David Bowie's Lesson of Bravery

"The stars look very different today..."

I woke up this morning ready to take my semester math exam. I had studied, I was prepared. I just needed to eat breakfast and get to school. I made the ritual first scroll through my Instagram feed while still in bed. The first photo was a friend's daughter, reading some news story on an iPad. I recognized the face of musician David Bowie on the iPad's screen. The caption: "The heartbreak is real." Having a feeling of dread for what this could mean, I hurriedly Googled his name. What I saw broke my heart. "David Bowie dies of cancer aged 69". I wept immediately.

Three hours later: I've made it through my math exam and have cried three times already. On the train home, the same friend who posted earlier posts a video of her young daughter singing Bowie's "Five Years" in a mock British accent. This seven year-old girl could accurately be described as Bowie's #1 fan. She has made her mom sew her Bowie costumes, tells me all about Bowie whenever she sees me, and covers her room with pictures of his face. The caption on this new video reads,
"This little one who instantly connected with Bowie of her own choosing at 3 years old and continues to love him, at first, ran and hid under her pillow at the news. She emerged 5 minutes later, with tear strewn face, dressed head to toe Bowie, acting as if nothing was different. She was stoic, wanting to read the NYTimes for the first time ever."
I cried again reading this account. I was astonished by her bravery, her strength, in the face of the death of her idol. And then I realized that she had done what Bowie would have wanted her to do. Bowie made us all want to believe in ourselves and in our strength.

I go back to the aforementioned song "Five Years". Probably my favorite Bowie song, he tells us the world's reaction to learning they have five years left to live on earth. One thing I love about this song is the compassion and love that Bowie conveys in the face of horror. Sure, he describes people doing some horrible things in reaction to the news, but he also gives us this beautiful verse:
"News guy wept and told us earth was really dying / Cried so much his face was wet / then I knew he was not lying / I heard telephones, opera house, favorite melodies"
These lines have always struck me when I hear this song. Maybe it's the way the music begins to build. Maybe it's the way Bowie describes the end of the world not as an apocalyptic horror, but as a celebration of what we love in life; people call their loved ones, the newscaster tenderly weeps as he delivers our fate, people listen to their favorite music. It's a touching way to see the end of the world: not as a horrible ending, but as a celebration of what has been. The strength Bowie conveys in choosing to see the beautiful in the ugly really proves what Bowie wanted us to take away from his music: strength and bravery. Bravery to be yourself, to transform yourself as he did, to wear what you want, to do what you want, to say, sing, scream what you want. But there's a sense of community in it, too. In "Five Years" he goes on to sing,
"And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people / And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people / I never thought I'd need so many people..."
Bowie illustrates the power of strength in numbers. He wanted us all to be brave. He needed us to listen to him, we needed him to tell us to be brave, and we needed each other to keep each other brave.

And that's what Bowie would want us to all do today, to do just as that little girl in her Bowie costume did. He would want us to need each other, to be strong together, and to go out into the world braver than before. Like "Five Years", today should not be a day of destruction and hopelessness; today should be a celebration of his music, his life, his lessons. A celebration of the man who taught us we could all be heroes. But Bowie? A hero not just for one day, but for the ages. Thank you, David Bowie. There's no more that can be said.

Text: Penny Mack
Visuals: Tumblr: rubyetc, Tumblr: aladdinvain

[EDITOR'S NOTE: After publication, some readers called for us to address the pedophilia accusations against David Bowie. Although Things Mag does not confirm or deny the accusations, we do keep them in mind. However, we believe it is still important to celebrate his legacy and the enormous impact he has had on his fans.]
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