The Fear And Faith Of The Forgotten

Poor soul, he never knew what hit him and it hit him so.

Spaceboy, you're sleepy now. Your silhouette is so stationary. You're released but your custody calls and I want to be free...

And I've been dreaming of sleep...

Sleepytime, bashful but nude. It's all in the tablets. (Perhaps the tablets of memory?) Dame meditation, take me away...

The gods are asleep at their posts. The guardian angels are dawdling, slowly burning daylight, wasting away the precious hours. The gods have become indolent slackers and so have their wards. Now even the dreamers, the angel's minions have slipped into a comatose state. The sleepy spaceboys have become motionless and soulless. Hypnotized and in a stupor, they do nothing to help themselves. Still they search. They are looking for satellites, looking for signs of life, looking for something - something in the skies, something in the air. Lonely souls, they are taken unawares by the Fates. These idle gods are more than merely forgetful, they have a policy of non-interference...!

The poor souls, the fools, (the slaves) are at risk, imperiled, and yet they refuse to confide in the gods. They won't tell them their plans. The beggarmen on the shelves are disused, vegetative, inert: "all bruised passivity." Strangers, outsiders, like the dummy Johnny or the Night Fear Female drone Ramona become heathen nihilists. Their apathy soon turns to disdain and their desire and memory perish.

Graceless and cold, these lonely souls live in an Alien Nation. The world forgets them and they forget the world. They slip from memory. They forget to keep their heads and hearts warm and so they lose their aliveness and vitality. Stone cold boys become dumb and numb. They fall down on bended knees. They slide on slippery ground. Slipperiness also implies faithlessness, failure, inaction, sloth. Silent partners in fate, they are do-littles, good-for-nothings. They are dead to the world.

The image on the front cover of heathen shows Bowie with "sealed up eyes." He appears to be hibernating, going off to sleep. The heathen is resigned, silent, acquiescent. Once the dreamer has slipped into a coma, the heathen appears: Bowie says it all so eerily and so exact in the Motel: It's a kind of living which recognizes the death of the odourless man, when nothing is vanity, nothing's too slow and the silence flies on its brief flight and there's no more of me exploding you, re-exposing you. The light of exposure and revelation grows dim. The heathen asks the gods to open up their hearts to him but his pleas fall upon deaf ears!

The slave or "beggarman" is in an abject, grovelling, cringing, fearful, slippery state. This is not a state to be desired. Misused, disused, consumed, and depleted the slave begs for love: "No one else is free. Open up your heart to me. Show me all you are, and I would be your slave..." The slave's soul is squandered. He prostitutes himself for love and freedom. He seeks emancipation in the arms of an idle god. He may dream of a better future but still his custody calls. He still can not dare to say his soul is his own. Shattered and spent, like the protagonist of "If I'm dreaming my life", he slips into sleep and forgetfulness, darkness and stagnation: "At the wrong time on the wrong day, all the lights are fading now, if I'm dreaming all my life" This ultimate collapse or swoon is depicted in "Dead Man Walking" as well: In an alien nation in therapy, I'm gone, like I'm dancing on angels. And I'm gone, through the crack in the past like a dead man walking.

Sometimes to indulge in dream and reverie is to shut one's eyes to the REAL WORLD. It can be a form of forgetting. And sometimes to have no remembrance is to "take no note of time." The Waiter on Providence "waits too long, dances too long." He becomes a reluctant slave, slow to react - "always a little late for the dawning of the day." He may be "just a searcher, a lonely soul, the last of the dreamers", but he has slipped into the comatose state. Both the mystic/dreamer and his gods have fallen asleep. Bowie confirms this in "Seven." He sings: "the gods forgot they made me so I forgot them too." Enslaved, both the gods and the mystics (the mediums of the gods) have recoiled from involvement in the earthly. Stupefied and benumbed, their even lesser fellows fall prey to Mr. Blank and Mr. Stone.

Anxiety descends. There is no safety zone, no certainty just a darkness of the soul. Bowie confesses this in Thursday's Child: "Sometimes my courage fell to my feet, maybe I'm born right out of my time." This leads to extreme absence of hope in New angels of promise: We despair. We are the dead dreams. Suspicious minds. You didn't feel us coming in this lonely crowd. It's always time. We are the silent ones. We listen to the storm. In the "Hearts Filthy Lesson," the message falls on deaf/dead ears.

Fear is overhead in "Afraid." In "Americans" it reveals itself as a fear of the world. Unable to distinguish the difference between truth and lies, the fearful one turns to the unpromising guardians and the gods strike him down. Ominous clouds and storms are the warnings of his impending doom. His days are numbered. The worst has come to the worst! His will to live is dead. Now that he has lost his will power, he is overwhelmed by distrust and disbelief.

Yet Bowie insists that "nothing ever goes away, that nothing ever changes." He wants his trials to be remembered for who can bear to be forgotten. The slave must now creep into the good graces of the truant gods. With the voice of the charmer, Bowie in "I would be your slave" plays the euphemist-eulogist to the sleeping gods: Do you sleep in quietude? Do you walk in peace? Do you laugh out loud at me? The gods demand his compliance but in the deathlike silence the heathen strikes back and demands a better future - some kind of future!!!

Nevada Kerr
4h November 2002.

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