“Ziggy Startdust, Thin White Duke or Tin Machine, which was the best?” As though there is a definitive answer. The highest selling, the most expressive, the most unexpected, the most lyrical, the [fill in desired attribute/s]? Regardless, why does it even matter? But that’s just it, it does matter for us but not as we know it.
Even more remarkable than being able to find the truth in this question is how we will answer it. Given the question, there would be a bucket of us who would blurt out our preference: those that will wait for others to take their choice before choosing the same, those that will wait for others to take their choice before choosing another, those that will state they like them all on their own merits, those who can’t decide, those who will state that they have no idea what the question even refers and so on. Regardless of which bucket we fit, the heart of the question appears deeply ironic.
Without being able to ask him, I believe the question would not have concerned David Bowie, who saw all of them as himself and part of his artistic journey. He was renown for both who he was, who he is but mostly who he will be. Those around him don’t percieve him as who he was last time they caught up but who he might be tomorrow.
Personalities like David Bowie who are able to reinvent themselves as the need arises should inspire us to do the same. The who that we are is what has got us here. Most importantly, it has built our connections and the networks that we have around us. Here is why we are so scared of moving outside of what our identity is. What we neglect to realise is here is only now and does not need to be what is next. Next need only be what we want to make of it when it becomes now and not be shackled to consistency with the past.
Socially, we are destined to act with and to seek out consistency. Consistency makes our worlds more predictable… and survivable. Anecdotally, my reservation to pursue an interest or acting differently because it is not ‘who I am’ can be grinding. The subtle shaming in the “I didn’t know you were that type” comments hammer in the pickets around how we see ourselves. A more encouraging and curious take in place of these comments is needed.
What here neglects to realise is that we have more to lose by not taking a plunge at reinvention now – time. There are sufficient constraints to keep us on the path without adding self-synthesised external perceptions as one. We have moved beyond the suitably static roles of hunter gatherers to the dynamically immediate and connected. The here and the now. In all that we will see progress in technology, science and culture over our lives why not give our self the same opportunity. “The precise person you are now is fleeting, just like all the other people you’ve been” David Epstein writes in his book Range, “[it] feels like the most unexpected result, but it’s also the most well documented”.
Taking full artistic liberty of the cliche ‘change is the only constant’ – evolution is the only constant. Gripping too tightly onto here when next becomes now, due to some silly pickets, goes against the will of time.
After all, here is only projected and pickets can be plucked out.