by Ken Rolheiser
Bowie’s last album and finding out who you really are

Once in a while a man or woman comes along who teaches us about ourselves. David Bowie was just famous enough to strike our imaginations in his passing, if not with his music. His last album Blackstar, described as his parting gift to his fans, shared much about his approach to death.

Look up here, I'm in heaven
I've got scars that can't be seen
I've got drama
Can't be stolen
Everybody knows me now
Oh, I'll be free
Just like that bluebird
Oh, I'll be free
Bowie echoes in his song “Lazarus”.

My first thoughts after hearing of Bowie’s death was that here was an artist who used the gifts and talents the Lord gave him. He lived life with zest, made his mark and left a legacy of iconic proportions.

Bowie’s philanthropy is well known. He had his ten favourite charities including “Save the Children”. His list of causes included Abuse, Aids and HIV, Disaster Relief, Human rights, Peace, and Women. His involvement with Amnesty International and the Red Cross spring to mind.

“David Bowie has left a legacy of inspiration, and without a doubt made the world a better place” said an on-line article.

I must confess that through the five decades of his music few titles spring to my mind. “Let’s Dance” 1983 and “Dancing in the Street” (also done by Martha and the Vandellas) come to mind more readily. Not having been a Bowie fan I did not mark his journey until I noticed how it ended.

In “The Man Who Sold the Moon”, 1997, Bowie reflects a universal spiritual search when he says, “That song for me always exemplified kind of how you feel when you’re young, when you know there’s a piece of yourself that you haven’t really put together yet. You have this searching, this great need to find out who you really are.”

“Through all his alter ego’s, David Bowie was one singular thing – a true Artist,” says Keep A Child Alive founder Alicia Keys. “He graciously performed 3 songs at Keep a Child Alive’s Black Ball in 2006 and I have never seen an audience so enraptured. Thank you for all the inspiration! Especially the message to all of us to be completely who you are!”

I didn’t set out to write a David Bowie tribute. I wanted to use his life as an example of how we can be true to God’s call in us to use our gifts; to find out who we really are, and to live our lives with the enthusiasm becoming our privileged position as Christians.

In a sense my research material took over the message Bowie was trying to leave with his fans as he privately battled cancer and prepared to meet his God. There is a line in “Starman” lyrics:
“There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it's all worthwhile.”

May you be free as that blue bird!

(526 words)