David Bowie. Lou Reed. Alan Rickman
Knights in white satin.
When Princess Diana died, I thought the mass outpouring of grief was… well, just weird. How could people feel so much for someone they didn’t know? But as Caroline Myss pointed out – they weren’t mourning the death of a person, they were mourning the death of an archetype, and an archetype carries a lot more power than a person.
The Princess archetype has certain characteristics – she must be beautiful, sensitive, subservient to the patriarchy, and clever. In the Fairy tales, her cleverness allows her to solve riddles, her kindness ensures that she kisses frogs and her sensitivity means she can feel the presence of a pea under a dozen mattresses.
In real life Princess Di was a very flawed human being, but she was beautiful, sensitive and clever enough to take on the patriarchy and beat them at their own game. She wasn’t born a princess, but she could do all these things because she embodied the archetype. Princess Ann was born an ACTUAL princess, but she couldn’t do any of these things because she didn’t have the archetype. No-one does now.
It’s a sad day when an archetype is consigned to history, fairy tales… and the annual pantomime.
I don’t have a connection to the Princess archetype, I have one to the Creative rebel, so I’m really feeling the absence of my three heroes. They kept me company during my own experimental years. They stood for everyone who ever thought “what am I doing here, I feel like I’ve been dropped on the wrong planet.”
“I guess I just wasn’t made for these times” Brian Wilson
Unlike the Princess, the archetype of the Creative hasn’t been consigned to history, but it is severely under threat, because the rule based Patriarchy has cast some pretty awful spells over the internet. These are as follows…
CONDENSE WHO YOU ARE! Define yourself using one paragraph – one sentence if you’re a high achiever. One word if you’re some kind of Internet Ninja (yes it’s a thing now). No-one has time to figure anything out. No-one has time to read. Give them the highlights, the low down, the précis… too late, they’re bored already.
NARROW DOWN WHAT YOU DO! Choose just ONE THING. What are you selling? (sorry that’s two things). Who are you serving? ONE DEMOGRAPHIC, as narrow as possible. (Middle age women – good. Lesbian middle age women with degrees who love knitting and hate cats – much better). Be an expert in a very narrow field or Google will NEVER FIND YOU, and you’ll be lost in space forever.
GET A QUERK OR A PECCADILLO! Something people will remember you by. A Salvador Dali moustache, an exotic pet, a strange habit, an affliction or a colourful past that you managed to overcome (because then you have a STORY).
Luckily help is at hand! For a large amount of money, a branding expert will convert the infinite source of energy that is ‘YOU’ to a ‘THING’ that can be marketed, boxed, bracketed. They’ll even create the story for you. Tell them what you want to be known for and they’ll do the rest.
After that you just need to SEO the fuck out of yourself and retire to an island where you can live the dream… the laudable aspiration to ‘make money while you sleep’.
We need our heroes to remind us that this scenario is actually a nightmare.
David Bowie didn’t live by the rules of other people and wasn’t susceptible to their spells. He was a master of constant re-invention, because that’s what the ‘now’ moment demands. He didn’t plan for the future (there’s more chance he came back from it). He wasn’t motivated by money, otherwise he’d have capitalized on his success by endlessly repeating variations on the same theme.
He didn’t copy stuff that was cool. He got in touch with the essence of what made him who he was. After that, anything he embraced became cool, by association. Androgeny. Knitted jumpsuits. Facepainting. He even made Germany sexy.
Essence isn’t a thing, it’s a vibration, and it can’t be copied or condensed.
Being a knight of the energy realm, Bowie turned down a knighthood from the ACTUAL Queen – the old world just wasn’t relevant to him. He lived in the ‘now’ moment, creating for the sheer joy of creation refusing to be limited, contained or pigeonholed. Throughout his life he drew from EVERYWHERE literature, art, fashion, philosophy and ultimately mysticism and love.
Alan Rickman did for acting what David Bowie did for music. He brought his unique brilliance to roles as diverse as Villain (Die Hard), Best Sheriff Ever – so good his part had to be cut because he eclipsed the leading man (Robin Hood), Lover (Romantic – Truly Madly Deeply; Tortured – Sense and Sensibility) and Wizard Professor (Harry Potter). He defied archetypal casting. He made each role his own. It was all about essence.
When students asked his advice on how to act, he told them to forget about acting and experience life – live with curiosity and openness, nurture the imagination and develop emotional courage. After that the acting takes care of itself. And funnily enough, so does life.
Lou Reed was another artist who kept creating right up to the end of his life. Writer. Photographer. Musician. Tai Chi practitioner. One of his last works was an opera that Bowie declared to be his greatest work “though it will take a while for everyone to catch up.”
Lou embodied transformation and his album Transformer remains a classic – it never gets old. He and his creative partner Laurie Anderson, played by their own set of rules. There were three of them. First – don’t be afraid of anyone. Second – get a really good bullshit detector. Third – be really, really tender.
No cold strategy or formulaic ’to do’ list.
Curious minds and courageous hearts.
Our creative heroes are leaving the planet. David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Lou Reed started out as rebels but they evolved into highly conscious change agents. Unlike Johnny Rotten, they didn’t lose the faith and descend into the old world– a world marked by cynicism, endless opinions, and the marketing of butter.
We can be heroes.
We can create something new, different and beautiful. We can unplug from the Patriarchy. Detach from the old world values. If we rise, mighty forces will come to our aid.
Unplugging is scary because it sparks our fear. We don’t know how to do it. We might fail. Mighty forces won’t come. Google won’t find us. We’ll be lost in space. Lonely. Flawed.
Nah! As David sang on Rock and Roll Suicide…
“You’re not alone
Take my hand