The sun machine is coming down, and we’re gonna have a party.
In astrophysics, the black star, of semiclassical gravity theory, is an alternative to the black hole of general relativity. The black star’s infalling matter is converted to dark or vacuum energy—there is no singularity, no information-destroying void, as in the black hole. The black star need not have an event horizon, or point of no return. Theoretically, this star is eternal as its vacuum energy is unlimited.
The black hole is a collapsing star; the black star is of self-energy, and hovers between collapsing and collapsed, between living and dead, between theory and reality: it is the astrological Lazarus, for whom the Western world learned it’s most memorable verse,
— The Bible, Gospel of John, 11:35
From Brooklyn, on a Sunday called January 10th, 2016, I stood at the end of a pier watching an unseasonably warm and torrential storm front pass through. A bloated and bruised rain cloud loomed over Manhattan, begging to be relieved against the jagged cityscape. The rain then fell—hard and luscious. The sky was opening and closing at speedy intervals that, in retrospect, resembled violent sobs. I had just been jogging, and was chilled to the bone with sweat and rain, but loved watching the milky East River undulate beneath such a twilit tempest. It was a beautiful and terrible day.
When I realized yesterday morning that David Bowie had passed—in Manhattan, no less, and as I was gazing across the river, no doubt—the entire perspective of that Sunday storm, Blackstar, “Lazarus,” and the life of one David Robert Jones shifted seamlessly into place. Released just a few days ago on his 69th birthday, Bowie’s final record, the 41 minute, 13 seconds Blackstar, was completely realized only with his own death. By his artful, characteristic and supernatural timing, Blackstar is a wise-eyed nod to his own legacy: a graceful balance of experience against eternity. While a dead pop star may only live on inside tombstone etchings and cover bands, the black star lives on without us; feeding on its own light, this star consumes energy without destroying it—a force against nature.
To our earthly eyes, the black star is identical to the black hole—it traps its own light, rendering itself invisible, unfathomable. We categorize and theorize, quite humanly, as we attempt to star gaze. Its placement is only deciphered in the sky by traces of matter yet to be absorbed: our eyes follow the shape of the vessel, of the lacunae, but cannot decipher what is within. We can report death, but none can report from within it: Look up here, I’m in heaven … dropped my cell phone down below.
What is art but salve for the mortal? We attempt to muffle death with matter, with the residue of our existence. Bowie was not an alien, nor immortal—he yearned as we do. He was, as best we can understand, a vessel—an English-born, boy-defined body of gray matter and pink flesh that only hosted that dark-mattered and starry-minded energy, an energy that was alien and immortal. But mourners, what a beautiful vessel this Bowie was, indeed: blonde and svelte, with yin yang eyes that both prophesized his death (at “69” years of age), and symbolized his entire existence as dual-natured (陰陽 yīnyáng “dark—bright”). Is this human? It’s damn near Biblical, Classical, Science-Fictive. This is why his death is so unacceptable. How do you know a star has died, if you can still feel it its warmth, but you cannot see it? In perfect balance, the thought strikes that perhaps Bowie had just the opposite experience as death nestled in: seeing more and feeling less.
In “Blackstar,” he begs us to realize that death is not a black hole. The black star is Bowie’s final incarnation and, though we cannot visualize it, a dead giveaway. He is eulogizing his own funeral, in ultimate generosity towards the bereaved. Always the chameleon, the changling, and the incarnationist, Bowie does predict, presciently:
Something happened on the day he died
Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
I’m a black star
Before his death, and the public’s knowledge of the cancer that took his life, many fans and critics myopically read into this as a discussion of Middle Eastern politics, religion, ISIS, etc. “Black Star,” of course, as a song, could be both all of these things and none of them. Under the patina of death, however, and the prophetical Bowie writing on the wall from his own deathbed, this work seems much more personal: these are the last words of a dying man glimpsing his own eternity; his first cryptic notes from within the energized vacuum. It is no surprise this last record is the first without his image—he was preparing to take a new form.
Black is not the lack of color, it is the absorption of all light. Truly, he’s now fully illuminated: just follow the traces, and take great comfort in having loved the closest incarnation of what we are all composed, and to what he has now returned—star dust.
( And as people all over the world are sharing, tracing, documenting and rearranging the bits of Bowie glitter, lets all wait a few more days to seal any coffins. Lazarus took at least four days to rise. )