I haven’t written anything on here until now about Bowie’s death and the shocking, surprised grief that I felt.
I got the news via a notification on my phone. I was working back late and had been listening to a podcast while I did a mountain of scanning. I was leaving the photocopy room when the notification from the New York Times app popped up. I think I said something out loud. Maybe an exclamation like ‘What?!’ or ‘No way!’. I stepped out into corridor – which turned on the movement activated lights – and saw water dripping down through one of the light fittings. It was a small thing, to see water dripping down from the floor above (where it turned out there was quite a lot of flooding due to some kind of fault or breakage), but it underscored that feeling of ‘What on Earth is going on??’ that I felt in response to the notification.
The surprise I felt wasn’t because I didn’t expect to feel sad. I had actually thought before about what it was going to be like to hear the news that an artist I particularly admire and who is a major presence of popular culture (David Bowie … David Lynch) had died. Of course I would be sad for so many reasons: the reminder of my own aging and mortality; the loss of further, future artworks and the richness of experience that I’d imagined they would gift me. But actually the surprise came from a feeling something like this:
‘Can’t really imagine David Bowie in the past tense. Always present, always future.’
— Jedediah Berry (@jedediahberry) January 11, 2016
That captures it I think – brilliantly puts into words what I think many people were / are feeling.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about his family and friends and how you possibly reconcile the grief for both the public persona/artist and the private person/artist that you knew. I’m not sure if it would be a twice-over grief or a conflated, compounded one. Either way, I can only imagine it to be huge.
It’s strange though that listening to and watching the video-clip for “Lazarus” is oddly comforting. Or maybe not so strange – calculated to be that perhaps.It’s horrific, candid, and authentic. It’s final. But there’s something about seeing someone inhabit and transform that experience so significantly. I think it was a hugely generous thing to make. I know I’m not alone and not the first person to say or think it. But I never want to forget it.