one of those rare occassions when it hits hard, and it feels personal. It’s not a rational response, but one based on psychology and emotion. For certain generations – mine included – he was a seminal influence. I was never a fan, but even with my lack of emotional attachment, I could understand and appreciate his artistic boldness, and his creation of discrete worlds that defied the grim greyness of life in the UK. In interviews he came across as subtle and intellectually sophisticated, two qualities I admired and wanted to emulate.
Somehow, because our heroes are so much bigger than life, at a deep irrational level we expect them to be bigger than death too. Our heroes become part of the architecture of our lives, regardless of how well we know them, or whether we’ve even met them. In the same ways that parents and siblings are hard-wired into our psyche, they are part of the forever of our lives, seemingly rock solid, accompanying our individual journeys through the years. We choose our heroes to provide us with inspiration (to lead a different kind of life), hope (that art can make a difference) and a kind of leadership not readily available elsewhere. For me, it’s McCartney, Dylan, Springsteen more than Bowie, but the principle remains the same.
Today I realise again the primacy of art, music and literature over politics, celebrity, shopping. Art – particularly literature and music – is what makes me thrum intellectually and come alive emotionally. It always has done. I note yet again that I’ve spent far more of my life engaged in the dreary politics of earning a living than I have in the creative process of making art.
I still have to earn a living but I resolve yet again to redress the balance. To spend more of my time and mental energy creating the texts that only I can make happen. “We all have worlds within us” said Neil Gaiman. Over the next few years I am determined to make more of my worlds concrete and public.
Less talking and more doing!
Here’s a glimpse of some Doing from last Autumn. There will be more.