Art, Mourning, and Immortality

Yesterday marked Edgar Allan Poe’s 207th birthday. Every year, I write a note on Facebook or Twitter (I think last year there was even a blog) thanking him for sharing his works, for influencing my own. How I try to honor his gift in my life and in my work.

Monday marked a week since David Bowie died (which is still bizarre to say/type/consider or accept as factual statement). I woke up to a text from my sister apologizing for the “sad news” I was going to hear and–in a run-on statement–asking if I could pick her up from school. Another text just read “David Bowie WHYYY?” I didn’t bother putting my contacts in and pulled up Twitter to find out that a man I’d adored since I was child was no longer with us.

I can’t remember being so greatly saddened by a celebrity death. I guess Bowie is, technically, my first. An mourning an artist is a strange state. I spent Monday in a haze, intermitantly sobbing, debating if I could watch Labyrinth (I couldn’t), and trying to imagine what the world would be like now that it had lost some of its glitter. Everyone dies, so it’s not like I didn’t expect it one day, in the distant future, but if anyone was going to be immortal, it’d be him.

Labyrinth was my first introduction to Bowie. We had it recorded on a VHS off the television, then I finally got the official VHS one year for Christmas. I wore both out. I’ve since upgraded to DVD, including the 25th Anniversary version. Let’s be honest, I’ll burn those copies out, too. I watch it at least once a year.

It’s always been a dream of mine to one day write my own version of Labyrinth.

I used to dance around to Rebel, Rebel while putting on makeup. There were, of course, periods of time where I didn’t think of Bowie, or listen to his songs. When he released Next Day a couple of years ago, I was not so secretly hoping for a tour. Not a big tour. Just the major cities. The man was in his 60s, still young. I’d have paid anything to see that show.

And then Blackstar happened. I saw the link for the Lazarus video on Facebook and didn’t click it. And then he was gone.

I know I would have seen the signs if I’d looked. Maybe. There’s still part of me that would have been in reasonable denial. Afterall, The Goblin King isn’t bound by the rules of mortals.

Underground popped up on shuffle the other day, and I ugly-cried in my car. I did better with As The World Falls Down. Work Radio added Let’s Dance to their mix along with Under Pressure. I stopped yesterday afternoon to just listen, despite being half an hour past the end of my shift.

It’s strange to mourn someone you only knew through their art, especially when the world as whole is mourning with you. There’s some comfort in that shared pain, makes you feel less… silly for crying over someone you never met. I didn’t know David Jones, but David Bowie taught me the importance of embracing my strangeness. If David Bowie could make being David Bowie cool, then I could do anything.

So Tuesday, I put on glitter and faced the world and did whatever I wanted to do because I wanted to do it.

In a little over a week, he’s gotten a lightning bolt-shaped constallation named after him. Other artists and actors and people are coming forward to share stories. He finally had a Number 1 album in America. He turned his death into something so artistically powerful, you can’t help but marvel at it.

In the end, he did achieve immortality. Art allows everyone to live forever.

I’ve been struggling over the last couple weeks with completing the plot for The Current Project. Turns out what I needed was Bowie. If this book makes it into the world, I hope you find him in it.

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