David Bowie: A Changing Question

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes...

(Turn and face the strange)
Oh, look out you rock 'n rollers
(Turn and face the strange)
Pretty soon now you're gonna get older
~ David Bowie

Why do we care so much about David Bowie's death? Or is it wiser to see it as yet another one of his transformations?  

David Bowie resonates so deeply with us because he made the reality of impermanence seem natural and colorful and fun. Who am I today? Who will I be tomorrow? What was I yesterday? These questions can make one's bumhole pucker up and fill with dread. But wearing the robes of an artist, he asked us to remain playful rather than fearful.

Impermanence is a fundamental law. Like gravity.

Yet we're ok with gravity and know not to try to juggle five eggs while standing on a hand-crafted turkish rug. But we deny impermanence everyday because it terrifies the shit out of us. 

The other day, my garbage disposal went kablooey and I became irritated.

Then my tires popped and I grumbled and moaned. That same day a squirrel made a tragic life decision to visit my chimney and learned about impermanence in the hardest way possible. My goddamn shoelaces can't keep themselves properly tied for God's sake. 

This impermanence shit is everywhere.  

But how easy is it to accept any of these movements and changes from one state to another––from tires that have air to tires that don't? How accepting are we when a relationship changes from the state of lovers to friends to strangers? Why have we accepted the law of gravity but not the law of impermanence?

Are we stupid? Or Scared? And if scared, then of what? 

Below, see David Bowie pondering this question. 


Robert Frost, too, has spent some time thinking about this very thing:

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

~”Reluctance”  <----- Click here for a New England-ish way of listening to the entire verse which is quite short for those of you beginning to sweat at the thought of sitting still long enough to hear an entire poem read to you. 


In these ways, David Bowie is helping us ask fundamental questions about who, exaclty, we think we are, and he helps us let loose from the dogma of identity. Dan Leighton, zen teacher, writes: 

There is no faith without questioning. Faith that is allergic to questioning is just fundamentalist blind dogma. But faith-questioning is how we sit upright. This is not necessarily about releasing the reluctance or resistance but about being right there in the middle of the reluctance. Our reluctance is this question about whether I can be here, in the middle of question. Can I be willing to be the question I am? Faith to doubt or question means being willing to be a question ourselves. Sometimes the people who are most weird or odd, who are walking questions, may be the most inspiring. Those people allow us the opportunity to see our own reluctance to question, so they can inspire faith.
~ from Zen Questions

Our hearts ache deeply when things change. God bless you David Bowie, living questioner extraordinaire, for helping us relax with grace into the naturalness of transformation and the beauty of letting go of the frozen images of who we think we were.