I awoke this morning to the news that David Bowie died yesterday. I drank my coffee thinking about him. And I wondered why, of all the people who have graced our planet, why David Bowie? Why was his life such a lesson? What I came up with is this: David Bowie was a legend, an innovator, he changed the face of music and pop culture because he dared to be a weirdo.
How many kids learn not to do that? How many parents work so, so hard to teach their kids to be normal, as though the normal kids are the only ones who contribute good things to society. Looking back I’d have to say that it’s the weirdos who contribute more good than the rest.
After that, my thoughts moved to a far more personal teacher of mine: Marvin. Marvin was a weirdo, too. I met him in the ER of a tiny hospital in a very conservative community; Marvin was a gay black man. Marvin was also full of life and love and never made the mistake to hide it. He was pushed out of his church for this. He was his family’s black sheep. He once told me how painful it was to miss his father’s funeral. Nobody wanted him there – the very fact of his being was too disruptive.
Marvin died of AIDS in 2011.
The thing is, Marvin never imagined he was a teacher, of anything, to anybody. But he was a teacher to me, and his death hit me harder than I imagined it would. I lived alone at the time and I remember spending an entire weekend in my pajamas mourning and wondering what I could do in tribute to his life. I came up with nothing, except for this one idea that changed me. I decided that since Marvin could no longer live his life to its fullest, I’d do it instead. I decided I’d no longer live my life worrying what everybody thought. I decided I’d do my absolute best to be 100% fully and genuinely ME.
That was almost five years ago. What I’ve learned in that time is being genuine is amazing, but it’s also incredibly difficult. There are no road maps to follow. There are no tangible signs to tell you if you’re doing it “right.”
I think that’s why we admired David Bowie and those of his ilk so much. It’s hard to be thoughtfully ourselves, but even harder if what your self is is on the far end of human experience. We all have lessons to teach, though. Every single one of us. Even if we don’t think it. So I need to say it today:
Thanks, David Bowie, for being such a weirdo. And thanks, Marvin, for your friendship. I’m glad to have shared this time in space with you both.