For many the passing this week of David Bowie brought both a sense of shock and loss - it took us by surprise, which may not be wholly inappropriate taking into consideration the nature of his work and artistic style. Not that I'm qualified to comment about the passing of such a legend. My musical knowledge is limited to the extent whereby my wife, Jo, has told me she will never be on the same side as me in a pub quiz since I will guarantee them failure!
However, even I am familiar with many of the songs and styles of Bowie - a soul given to portraying life through both sight and sound. To my mind artistry is by construct a spiritual act in so much as it takes you away from the material and physical to explore the mystical and mysterious. For many such a forage into other dimensions leads to both the weird and the wonderful and often the boundaries between the two become blurred. We ought not to be surprised that such journeys take on an experimental nature - the use of drugs and alcohol are well reported in pushing beyond the boundaries of convention and sexuality, which is most closely associated to spirituality, can by some, become gateways and connection points for a restless and searching soul. Some would argue that this is a turning from God - the Divine - who intrinsically places his image in the whole of humanity. Others would say it is a searching for it. But when David Bowie stood on the stage at London's Wembley Stadium at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 and prayed the Lord's Prayer in front of 72,000 people he embraced an act that says something about us all.
His reciting of the prayer was unrehearsed and left Brian May 'confused' by the spontaneous act. Yet kneeling as he did to represent the pain of loss and place of suffering he spoke in a manner that carried humility and vulnerability and prayed a prayer that resonated with the thousands gathered that day. Why? Perhaps its because when we feel the pain of others we want to offer something more than ourselves for in and of ourselves we know we are missing the power to bring any sense of hope to our hopelessness.
When I listened to Bowie praying on that stage I could see how many would see themselves in that prayer. Art draws on the soul and music pulls to a side of life that mystifies the material and reminds us that there is more to life than the stadium we stand in. His act of spontaneity offered words when words can so easily fail. It resonates because it captures how we feel and offers a pathway of hope amidst the darkness. His offering of the prayer gives a a wisdom that comes from our search for life which is this: it is when we come to the end of ourselves that we can truly find ourselves because in that ending we discover the potential of a new beginning in he who is the Father of the universe.