Monday, 11 January 2016

David Bowie Is Dead

Death comes to all of us. It came today for David Bowie, a cultural icon, a man with millions of fans, a man of whom a great many articles and stories have been written, a man who will be remembered for his artistic creativity. Another man died today, a man nobody knows, a man with ALS, a man with a wife, with children, with grandchildren. History will not note his passing. He was an ordinary man.

There are so many ordinary people out there, living and dying lives of ordinary pace and style, leaving behind their mark on history in their limited way. A hundred years from now, people will remember David Bowie. His mark will be written, read, rewritten and re-read. His life was one of extraordinary pace and style.

I wonder at times when we make this big event out of the death of a cultural icon if we remember our own, personal icons. I ask myself constantly if these great icons truly deserve the fuss and fury surrounding their passing, that most natural, and unfortunately, most human of all things. Did this happen when Shakespeare died? Did this happen when Da Vinci breathed his last? Was there global mourning when Mozart struck his final note?

Much of our collective grief over the passing of David Bowie is based on our modern media culture. This technological age has given us the global ability to feel like we have a relationship with someone whom we not only have never met, but in a great many cases, never seen in person. It also gives us a great cultural community, much greater than ever in history, a global culture where we can truly celebrate artistic talent.

For many of us, our lives were enriched by David Bowie. We feel a kinship with him because his music touched us. The notice of his death is sad, his passing a moment of sorrow. Yet I am compelled to ask, is it more sorrowful than the death of that unknown man, the one with ALS? Is it more sorrowful than the death of a child from cancer?

Maybe it doesn't matter. Death is the great equalizer. Just as David Bowie will, that unknown man will pass into history. Both are gone. Both left something, someone behind. Both knew sadness in their life. Both stared into the face of destiny. One did it on a global stage. The other did it at home, with his wife, with his children, with his family, with his community. That's the only real difference.

1 comment:

  1. Robert, I have wondered the very same thing, if I were to die today, who would really remember me in 50 years .... I could count them on my hand, and 50 pass that...none. But you're right, some unknown person's death is just as equal as any musician or actor or famous person. But I feel we all made our mark on this earth while we were here... Maybe some not in the global way.