Monday, January 11, 2016

On David Bowie: In Praise of All Freaks Who Don't Give a Fuck

I can't stop thinking about David Bowie today, so I'll add my own modest tribute to the deluge of Bowie-based commentary flooding the Internet.

I'm thinking about David Bowie not just because I love and respect his music, and the rest of his art, and I'm sad he died. The thing I can't stop thinking about is this: David Bowie was a freak, in the absolute best sense of the word. And he gave zero fucks what anyone else thought about it. 

He was gifted, of course, but also incredibly, almost preternaturally original. He had artistic vision, instincts, and impulses that could not be contained or defined by anything approaching conventional norms. He challenged almost every preconceived model of music, race, gender, sexuality, performance, art, technology, and even finance. Seemingly, he did it all fearlessly and just because he wanted to, or needed to, and could. 

I'm not much for hero-worship, but it's not very often someone comes along who is so boldly different. Most of us, for most of our lives, live complacently, enveloped by the dull hum of conformity: We're born, go to school, get jobs, get married, have kids, travel a bit--all if we're lucky, and call it a day. Mostly, we surround ourselves comfortably with people who are like us. We emulate one another, and often criticize the outliers who refuse to join in.

It'
s those outliers though, those freaks and creative forces of nature, who make life interesting and literally spectacular for the rest of us. I don't think it's hyperbole to call this particular character trait a peculiar form of genius. These are those rare people who are out there bravely creating their own reality while everyone else just stands around and watches. Either in contempt, awe, or something in between.

Society tends to demonize and ostracize individualists, especially artistic individualists, because they are an inherent threat to the dominant paradigm. But for people who question the dominant paradigm--who like to kick its tires and see where it falters and fails--people like David Bowie are a revelation. They're lights that blaze like supernovas when they're alive, and continue to burn on, long after they're gone.

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