The Pursuit of Joy
I have been thinking about David Bowie a lot this month.
I’m not sure why.
It might have started when I really listened to “Heroes” closely. I mean, I have heard that song hundreds of times (if not more) but for some reason, I really listened closely, not to the lyrics, but to the layered music and how it just fills up the space.
I may have thought about Bowie because he died three years ago this month. I was just thinking, “can it be he has been gone two years already” and it turns out I was wrong. It’s been three years. Geez.
The thing about Bowie that I always admired is that I always got this sense that he carried this embedded sense of joy with him and with everything he did. Even his parting album, Blackstar, referenced death with a confidence, and some might say joyful sense of confidence that comes from being active in the process, not governed by it.
For me, Bowie was one of those people who, rightly or wrongly, I considered to always be doing the exact thing he was meant to do. You may know people like this. I have met cashiers, CEOs, performers and even an accountant, who I recall walking away and thinking “that person is in the right profession.” It wasn’t that they were happy all the time, but there was an overriding sense that they were content with who they were and what they were doing. That’s joy, or at least how I see it.
It made me think of how to bring more joy into my life, starting with my job. I have a good job but it’s not the thing that makes me who I am. It’s not the type of thing where you might say – “yeah, knowing Marc, that’s the best gig for him.”
I’m willing to accept that. I think the expectation that we love what we do and find joy is a tall order. It is nice and I do think, for me, at least, it is something to aspire to. However, it is a job and a little perspective may be in order, particularly when it’s not just about you.
It has been humorous to hear colleagues, unaware of my “side vocation” (thanks to a different last name), say things like “you should try comedy or you need to be in a creative job” unfamiliar with my little secret (which, let’s face it, may not be a secret at all and more of a comedic version of “don’t ask (if he’s a stand-up) and don’t tell (that you are).” In any event, that sense of joy that people like David Bowie seemingly bring to their endeavors cannot be simply a matter of luck, no matter how flawless it may seem. At some point, I have to square up to the reality that it may also be a choice. Ouch.
That’s the real twist in all of this. It takes work to find the joy in the whole thing – the process of work, the process of making music and even the process of dying. Maybe that’s what he meant when he wrote in Lazarus: “This way or no way, you know, I’ll be free just like that bluebird. Now, ain’t that just like me?”
Maybe if I try a bit hard, it can be just like me, too.
Until next time,