I’ve had Blackstar on repeat all week. Can’t get enough of it. “Challenging and disturbing,” in a characteristically David Bowie way, it was released a year ago today, and just two days before he succumbed to the cancer he’d been fighting while writing and producing his last album.
In many ways, Blackstar is a raging lament at the death Bowie knew was close. News of his passing came as a surprise at the beginning of a year that was not good for many of those who have inspired us: Harper Lee passed in 2016. She was among the first to pique my interest in social justice. The ‘Fifth Beatle,’ George Martin, who produced a catalog that’s as current and uplifting today as it was in the 60s. We lost a Prince. A Princess…. And many more.
How many times does an angel fall?
How many people lie instead of talking tall?
— David Bowie, Blackstar
Yet of them all, it’s Bowie I have on my mind this week. I could write about his incredible capacity for reinvention: The Man Who Fell to Earth. Ziggy Stardust. The Thin White Duke. I could write about his unrelenting, life-long commitment to art-as-social-commentary. I could write for those who saw his gender fluidity as inspiration for their own freedom of expression and being. In so many ways, David Bowie set a profound example.
What does it mean to be ‘an inspiration?’
As 2016 came to a close, what is it that had so many of us talking about all these dead celebrities? What is it about their impressions on our lives that has us mourning them so? After all, most of us knew them only for their public personas…. Is it their poetry? Their storytelling? Their performances? Is it the associations we make between their work and important moments or people in our lives?
Or was it that their passing was the most fathomable part of a mad, mad year? Brexit. Aleppo. Trump. Certainly, it’s a year that leaves us shocked at our democracies’ decisions. Horrified that another brutal war has wrought terror on innocents. And, yes, saddened that so many anchors of our popular culture seemed to disappear before our eyes.
It’s always an introspective time of year for me…. “Sentimental,” as my sister put it. I find myself looking back on the choices I’ve made…. Have I chosen well and wisely? Or might other choices have changed the shape of my today? Have I failed to make choices, leaving my future, my family’s and my business’s in the hands of fate?
Let’s answer the times in which we live and work with truth, justice and love.
New intentions and aspirations always accompany the dawn of a new year. It’s an opportunity to wipe the old slate and start fresh. Perhaps that’s the lesson Bowie left—that when we choose consciously, we can create ourselves, and recreate ourselves anew and anon. We can answer the times in which we live and work by stepping into the light and singing for truth, justice, love.
I never did see Bowie perform live. I had many chances, but somehow I always felt there would be another opportunity. Disappointing? Perhaps. And there are of course far more consequential decisions: Am I holding the energy and keeping the commitment to be the husband and father I want to be? Am I making the right use of my talents and experience? Am I showing up as the CEO of our business in a way that empowers my team, emboldens my clients, and drives ‘the change we seek?’
As we step into 2017, I’m aiming for focus. For generosity. I want to be in juicy, generative conversations with smart, thoughtful people who are committed to making the world better.
Who will you be in 2017? How will you be in 2017? It’s a new year. In many ways, it’s a new reality. Let’s make it an inspiration.
Be well. Be love.
See you soon,
Mike Rowlands is President & CEO of Junxion. He has been described as a “peace warrior” and thought leader on issues of social importance. This is the second of a series letters he’s writing as he seeks to embrace transparency, step in to courageous conversations, and be in service to a new era. You can reach him via email@example.com.