I woke up this morning to learn that actor Alan Rickman died of cancer. The notice was almost the same as that of David Bowie’s; two of my heroes gone in less than a week. It didn’t really hit me until today that there will be no more music from David Bowie. I’ve been listening to many of his albums and I’m crushed that there will be no more. The music he left behind will live on. He has left a legacy.
Then, Alan Rickman, I’ve seen many of movies. Truly, Madly, Deeply, a tender romantic comedy is one of my all-time favourite movies. I think most romantic comedies are nonsense, but I loved this one. His voice, he could have read the phone book and made it sound sexy. Then there was his Professor Snape in all of the Harry Potter movies. Apparently, when Rickman was considering the role he consulted with J. K. Rowling who told him what the rest of us wouldn’t learn until the last book and movie—that Snape loved Harry’s mother and devoted his life to trying to protect her. Harry Potter represented his lost love.
There is something about losing childhood idols that make you feel old. Both Bowie and Rickman were only 69; suddenly that doesn’t seem that old anymore. I keenly feel the passage of time; a sense of urgency. There is a scene in Bowie’s last video, Lazarus, where he sits as a desk writing in a notebook. He writes furiously, his ideas flowing right off the page. He has so many ideas but time is running out.
These deaths make me feel anxious. How much more would these two men have produced had they not been cut down by cancer?
I’m eager to get going with my own dreams and plans. I need no one’s permission to start. I don’t need a deal to publish my writing. I don’t need an agency to share my photos. I just need the courage to put my work out into the world. Bowie carried the freak flag for all of us and gave us the courage to be ourselves. I just need the discipline to do the work. Rickman worked consistently. Many don’t realize that Rickman didn’t make it big in Hollywood until he was 41—an age when many people think they are “too old” to do whatever it is they want to do. I need to let go of perfection or any idea of the work needing to be good. Some of Bowie’s work was great; other works less so. Some of Rickman’s movies will live on; some perhaps not. It doesn’t matter if the work was good or bad. Both men kept producing work. They didn’t rest on their laurels. Bowie could have done greatest hits tours or summer festivals and racked in the money. Instead, he kept producing new albums when he felt he had something to say and didn’t pander to the critics. Rickman was one of these rare actors who could excel at a variety of roles—bad guys, romantic leads, comedy roles, character roles. He didn’t want to be famous and makes lots of sequels; he wanted to do interesting work.
If it weren’t for cancer, both men would have continued to create great work.
The lesson in all of this is—stop waiting. Create whatever you want to create. Do what you want to do with your life. Live.
Above all, live.