Bowie is back on Mars, leaving all of us to simultaneously mourn and cheer his return. The death of David Bowie has spurned unending editorials, tributes, and street parties. Undoubtedly, the world is feeling through the loss of an incredible source of inspiration, a beacon of creativity, beauty, sex appeal, rebellion, and drive. Those of us compelled by Bowie are left wondering, what happens after losing one of our greats? What will come of this void? Does it just close in on itself and little by little we remember less, and little by little the pool for creative greats will shape shift and shrink to puddle? Yeah, there is a little anxiety here.
I’ve been feeling through this loss myself. I saw Patti Smith as the keynote speaker at Pratt Institute’s graduation in 2010 and her advice echoes in my mind. It was the perfect send-off into the world, a time where all of us were feeling both ambitious and incredibly unsure of ourselves. She told us that all of us, big and small, are like Pinocchio. Bravely, we step out into the world, seeing and experiencing a lot, driven to carry on with an inextinguishable flame in our bellies. We all face trials and tribulations, victories and bullshit, you, me, Patti, and Bowie. The biggest and most important thing to remember, and which we tend to forget, is that we are never alone. We don’t have to endure this journey alone. “Call on your spiritual ancestors. They have set themselves up through human history to be at your disposal…they are with you, choose the one you wish to walk with and he or she will walk with you. Don’t forget that. You are not alone.” I took Patti’s advice on board fully. It has given me a reserve of energy and power to draw from when I am energised and inspired just as much as when I have been broke and feeling utterly discouraged. When I am toeing the edge of a new adventure, it is these spiritual ancestors I call upon as I leap.
Memorialising is often viewed as a big, grand farewell, but it is also a gesture of gratitude. Gratitude does not have to stop when the street parties cease, when the articles dry-up, when we are swept up in the creative shine of someone new. The physical world certainly lost an icon Sunday, but I’m taking Bowie with me.
If you want to hear Patti in her own words, click here.