Wednesday, January 13, 2016

On the Death of David Bowie

There are two David Bowies missing from the world now, though only a few would have noticed the first one who went away too soon. The thing they had in common, and that I have in common with the Davids, is that we were/are all Boomers and thus part of the '60's and '70's culture.

I grew up in a very small town in southern Ontario, Canada. Toronto was close by, though in the '50's and '60's it took a long time to get to the "big city." My parents were survivors of sorts. They were among those who suffered badly during the Depression. Hungry throughout their childhoods, my father had to beg for food and my mother ate rhubarb from the garden for weeks at a time. Both my mother and father had to quit school after Grade 8 because their families needed financial support.

As a teenager, my mom made $8 a week working 6 days times 8 hours a day. She walked several miles to and from the factory. My dad wandered around getting jobs here and there, picking produce in the summer and fall. He lied about his age and signed up for the Air Force in order to get a good-paying position.

Although trained as a pilot, my father never went overseas. He told his daughters that Hitler quit when he heard Dad was about to enter the war. When we were little, we believed him. A family full of daughters had a hero at home.

 My parents pretty much celebrated continuously after the war, though they also worked hard and took parenting seriously. They went back to school. They drank heavily and partied well. Our extended families were close.

One thing they never talked about was sex. There was an air of secrecy, of "don't let the neighbours hear you." I learned about anatomy, "that ketchup thing that girls get", sexual fun and differences, mostly from my cousins, both female and male.

Maybe it was the silence - the gap of information - that allowed the culture of the '60's and '70's to influence my thinking. People like David Bowie, who embodied the intelligence of acknowledging and embracing differences.

I became a sort-of hippy, in the philosophy of acceptance and optimism. I have always believed in accepting creatures great and small, different lifestyles, sex among consenting adults, same sex marriage. My main motto was, and still is, "Do anything you want as long as you don't hurt anybody."

 Of course, I have added a few corollaries and betrayals to my motto along the way, such as you can be anything you want as long as you work hard for it, etc. Plus I have acquired a lot of things, despite myself.

At any rate, I believed in free love, caring for the environment, giving to others, the banality of acquiring things. I believed the hippy movement, the Boomers, would change the world for the better. 

As the famous David Bowie leaves us, my optimism struggles very hard to survive. I cling to the fact that, in many countries, including my own, same sex relationships and LBGDQ communities have reached a fairly positive level of acceptance. I cling to the belief that we're on the right track toward being better inhabitants who don't destroy our time on this magnificent earth. I cling to statistics that declare we are slightly more peaceful than in previous generations. I cling to hope for all creatures great and small.

I must admit, though, some days I am clinging by my fingernails.
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