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David Bowie died of cancer. The 69 year old embodied the charisma and reality of Rock and Roll. He was a singer, song-writer, Broadway and film actor who sold over 140 million albums and 111 singles worldwide, ranging from ‘Let’s Dance’ to ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Rebel Rebel’.
He appeared in many films from ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ to playing Pilate in ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’. His fashion and music was cutting edge and ‘Ziggy Stardust’ marked his androgynous phase. He was a flamboyant cult icon who lived a hedonistic rock and roll lifestyle, fueled by drink, drugs and vigorous bisexuality. He turned pop music in new directions and music, fashion and sexuality were his playthings; he was an artistic chameleon. The V and A‘s fastest selling exhibition was a retrospective of his career, music, fashion, costumes and art. His final album ‘Blackstar’ is his own distinctive farewell to the world and it contains a song titled, ‘Lazarus’ he wears a white blindfold with buttons over the eyes, singing the lyrics, ‘This way or no way, you know I’ll be free’.
It is a sobering thought to wonder what we will leave behind and how people will remember us.
Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus, who was his friend. Jesus went to the grave with Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary and summoned Lazarus from the tomb. Jesus showed His power over death and destruction and gave Lazarus back life. We hear nothing more in the Bible about Lazarus, after his miraculous resurrection, but stories and legends abound. Oscar Wilde ponders what happened to those, whose lives Jesus touched. In his poem ‘The Doer of Good’ Wilde pictured the Doer of Good meeting a leper, a blind man and a prostitute who He healed and forgave. The poem ends with the Doer of Good leaving the city and meeting a young man weeping by the roadside. When asked why he weeps he says, ‘I was dead once and you raised me from the dead. What else should I do but weep?’
David Bowie will be remembered because of his art, music and his pushing of the boundaries. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the V and A exhibition will add life to his long list of songs and films. People have flooded social media to offer memories and appreciations of who Bowie was, what he had achieved, and how he affected them. It is a sobering thought to wonder what we will leave behind and how people will remember us. But it is also worth considering Oscar Wilde’s reflection. If we had been cured from leprosy, blindness or saved from a life of prostitution, how would we then live? Lazarus was raised from the dead and given an opportunity to live a different life. Tradition suggests that Lazarus never smiled again, as he was haunted by the experience of Hades and the reality of life after death for those who had no hope. The promise of the resurrection is that we have nothing to fear from death. Existentialist philosophy stresses that we should live now in light of our death. We should also live now in light of the death of others and what faces them and us after death. If their fate matters then, it should matter now.