i’m stepping thru the door by Nury

Respected writer, Nury wrote this about David Bowie

Nury Vittachi's photo.
Nury Vittachi

I’M STEPPING THROUGH THE DOOR

I had a note from someone asking about all the weird spiritual references in David Bowie’s new album, and what they mean. (I’ve always liked Bowie, not just for his music, but because we both have mid-teen daughters called Lexi!)

The new album focuses on a Biblical character, Lazarus, who is famous for defying death, and the opening words are: “Look up here; I’m in heaven.” The Blackstar video includes a crucifixion scene and Bowie holding an ancient book in front of him.

It seems to me that Bowie was much like John Lennon: in public he was happy to joke about the downsides of religion, but in private he became increasingly convinced that life transcended the limits of physical matter.

In an interview in 2003, soon after the horror of 9/11, Bowie said he was “not quite an atheist” and then laughed. “Give me a couple of months.”

But he actually went the other way, becoming more open to ideas of a higher consciousness and another reality. “All clichés are true. The years really do speed by. Life really is as short as they tell you it is,” Bowie said. “And there really is a God. So do I buy that one? If all the other clichés are true…”

He liked Buddhism and Christianity, and “Station to Station” was a direct reference to the stations of the cross, an ancient Christian tradition. “I’ve never read a review that really sussed it,” he told one interviewer. It was his little secret.

His comeback single, “Where are we now?” was a meditation on the transience of life. “The song recognizes that all are heading towards death, questions ‘Where are we now?’ in that process, but ends with hope of something more,” says cultural commentator Matthew Linde.

So, in short, Bowie was like many modern people. He didn’t identify with a particular faith, but felt that the central message of religion, that consciousness transcends physicality, was likely true, as was the existence of a universal mind.

Bowie’s final position thus seems close to that of John Lennon, who said: “I’m not afraid of death because I don’t believe in it. It’s just getting out of one car, and into another.”

A direct clue to what Bowie thought might happen to him perhaps can be found in the new album, where he sings: “Something happened on the day he died. Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside.”

During the singer’s final hours, his wife Imam, sitting by his bedside, posted an enigmatic message on the internet: “The struggle is real, but so is God.”

This openness to a spiritual interpretation of life seemed fitting for Bowie, a man who came to fame singing:

“I’m stepping through the door and I’m floating in a most peculiar way.”

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