Last weekend I had the great good fortune of singing a tribute to David Bowie with Choir! Choir! Choir! at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Lyrics I’ve known since I was a girl, “Ground control to Major Tom…” took on new meaning in the context of the singer’s recent passing “It’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.” My throat caught as I came to, “The stars look very different today.” In a flash not only did I feel the loss of David Bowie but also the death of my mother, the passing of time and the power of art.
How can a collection of simple words, “Can you hear me Major Tom? Can you hear me Major Tom?” hold our experience of life so powerfully?
How is it that even now as I write, the music returns to my heart and raises the song’s lyrics to my mind and the tears well and I am overcome? In an instant I am transformed into a daughter grieving, reliving the pain of crying out to my mom in the days after her passing, like a baby animal howling for her mother’s return, “Mawwwwm…. Mawwwwwm….”
Art has a gift for containing the uncontainable, “For here am I sitting in a tin can far above the world,” for consoling the inconsolable, “Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”
Art focuses our attention on the finest details of life while expanding our vision into the previously unimaginable.
Art is an opening, “I’m stepping through the door,” into boundless exploration “and I’m floating in a most peculiar way”.
In this world where we so often feel insignificant, small and alone, art lets us know that we are in this thing called life together. We are both always alone in our experience and also never alone in it.
Art holds paradox in her hand like a jewel.
Though I may have been the only one in that room feeling the loss of my mother, all of us were tied together by the silken thread of loss woven by David Bowie, “Tell my wife I love her very much.” All of us were there, slipping into music and lyrics for comfort and understanding, like kids crawl into their parents’ bed when the world is too much.
Coming together in a room of sound and connection was a reminder that we are not alone, even when we are all alone, floating in our tin can, far above the moon.
We are Ground Control. We are Major Tom. We are in this Space Oddity together.
Thank you, David Bowie. Thank you, Choir! Choir! Choir! Thank you, Mom.