I’ve been oddly sad about the passing of David Bowie. I say that because while I liked his music, I wasn’t one to rush out and buy it or even obsess over it. And yet, I’ve been utterly gutted by his passing.
I felt the same thing about Steve Jobs. When Jobs passed, I did not even have an iPhone yet or any other such device but I felt such a loss, as if there was a small hole left behind in the creative world that would never be filled again.
I feel this about David Bowie, too.
There are certain people to me who are filled with such creativity and vision that they are ageless. It’s especially hard to acknowledge that they are gone because they seemed to be here from the start and therefore, you assumed they’d always be. And yet, you know that where ever they are now, they are probably having a great time and adding their creativity to another dimension.
As I was looking through various David Bowie clips the last few days, I came across one that summed up why this man was such a creative genius. This interview is from 1999, and Bowie is talking about the impact of the Internet on art and music. In 1999, the Internet was new and very few of us realized the potential. And yet, Bowie goes on to describe why the Internet is such a revolution. It isn’t just a tool. It isn’t a means to an end. It’s changed the way we enjoy and therefore create art.
Everything he talks about in this short clip is what has happened, and it’s occurred across the board, not just with music but with painting and writing and other forms of artistic expression. Specifically, he predicts that there will be a gray space between the art that has been created and the people who enjoy the art, which then serves to define the art. That fans will be almost as key to art as the people creating it. And this is the world today! Bowie predicted it all.
My career is a perfect example of this. The means in which people can get to know me and my creative output through social media and then contact me and read my works is up close now. Writers don’t sit in a room by themselves anymore without interaction from their readers. Their art, their writing, takes on new meaning when it exists in the gray space where it is being consumed.
Nowhere is that more true than with my “This I Believe” essay. It has gained popularity in part because of how people have related to it. It has a different meaning as an artistic piece because of how readers relate to it, pass it along, discuss it… and all of it is possible because of the Internet. It was first published there and remains there, in the mysterious new dimension that we can’t step into with our bodies but can experience with our minds and hearts. And all of this is what Bowie predicted.
The same is true with my poetry. There are people who have created videos about it, songs, discussed it in chat rooms, and talked about it classrooms. I know this because I’ve seen it online or they’ve contacted me here, in cyber space, to tell me that.
This is also why some writers struggle so much today. They actually get angry at readers for not buying their stuff. They think their art is such great literature that they refuse to get involved with blogging or social media, deeming it below them. They can tell you the proper way to construct a sentence but are clueless when it comes to creating real art, the kind people want to read and buy and discuss and devour.
But they are missing out on a great opportunity, because this new method of creative delivery is indeed a revolution. It is one that allows writers and artists to get their work out there for us to consume and appreciate, and finally, for both the writer and reader to work together to give their art value. This type of collaboration in the elevation of art has never been done before like this, and it is (as Bowie says in this clip) exciting and terrifying.
Some of us, especially those writers who struggle with the concept of blogging and social media, have a hard time really grasping what the world is like today. We couldn’t have predicted it, and yet, Bowie did, and was excited by that. It’s just one reason I will miss his creative genius and contribution. RIP.