You may say to yourself, I can't afford the ticket, but really, what else are you going to spend on? If you can't afford the ticket, next thing you know, it's the chicken, and soon enough, you're spiraling down some self-initiated pity-parade of not-this & not-that, and that's really no way to live, now is it?
David Bowie knew he could not only afford the ticket, but fucking print it on hammered gold in freshly squeezed squid ink, hand it to himself in the guise of alien ticket-taker, and zoom off to whatever destination his vast imagination was conjuring at that moment. Like breakfast. Like union with the sexy wild things under the stairs. Like a laugh bigger than anything tickets buy or don't buy.
I will miss David Bowie, and yet in a sense I've been missing him all along. The dates of my childhood - 1972, 1973, 1975, 1980 - dates when I was learning to crawl & then to walk & then to speak & read & draw wild scrawls & princesses in big skirts - are dates when he was learning how to love Japan, how to fritz his brain into malleability, and how to embody deathless cool, so that I & everyone learning to listen to him would have an image of what wild and queenly elegance - heroic alienation and good heart - might look like in this world.
In a sense, David Bowie as he is in my universe does not change, except for the tender reminder that "the artist died at home, surrounded by his family and friends." My friend Larissa says that knowing David Bowie died helps her feel OK about dying, too, knowing that she will be in good company.
When my grandfather died in 1990, my parents went back to France for the funeral, and my brother and I stayed in the States. I have no recollection where Adrian spent that fortnight - with some friend of his, I suppose. I do know that I went to Stephanie's house, and I remember that I was really, really sick - feverish, snotty, weak. I didn't go to school the whole time, laying, instead, on the floor in Stephanie's basement, watching The Man Who Fell to Earth again and again.
Partly, I needed to start all aver again because I kept falling asleep. Partly, because what I was registering made no sense. Bowie is Christ, descended to be among us, misunderstood and reviled, though not (as I remember) particularly inclined towards healing the sick and comforting the widows. Maybe he would, though. Probably if David Bowie had met my suddenly widowed grandmother, he would have turned his mirrored eyes on her with compassion born of seeing from a great distance, and of losing contact with home as a present and real possibility.
So I watched The Man Who Fell to Earth, and had fever-dreams, and never could sort out how the arc of the story went, except for the obvious. We do not belong here, but come from elsewhere, in our unearthly beauty. Tragically adolescent and adolescently tragic, I drank this up. I knew this to be true. I realized the mirror contact-lenses probably hurt a lot, and I appreciated Bowie's discipline in wearing them for my benefit.
My grandfather, now that I think about it, had a bit of The Man Who Fell to Earth about him. He loved us, you could tell that, but he wasn't really on the same plane with us. His hearing was pretty bad, and he found listening to my very vocal, a bit twittery, grandmother hard sometimes. At meals, you could see him turning down his hearing aid.
He walked into the woods to die, as best we can tell. He knew where he went, which was the coldest darkest place, the one likeliest to put his weakened heart over its limit, and set him free. He died in the woods, and the black and gold clock in the living room stopped, never to be wound again. He became The Man Who Fell to Earth, having decided he could, after all, afford the ticket. Long after dark, my uncle and his dogs went to find my grandfather's body, to bring it home safe from animals & whatever other dangers might approach a freed body, out in the open.
Did I ever see a doctor? I don't think so. I think I fevered and lay, drinking ginger ales and watching TV, in between psychedelic naps. Besides Bowie, the other stream that kept coming up onscreen was a BBC documentary about Stonehenge, involving dudes in big headphones listening to what? the earth? I would fall asleep, and they would be there again, in their underground command center, listening, while the radar arm swept the small round screen, blipping out the secrets of it all. Eventually, as the fevers passed, I came to realize that the basic premise of the documentary seemed to be that you could draw a straight line from Stonehenge to any other point in England. Wow! Check that out!
As the fever cleared some more, I realized you could draw a straight line between the couch in Stephanie's basement and any point in the known & unknown universe, which was either way more cool, or totally deflating, depending on which ticket you chose to afford.
Not sure - what's the ticket now? There's a basic listening: this, then that. Yesterday, speaking with my new nun friend, Tenzin Pelyang, I said,"There's a core certainty, and everything arranges itself around it, in service." That seems fine. Stay with that, with the opening around refuge, with the dance of the beautiful monsters, and the sense of more and more wanting to let go of grudge.
That old friend is a weird fucker. Fine. True enough. But in the presence of an invitation to renew friendship, does it really make sense to allow grudge to tell me I can't afford the ticket? In the presence of death, can grudge make any sense? In the presence of a stream of blessings, holding on to some cruddy bit of bank with all my might is foolish, killing as it does all possibility of swimming, splashing, drowning into deep mossy pools and bouncing back, a sparkling bubble refusing to stay fixed anywhere.
The universe (in the form of an Amazon glitch) sent my friend a super-deluxe heated, bidet-squirting, blow-drying toilet seat that plays music of a sort, and she decided to count it as a blessing. She decided she could afford the ticket, because no one was asking her to pay for it in the first place.
That's really more like it, isn't it? Ultimately, no one's asking for a ticket, except the one whose price is letting go of having & not-having mind, which sounds awful, till we realize that that mind is the source of all our scarcities. We learn that the mind before & inside & below having & not-having is a golden ticket in every box, a little song of sheer delight.
David Bowie, when you died, I hope that song was with you. Pure delight, a ticket to anywhere.
Julie Püttgen is an artist and meditation teacher.
108 Names of now