Monday, January 21, 2008

Where is Ziggy Stardust?

I heard The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars last year, 2007 in a long line of anno domini. Five years from 2007 is 2012, when the world is supposed to undergo some sort of radical shift, if you believe in ancient cosmological calendars. Some say the apocalypse; some simply say a major world-wide paradigm shift. The moment I heard Five Years, I knew that I had an album that would carry me from then until the supposed end of the world.

For those of you unfamiliar with the album (perhaps the greatest album of all time, right next to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, IMO) David Bowie sings of Ziggy Stardust, a Martian who comes to a doomed Earth with a message of salvation through rock and roll. Ziggy drowns in compassionate excess before being torn apart by his fans in the self-titled song towards the end of the album.

Some days I wonder if sacrificing yourself for the message isn’t the best idea.

The message still exists, however. That Five Years carried far beyond the original message that Ziggy brought so long ago in 1972 means that either a) it’s just a song and the world really wasn’t going to end in five years or b) because of the message we narrowly averted disaster, which remains hanging over us like a bomb ready to drop.

I would prefer A, in a safety sort of way. I really don’t think we’re suffering from impending apocalypse. That just seems silly. People have been playing that “The End is Nigh” card so hard through history that it’s become old hat.

At the same time, we all recognize the possibility. While very few of us believe the end is nigh, we can conceive of the possibility. Indeed, if we think about it, we could easily end up that way fast and hard. We’re eternally perched on a slippery slope where a few bad choices would plunge us straight into end times.

Which is B, I guess. And really, is B so bad? Ziggy asks us to realize what we’re doing, desperately crying out at us to change and become something better. We only have to strive to grow, strive to live, make the right choices that will save us all.

Oh, and stop tearing apart our saviors.

Ziggy is killed and then comes back and sings two more songs. Sort of like Jesus, but with make-up and androgyny and a guitar. Which probably wouldn’t have flown with Jesus being in the desert amongst conservative religious folk. But otherwise, it would have made a hell of an impression. And then Ziggy leaves us, and the decision’s on our heads.

What became of Ziggy Stardust? Where did he go? Here we are, now 35 years after he said we were five years away. Is the clock still ticking? Is Martian time just really weird? A Martian year is only 1.88 Earth years long. That doesn’t account for such a major discrepancy. So maybe Ziggy just gave us a chance, the best he could do, before he allowed us to figure it all out for ourselves. Kind of like Jesus.

Ziggy Stardust lives on, though. The man and the icon. The icon lives in all of us who have taken up his call. Live like it matters, because we’re all doomed. Dream for something better, to try to save us from our eventual destruction. It’s on the efforts of the few that many are saved—either physically saved or saved in that pseudo-spiritual enlightenment kind of way.

Ziggy Stardust’s message is similar to mine. I don’t need to belabor the parallels. If you’re confused, ask, but you should be following along a little more closely. And the banner I’ll raise is in his name as much as anyone’s. It doesn’t matter if he’s real or not. Our belief in him makes him real. Kind of like God or Santa Clause or Osama bin Laden even. They exist as figures because we believe in them. Without our belief, they are just ideas or notions or (even worse) just some slowly decaying piece of animated meat.

So I ask again, where is Ziggy Stardust? You would think if he’s still binging on his rock and roll lifestyle someone would have caught on. So that can’t be the answer. It could be he retired to some island to live in luxury. Or maybe he’s tucked away in a mountain monastery pondering the deep mysteries of life. These all sound rather appealing, but I don’t really think any of them are true.

If I had to guess, I would say Ziggy Stardust is out doing exactly what Elvis and the black Michael Jackson (not the Space Michael we know now) are doing: lying low, living life, and trying to touch people in a smaller more intimate way.

Ziggy played guitar, but maybe he doesn’t anymore. Certainly not on a stage. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an aging effeminate guy—a little strange and a little crazy but very persuasive—wandering around with a beat up old guitar playing to earn food to live on and maybe a place to sleep. A Ziggy who looks for people who are looking for answers. A Ziggy who waits for someone to finger him but until then will go about his business.

And I’m pretty sure he would explain his life like this: You can’t inspire everyone because everyone can’t handle the message. That doesn’t mean the message is bad or that people are bad, just that sometimes they don’t mix well. I can only be burnt that badly once. Instead, I’ll just try to find the people who are ready for it. That way, I’m not going to get killed again, and maybe I’ll inspire the next person who will step up and risk it all to tell the message to everyone.

Because despite the risks, sometimes everyone needs to hear a message of love, potential, and rock and roll. Living free and suffering hard and loving it all.

Anything to keep that clock ticking. Anything to keep the hammer from falling.

Anything to keep us living.

1 comment:

Mary said...

You've been tagged!