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When Stars Die

Rest in peace, Scott Weiland. Thank you, David Bowie.

When stars die, we can become disoriented. We don't know why we are crying. We did not know this person in our "real" life, our outer life, where we make two-way eye contact with other humans and touch hands and breathe in scent and converse with our voices through shared air.

We never even met the person behind the stage persona, the one who is dead while the recordings remain. Why do we mourn?

I can't speak for everyone else. Maybe we all have our own reasons. For me, I have begun to recognize that the voices of rock stars--the singing voices of the music that has set the rhythm and tone of my life, like it or not, flowing through my subconscious and knitting the stories that hold and shape my moods and innermost thoughts--become points of orientation for me, maybe taken for granted and unnoticed most of the time, like constellations in the night sky, and it doesn't matter that they are distant, it doesn't matter if they are just an illusion, or echoes of something from an unfathomable time and place that isn't mine, they set the stage for my personal reality.

When rock stars die, I know that they meant something to me, something that profoundly shaped who I am, with or without my conscious effort. When they wink out, I am made aware of their position in my psyche. I am forced to reckon with what they symbolize for me.

Apparently, even the stars wish upon each other. Just before Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots finally dropped dead last month, "Weiland said that Bowie is the one artist, living or dead, that he would have wanted to collaborate with. 'He’s my biggest influence musically, vocally and fashion-wise.'"

Read More: Scott Weiland Discussed David Bowie and John Lennon in His Final Interview |

Whether David heard that call or not, his death followed like an echo, coming back from the opposite direction.

It has been a winter.

One after another, these two deaths blindsided me with unaccountable grief. And they mirrored each other in stark opposition in my mind.

Scott's death called out my shadows. It said, F**k you for loving me. You should have known better. His death was mindless, out of time, a sad, inglorious sputter-out, the perfect end to a career begun through the nihilistic glorification of heroin addiction.

I was never his biggest fan. I can hardly remember ever hearing an STP song I wasn't already sick of. Their music was the fog of the '90s. It was the grungy, morbid lifeblood of my youth. I couldn't even begin to appreciate them for the first 10 years.

Not that I didn't think he was sexy, of course, in an excitingly disgusting way. Like every little girl raised on Pound Puppies and Care Bears, I had learned to fantasize about my own sweetness having the power to conquer evil and rescue the lonely. As a sheltered child brought up to avoid negative emotions and conflicts, I became fascinated with evil. Looking back, I see how this shaped my twisted Catholic schoolgirl relationships, all the emotionally abusive dynamics I fostered in friendships with girls and liaisons with boys. I was drawn to forbidden pain and to people who had firm, legitimate reasons to feel it.

The guilt of failing to save each one of those broken Pound Puppies spurred me to find others, to give more, to try harder. I recognize with horror that I dated several guys who resembled Scott Weiland in various ways. Did I love any of those broken girls and boys for the goodness inside of them? Or did I simply fetishize their darkness? Did I ever help them become better at all, or did I enable their badness with the salty taste of my pity? Are these tears, or is this blood on my hands?

The only Stone Temple Pilots album I ever bought was No. 4. "Sour Girl" spoke to my melancholy. It let me off the hook. It admitted that the hopelessness of my love would be my salvation. That the only possible chance I had at leading any of the lost to follow me toward a better place was to get up and start walking away.

When Scott Weiland died, my heart broke, and toxic waste flowed out. My soul purged some dark, dank shit, and it felt like food poisoning. I came to grips for the first time that Scott wasn't just a disembodied voice of misery, just an image on a screen, just a product I'm not dead and I'm not for sale he was a living, breathing human being just like everybody else, with a family.

How awful.

I wallowed in some dark moods for a few weeks, reliving each of my youth's failed-to-save relationships in vivid, anguished detail. I had to face the music of why I had chosen those people and the reality that there was never anything I could have done. Everything dies. You can't force change.

And then...

When David Bowie died, it felt like a supernova of light.

When David Bowie died, I learned that he, too, had been a living, breathing human being all along, just like everybody else. He wasn't a space alien or a goblin king or a magical unicorn or a happy acid trip. But then again, he was. In a world where perfection is a lie, every risk can be worth taking, and anything is possible. Modeling radical self-love in the face of judgment, the creation of beauty from grotesque elements, and a heart and mind open to accepting every kind of truth--this self-focused presence has more power to give hope to the lost and lonely and broken than any kind of martyrdom.

David's death called out my light. It broke my heart and let in the sun. It said, You are complete. Being yourself is everything you need. 

I am stunned with awe and gratitude that David made his death into a piece of performance art, to say goodbye to all of us who have inherited the world after David Bowie, to send us forth with one last burst of light. His death was the opposite of Scott Weiland's--mindful, artful, compassionate, given as a gift. He has shown us a way forward, where there is nothing left to fear and no time to lose.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

My Brit friend Lisa Findley has written a beautiful piece on how the light of David Bowie's life illuminated her own from afar.

Oh no love, you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone…
Gimme your hands, ‘cos you’re wonderful


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