When someone like David Bowie dies part of what I think we feel is the loss of a projection.
Famous people, especially those who mean a lot to us are not human to us.
If they are movie stars, way up there on an IMAX screen, they are literally bigger than life.
And since real life does not provide us with beautiful giants, it is easy to transform those images into fairy tale sized heroes. And fairy tales for the most part are only real for what they represent. What they have to teach us as a kind of literary service to help us in our endless desire to expand our potentially rubber souls.
Stars of any kind are three dimensional dress up costumes for us to try on and play pretend.
We see this in literal practice during the opening for any Star Wars movie or Comic Con event.
What is really going on there? People are empowering themselves exactly like children do by pretending...or even momentarily believing that they can fly.
And who says that they don't experience that very kind of flight? If your imagination or dreams are vivid example enough, doesn't the line between real and fantasy often get blurred?
Life, as we grow older, seems to be a daily D-Day Invasion's worth of reality that comes right at us from the shores of whatever seems to scare us at the moment.
Turn on the local news and the first fifteen moments are always---always about murder, car crashes or rape.
Turn on cable news and you get hit in the face with an ISIS paranoia. It seems to me that the reporters often seem like a frantic Butterly McQueen, flapping her arms in panic while screamin' about how she don't know nothing about birthin' no babies.
When I was a boy, the newscasters, like Walter Cronkite had the opposite role. They were the calm, soothing voices of reason in the worst of all possible storms. Watching the news fifty years ago was like turning to daddy or grandpa for assurance that all your fears were nothing more than downy feathers that in seconds would fly away if you just listen to reason.
But not today and that is why heroes like David Bowie mean so much to us. Especially Bowie because he long ago figured out that his stage persona was clay for play. From Ziggy on he kept on coming back with the next trick or treat costume for us....with all that musical candy.
And we knew that deep down beneath all those colorful circus masks and sharp white suits was pain. Embarrassment. Humiliation. Sexual identity issues.
HIs prescription: hide safely while acting out on the grandest of all scales. The music will speak the truth and sometimes just be there to make your feel silly and playful. Try this hat on. Now this. Now this.
He turned everyday life into an endless dress up play date. He made life just as safe as Walter Cronkite did. HIs kite just flew a little higher.
So part of what we have lost is the Pied Piper who did not allow us to march merrily off the cliff and into the field of wry.
We lost the mastermind of pretend who turned our masks of shame into masks of self expression that made it safe to go out publicly by not being who you were...in order to live out who you actually were.
And that is why he lasted 50 years. And that is why we needed the David Bowie screen for us to project ourselves on to.
Death has a permanent mask and that seems more like irony than fact when it comes to David. Won't he continue to evolve? Isn't that why he called the song Lazarus? Wasn't his final message: it never ends? Wasn't he finally taking off his mask once and for all and being his complete secret self for the first time ever?
And what do we see? We see every single aspect of the human condition. We feel his pain. His sorrow. His fears.
And what then is the ultimate mask?
His music. Because that's what the very best music is. That's what The Beatles did. That is what Adele has done.
As the Beatles grew and expanded they kept abandoning their musical happy masks by showing us what was who they really were until a certain Two Virgin's album cover went as far as that system could possibly go.
All they ultimately wanted to do...and what ultimately destroyed them as a band...were dreams that were so real that they finally got bigger than even them. They had to become individuals. Since their split we have been through it all with them. Marriage, divorce, births, cancer, deaths.
And yet their once upon a time Mop Top masks are readily available. In fact they just started Stream #9 thanks to the Internet. It's like the young Jimmy Stewart and the old one. We needed them both. The young Beatles are firmly entrenched in our firmament while we still go flocking to 72 year old Paul McCartney concerts---which begin with a look back visual fiesta of once upon a time----projections. He even started his concert years back with a Cirque Du Solieil show.
Get back to where you still belong.
Going to his shows...and to the end...David Bowie's....was all about transcendancing. It about taking a flight to both Venus and Mars on the wings of temporarily suspended adulthood.
It was a guaranteed ticket to ride.
And now that John, George and David are gone, all the real projections can take over as the ultimate stand in for them.
We may even see holograms really soon stepping into their roles.
The real 2.0 versions of who all these people actually were is important to the fanatics and historians who feel too old to play and instead must search for the holy grail in order to feel the holy light of significance and truth.
But for the masses, we need our symbols and our fairy tales and our absolute faith in whatever it is we choose to believe in because without them we are nothing more than real.
And who wants to go as themselves for Halloween?
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