This is objectionable on two grounds.
First, it's what everyone who wanted to tweet something half-clever did. It's banal to the point of embarrassment from the 73-year-old President for the Pontifical Council on Culture. The Bear doubts he has any David Bowie on his iTunes, unlike the Bear. (Let's Dance is the current track as he writes.) And look at the retweets and likes!
Second, and more importantly, it trivializes the Last Things. The reality was that David Bowie was not, unless he converted on his deathbed, a believer. He was not a professed atheist, but that's the most that can be said. Granted, it's probably best not to make a statement about that.
But the Bear has noticed a kind of folk-religion that has grown up where the dead are immediately and without exception transported directly to Heaven. Pope Francis used the occasion of lighting a manger scene boat used by Muslims to illegally enter Italy to say that all drowning victims are "with the Lord." From top to bottom, we have all become Spiritualists, and our loved ones and non-Christian strangers are all in The Summerlands together.
Death used to be such a time of trial and combat to previous generations of Catholics that entire books were written on how to die well: Ars Moriendi. Death was seen as the Devil's last chance to snatch a soul to Hell, and the books detail the temptations of the dying, as well as the encouragement friends and family were to provide. Now death itself has been tamed by Roxanol. Woody Allen said, "I'm not afraid of death. I just don't want to be there when it happens." We're there.
Among the Lost Files the Bear found were a couple of posts on his mother's death. They were painful to read. He wrote:
Everyone wants to tell me she's in a better place. She's looking down on me from heaven. She's with my dad, her brother, her mother and father. I do not know. I do not like to hear things like that, even though I know people are trying to be nice. There is a kind of primitive American folk-religion that is invoked at death, but otherwise does not make demands during life. I wish it were that simple. As a Catholic, if I am to take my religion seriously, I have to face the reality that my mother may not be at peace in her eternal home. She has embarked on a perilous journey of judgment and purgation, not entered into The Summerland's eternal vacation.
She had a lifelong attraction to the Catholic faith, but there is also a strong Masonic strain in the Bear's family that the Bear could not overcome. Yet in the last couple of days before her death, the only thing she said was, "Upon this rock." The Bear will take the ambiguous comfort, but it is a cold comfort.
The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, Hell. In forty years of being Catholic, the Bear has never once heard these spoken of. He has never heard the word "Purgatory" uttered, much less "Hell." Literally never, as in not one time. The Bear has had 40 years of variations on a theme of Nice. Everything he has learned he has taught himself, God help him.
The Bear has a wan hope for David Bowie. He admired him as a performer, but Fame or not, he was just another mortal. All the Young Dudes are in their Golden Years now, and the old rockers are no longer too young to die. Many of us are not so far behind. Major Tom has been launched to an unknown destination. As Catholics, we have a duty to not promote Spiritualism's Summerlands. The reality is far more terrifying and exhilarating.
|David Bowie, 1947 - 2016|