Yesterday was my first day of classes for this, the final semester of my M.A. (Partly because I have a job I feel good about and am eager to write multiple projects that have been building over the last couple of years, I don't feel that weird about the M.A. ending. Except I don't know how I'm going to get chances to swim around in my natural environment - the classroom - once this is over.) It's going to be a supportive semester, because two I-hope-I-can-consider-them-friends are teaching two of my classes, and a woman I consider a mentor, even if I'm too shy of her to reach out much beyond the confines of the class, is teaching the third. The syllabi indicate that a lot more is going to come out of me than go into me, creatively, in the next four months.
Anyway, last night one of the professors was talking about the multiplicity of identity in human experience, and his belief that a person has no fixed self, because the self is changing from moment to moment as skin sheds and digestion occurs and gravity yanks ever downward. Physically, but also metaphysically; every millisecond I have one millisecond more life experience than I had before. I agree with him: to put it in an adage, you never step in the same river twice.
This made me think about David Bowie. My husband is a bigger fan of his than I am. I like Bowie conceptually, metaphorically, and intellectually; the pleasure I take in his music is significant, but not universal. Meanwhile, Matt likes Bowie's music. A lot. (In some ways, this example illustrates our dynamic.) He likes Ziggy Stardust, and I like Lodger and Heroes.
We've only listened to Blackstar once, but we found ourselves repeatedly making eye contact across our computers while we listened, amazed. It was about as unevenly wonderful as late Bowie ever is, but here's what blew my mind: he kept experimenting. He knew he was dying, and he kept trying new stuff anyway. He tried new sounds and new collaborations, and he evolved in his creativity, in what he knew would be the last thing he'd create for us.
I mean, if you have terminal cancer, why would you bother to keep evolving? You have a definite end point ahead of you, a point where your identity can flux no longer. Mustn't you find contentment, then? Stop pushing against your own skin for once? Make the album that brings you comfort, that doesn't press you into discomfort when you're already uncomfortable enough?
No. The river keeps moving; Bowie has no fixed identity aside from the multiplicity he's always been. The fixed identity is change.
If he can do it, so can you. Let the river run.