Hero or star?

In 1947 David Robert Jones was born in South London.
He formed his first band at the wide-eyed age of 15.
And then magnificently metamorphosed.
From a performer at weddings into a hero of our times.
Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane.
The incomparable David Bowie.
A hero, not a star.
I recently listened to Bowie’s final creation “Blackstar.”
And I watched his startling “Lazarus” video.
With the dying Bowie portrayed as a hospital patient.
And the hero/star distinction became glaringly clear.
Stars are static.
Like stars in the sky, they’re always there.
They comfort us, provide assurance, warmth and light.
There are no surprises with stars.
They give us what we expect of them.
Like John Wayne or Jimmy Buffet.
Heroes are dynamic.
They’re unpredictable.
They see things differently.
They possess an inquisitive openness to life.
They dare and they stretch.
Themselves and us.
Our beliefs in what’s acceptable and what’s possible.
Heroes do a service to mankind.
They’re precursors of cultural change and growth.
They change the way we look at the world.
And how we see ourselves.
Our identities, our potential.
Heroes move us.
There are billions of stars.
People who help us feel safe and comfortable.
And that’s a good thing.
Heroes are scarce.
And absolutely essential to our evolution.
Because they experiment and create.
They change things.
They push humanity forward.
About a week before his death, Bowie called his producer.
He told him he wanted to make one more album.
And so during his final weeks, a dying and passionate Bowie created five fresh songs.
David Jones may be a Starman now.
But he was truly a hero on Earth.
Someday we’ll all be starmen and starwomen.
In the meantime, ask yourself.
Who will I be during my brief human journey?
Hero or star?

A little less Coleridge.

The Romantic poet John Keats lived his short life with intense passion.
Moved by his senses and imagination.
He longed to find beauty in a world of suffering.
And his writing is a radiant reflection of those dreams.
Keats was also a great admirer of Shakespeare.
He once described the Bard’s genius as Negative Capability:

“At once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously. I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

Uninhibited, open, without judgment.
Giving oneself fully to the process, to that which is being experienced.
Without the need to figure it all out, or the desire for gain.
Sadly, that sentiment is antithetical to today’s goal-obsessed culture.
An anxiety-fueled zeitgeist that is sucking the passion out of people.
And which, I’m pretty sure, is the crux of my angst.
For I often find myself wondering.
Why do it? What’s its purpose? What’s it going to accomplish?
Driven, instinctively, by my insatiable desire to understand, to connect the dots.
Just like another Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Who obsessively searched for “the truth” of the human condition.
And the mysteries of the natural world.
Keats saw Coleridge’s compulsion as narrowly subjective.
Keats believed that the inspirational power of beauty was more important than the quest for meaning.
It has taken me quite a while to wake up to it (assuming I actually have).
But Keats was right.
In our dogged pursuit of knowledge and goals, we have forgotten to live.
To subdue self-consciousness and identify with others.
To open up fully to here-and-now experiences.
And to embrace our empathetic impulses and imaginative creativity.
So I’m going to stop connecting all of the dots.
Stop trying to predict an unknowable future.
And instead, be a connected and passionate part of the present.
For as Goethe made clear, “What is important in life is life, and not the result of life.”
Here’s to life!
A little less Coleridge.
A lot more Keats.