This is a copy of my article for the FEBRUARY 2016 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’
I write after the death of musical superstar, actor and cultural icon, David Bowie, has been announced. I tweeted the following at the time:
RIP David Bowie the iconic Starman who made us heroes for more than just one day & wrote the soundtrack for the life of a generation & more.
And it’s true! Like many of you, Bowie’s songs were the back drop to my youth and ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ features as one of my top ten albums of all time. In fact, I’m listening to it as I write this article!
As my own memories have been sparked, I remember the creative, outlandish and androgynous personas, full of colour and elaborate costumes, he created for himself each time he released a new album: from Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane through to the Thin White Duke – all of which went onto become some of the most iconic imagery in pop culture history.
However, as I reminisced about my teens and twenties, I also began to reflect on his troubled soul. Bowie’s experiments with his sexuality and drugs are well documented and, as he once tellingly observed:
I really had a hunger to experience everything that life had to offer, from the opium den to whatever. I think I have done just about everything that it’s possible to do.”
Bowie once described himself as:
A mid-art populist and postmodernist Buddhist surfing his way through the chaos of the late 20th century.
Bowie sang about space and knew ‘The Truth Is Out There’ (remember the X Files?) and this ‘other worldliness’ was a regular feature in his songs such as ‘Space Oddity’ ‘Life On Mars’ alongside the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ album.
Bowie’s lyrics often bordered on the thin line between sanity and madness as he sought to discover, it seems to me, that inner sense of belonging and purpose that is so important to each one of us. As he once sang:
It ain’t easy to get to heaven when you’re going down … with the help of the good Lord we can all pull on through.
However, like so many of his generation, he was looking in the wrong places and finding the wrong answers.
Ash Wednesday (10th February) marks the beginning of Lent. For many people, Lent provides an opportunity to practice some form of abstinence or to follow a less indulgent lifestyle – especially after the excesses of the Christmas season. For others, Lent is a time for ‘navel gazing’ and truthful honesty about the state of their moral, ethical, and spiritual lives. If you, like Bowie, are a troubled soul searching for meaning and purpose in your life then Lent is as good a time as any to start looking for answers.
All of the Anglican Churches in Billericay are joining together for ‘A Deeper Walk’ Lent Course starting on Tuesday 16th February at Emmanuel at 8.00 pm (coffee from 7.30 pm) for six weeks (The Bishop of Chelmsford joins us on Tuesday 22nd March) when we’re examining what we call ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ to help find the answers to some of our questions.
We’ll look at topics such as: Prayer; Confession; Solitude; Simplicity; Worship and Bible Study. Each evening will begin with a presentation, followed by discussion and reflection and will provide an opportunity to both discover and nurture our spirituality. Some people suggest that faith is only for those who need a crutch to lean on. However, it seems a much better option than alcohol or drugs! No matter who we are, we all need help as we journey, and struggle, through life.
Remember these lyrics taken from one of Bowie’s iconic songs:
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 …
If we change Starman to Jesus then Bowie’s, and our, search for meaning and purpose begins to make a bit more sense, don’t you think?
And the last word goes to Major Tom: “May God’s love be with you!”