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Bowie Major Tom

The year started with my hero vanishing into space. Others followed, creating a vacuum where my teenage soul used to be. I defined myself with “Major Tom” and every song on Purple Rain. When people die, my beliefs tell me that they are still ‘here,’ just on the other side of a thin veil. I didn’t know them, of course; it wasn’t their physical demise that slammed me into shock. It was the past that disappeared. The past was always already gone, so what do I mourn? I’m not sure. I don’t know.

The news in 2016 just got worse and worse. Syria. Trump. Russian hacking. Climate changing faster and faster. Cancer diagnosis in the family. Depression and other issues surfacing like dead fish in a pond. It seemed as if the downturn in my mood paralleled the swirling misery of the election and the general feeling of anxiety that permeates everything concerning human affairs.

There were the highlights, as well: I became the Project MATCH Faculty Coordinator and was able to assist in the training of some very talented and smart interns. I felt that I was making some real progress towards the betterment of education for the students in the LA Community College District. It was the best summer in a long time. We were finally able to buy a house, up in the mountains of Santa Susana. In the morning, I no longer hear the 101 Freeway blaring through the windows. I hear an anemic rooster, toads and owls hooting in the distance. I feel protected by the giant boulders and ancient oak trees. The spirits around this area are powerful and very, very old. This has allowed me peace of mind, even as the world falls into pieces.

This is where the knot is. I have a peaceful environment in which to contemplate all the things I didn’t understand as a younger version of myself. My bubble of ignorance burst three times: in 1997, 2002 and 2012. I was told I was going to die from a progressive disease in ’97 (that turned out to be a misdiagnosis, but I lived with it for almost a year), my ex husband moved out and divorced me in 2002 and in 2012 my kid had some serious issues which I am not at liberty to discuss in detail. After 2012, we moved three times in three years. The idea that things get easier and more understandable as you get older is bullshit. I understand less now and everything is more confusing and complicated than it was at any other time in my past.

My nickname in Middle School was “Polly Pure”. I was always told how naive I was, how easy to dupe and fool. I assumed everybody was nice and good, and that the world was always moving towards a better, more perfect state. I believed in constant spiritual progression: all things were destined to achieve perfection. I was such an idiot that I actually thought I had achieved enlightenment, somewhere around 2010 or 2011. I truly believed that I was on the fast track to Paradise, Oneness with the Brahma, the Source, whatever. I resent the fact that the world showed me otherwise.

The world showed me that I was (and am) a spiritual infant, and the state of affairs on our planet is regressing. Not only are we not moving forward, we are traveling backwards, undoing what little good we had managed to accomplish. As for people: nope, they are not inherently good. They are propelled by insecurities and fears that drive them to do terrible things to themselves and others, all in the name of protecting fragile egos. My entire world view was based on progress and enlightenment, and that paradigm has been shot to hell. Therefore, my view of time has been turned upside down. The arrow of time from now into the future is pure illusion, along with the idea of future perfection. We go in circles, falling backwards, struggling to break out of the present only to fall into the past and repeat, repeat, repeat.

All progress is individual, I fear. And it is not necessarily accomplished in this life. The arc of progress is LONG and requires so much more time than I thought, if such an idea exists at all. I would like to think that there is ultimate transformation after X number of lives wind themselves down, but I don’t know. I just don’t know. Maybe it’s two steps forward, one step back, and I’m in the middle of the one step back. One thing I do know:

Polly Pure was beaten with a barbed-wire covered bat and lies bleeding and dying in the ashes of her naive dreams for the world. I am waiting for Major Tom and Prince’s elevator to take her up, to be saved from her mistakes and her lost hopes.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PWH

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Bowie Major Tom

Bowie Heroes

Bowie Blackstar

It’s been a tough few weeks, everyone. The death, violence, and general depravity creeping into our collective consciousness has wormed into my head and left me so exhausted and drained that the days are turning into one, long, sad experience of loss. The end of the year feels like the end of many things: my innocence, my childhood, my hope for the future. When things start looking bleak, I always turn to Bowie, for some odd reason. I couldn’t figure it out until recently. It’s about my history, and what his history means to me. Of course, it’s not about the man himself; I don’t know him, and I am old enough to realize that everything I say here is pure projection and self analysis. So here goes . . .

When I was 15, I watched Bowie sing “Space Oddity” on some variety show. I was terrified and overwhelmed by what I felt. When the camera zoomed in on his mismatched eyes, I felt something crack and shift in my psyche. It was the beginning of something dangerous, unknown and utterly mysterious. One could say it was the beginning of my realization that sexuality existed and was a powerful, uncontrollable force. I think, however, that it was beyond that: it was the sense that there is something completely outside of my understanding lurking beneath the surface of things. I sensed that in the song, and in the image of the man himself, strumming the guitar and not blinking. Not once.

When “Heroes” came out, it was about my dawning cynicism. I understood the song to be about a culture without role models, without mentors, without guides and of course, without heroes. It matched my disengagement with politics, my rebellion against anyone and any institution with authority. It spoke to my general need to hate my culture, which sent me straight to Socialist Spain, where I spend many nights in dark clubs berating America and pretending that I wasn’t a product of my own country. My rebellious poses were so, very, very American, after all.

Then I hit 50 and have been dealing with the resultant crisis, which as upended my world completely. I always knew how to take advantage of my youth. I understood it was a powerful ally in my culture. To be young and pretty was to possess something my elders had forever lost, and I knew it was my only weapon against them. I was Bowie’s “pretty thing”, driving my mother and father insane. Even in my 40s, it was possible to ‘pass’, to still be seen as precocious, to pretend, in other words. But 50 has shattered those illusions and forced me to realize that even if I could pull off the face and body of youth, it doesn’t change my age. A friend told me a couple of years back that I could fool people with my face, but my eyes gave me away. “You are old in the depth of your eyes” she said, and I suppose that’s true. There’s no hiding it.

Then Bowie comes along with “Blackstar,” and he teaches me something again, just like he did when I was 15. As he holds up the pseudo “Blackstar” bible, he makes no attempt to look young or hip. In fact, he is deliberately exposing you to an aged face, just to see how you’re going to react. Will you turn away, disgusted that he committed the sin of reaching 68 years? Or, will you reach the level of confusion that he inspired in 1980? For me, it was almost the same experience I had before: a paradigm shifting awareness that there was something mysterious and powerful behind the surface that was capable of destroying everything I thought I understood about myself. Bowie’s face, so relentlessly public, dares the viewer to reassess what age signifies. What I saw in that face in 1980 has not changed at all; in fact, it’s intensified. It’s not the face itself, it’s what’s behind it, what it hints at, what it both reveals and disguises.

I won’t tell you what that mystery is, because it’s supposed to remain a cipher, only partially understandable but infinitely strange. It is what invalidates our notion that our little lives are all that there is, that our understanding of the world and ourselves is somehow accurate. No, we know very little about the world, about life and death, about love and sex, about the ultimate meaning of our tiny spark of existence on this planet. The fifteen year old and the fifty year old are one and the same, separated only by experiences, but not by essence. That epiphany¬†has, once again, forever changed how I see myself and all those other mysterious beings¬†with whom I share my experiences.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW

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