Out of any characteristic I admire in people, it’s reinvention I tend to admire most. Adapting your work or your surroundings or your output in some way that honors where and who you have been and doesn’t lose sight of who you are at your core yet allows you to keep trying new things — the people I have loved most in my life have reinvented themselves many times over. And David Bowie, whom the world lost today, was of course a master of it in the most interesting and stylish ways. But reinvention doesn’t have to be on as grand as a scale as Bowie. It could be as simple as deciding that the story of your life hasn’t yet been written and starting another chapter. As I write this, the woman next to me at Starbucks is flipping through a textbook full of diagrams showing yoga positions. She’s clearly studying to be an instructor. And I’d estimate this woman to be about 60. I love her a little bit for it.
There’s a lot of love in lifestyle blogs for the idea of the “Beginner’s Mind” and approaching what you learn and what you do with the mindset that you are allowed to be curious and ask questions. And I certainly think that’s valid and valuable. But the thing I value most — and admittedly, it may be a related concept — is people who take what they learn throughout their lives and mash it up against what they have yet to learn and make something new and fresh. That’s the meaning of experience. That’s where wisdom has something to offer alongside curiosity. If you can allow wisdom and savvy to coexist with curiosity and a bold willingness to do something new, I think you’ve got the formula just about right.
The thing is, David Bowie never came across as someone who was trying to stay relevant. He brought a perspective to his work, and he looked around at the world and created new work for the world with his perspective. And it was always fresh because it was always somehow timeless and also of the moment.
It seems like in a sense he was taking what he earned from his experiences and reinvesting into new creative pursuits. It feels crass to use a financial analogy, but it’s the closest model that comes to mind. Most of all, it comes across as an act of love to keep creating and bringing everything you know together into new forms, and giving art to the world.
And the fact that we lost Bowie during the first two weeks of the new year when the concept of renewal and resolution to improve are still fresh on everyone’s minds, I think it’s something we can take away. I think we can let Bowie’s life-long renewal and recommitment to the passion of his work be a touchstone for our work, whatever it is.