Reflections on the Existential Trauma Caused By Losing Bowie and Seeing HAMILTON in the Same Week.
Lately I’ve been wanting to read Dante.
In the middle of life’s journey I found myself lost alone
amongst a dark wood, not knowing where to turn…
I turned 35 in November, not a landmark age and certainly not old but it’s a higher number than I’ve been.
The clock, you know: dah-dum, dah-dum, dah-dam.
Then fucking David Bowie dies.
Most of my life I’ve felt conscious of the clock, the eternal footman tapping his watch behind me. Dah-dum, Dah-dum.
I have a collection of near-death stories deeper than most people’s sock drawers. When I was 19 I was convinced I wouldn’t live past 27 and not because of that stupid club, but because I had long suffered from Depression and long self-medicated with a fierce diet of cigarettes.
I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory. 
This weekend Lovah and I traveled to New York City to see Hamilton, a musical about one of the most driven men in American history… he wrote like he was running out of time. Dah-dum, dah-dum, dah-dum.
All I had heard of the show was its style, its fusion of present and history and rap and color. But what grabbed me was the story: not only that of a man haunted by death from a young age, so ambitious for life to have big historical meaning dahDUM; but by the counterpoint in Aaron Burr, willing to wait for the perfect moment to make his impact dah…dah…DUM.
I have never been a Burr kind of guy.
There’s a million things I haven’t done.
Just you wait, just you wait. 
David Bowie certainly never threw away his shot. As much as he was an artistic inspiration, he was a process and life model: start early, taste everything, never be satisfied.
You’re like me. I’m never satisfied. 
You like me and I like it all. 
Did the man who fell to earth ever sleep? Or has your vampire soul been fed forever not on the blood of mortals but on cigarettes and cocaine and milk?
I once lived off coffee cigarettes vodka and baloney for a week, with no sleep, until my appendix turned nuclear. Some days I sneeze novels.
His final 18 months, driven by the very real and audible sound of that dahDUM close on his heels – were a sonic whirl of creativity, a veritable engine of change and invention.
But! The woman! The family! Twenty-four years of true love?!
History books and biographies are full of stories of men who changed the world but were dickholes in the process. Do you not get to being Picasso without also being Pic-asshole? Do you have to be selfish to make any kind of mark on the world?
Can a man be a good partner and still change the world? Or can he have only that and can that be enough?
Towards the end of the first act of Hamilton, Alexander learns his wife is pregnant. She sings to him, begging him to stay and raise a family:
Let this moment be the first chapter:
Where you decide to stay
And I could be enough
And we could be enough
That would be enough. 
And it is clear that for him, it cannot be, it is not enough. Not in that moment.
Would it be for me? Could anything ever be enough?
I am 35 and proud that I’m alive and proud of what I have done and if I died right now it would not be enough for me.
But I am also so in love with Lovah and life without her would not be enough for me.
I will never be satisfied. 
But here it is friends DUMdah-dah…
I found myself lost alone amongst a dark wood,
not knowing where to turn… 
It is all dark wood.
The dozens of models from history are not for you and me. For every Starman blazed across the sky there are a million stars whose light will never reach our eyes.
Let me tell you what I wish I’d known
When I was young and dreamed of glory,
You have no control:
Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? 
I am never satisfied.
And that will be enough.
Towards the end of our trip Lovah and I went to the memorial outside Bowie’s apartment. Flowers, photos, albums, fan-made-art, heels, and lit candles splayed out lovingly next to an American Apparel store (which had both added text to their window offering condolences to the fans and family, and put a sale advertisement next to that message).
And it occurred to me, in the way most brilliant things do. Which is to say it occurred to Lovah and Lovah told me:
“Well, if ever there was a model of someone who had it all and did great work, it’s these two men.”
Hamilton and Burr?
“Lin and Bowie.”
Listen to Lovah, for Lovah is wise.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has much life yet to live, but seems to have it all: a son he adores, a wife he adores, a career and talent that everyone else adores.
Bowie has much past behind him, checkered and colored and dark, but he found it, didn’t he? Twenty-four years with an astonishing woman and children he adored, and continued making epochal work in the studio and the stage til his last days.
Can there be something in the spectrum between Hamilton and Burr? Someone not throwing away their shot and willing to wait for it?
If ever two men balanced family and goodness and home with feverish creativity, was it not these LMM and DB?
Burr’s final words at the end of the show:
I should’ve known. I should’ve known.
History was wide enough for both Hamilton and me. 
In the middle of life’s journey I have come to a great dark wood, lost and unsure which way is forward. Dah-DUM.
But here it is…dah-DUM…what all this life has taught me…dahDUM.
Forward is whatever direction you choose to walk.
John J King is a playwright and musician in Boston. His plays are FROM DENMARK WITH LOVE and the libretto for the vampire opera DER VAMPYR. There are a million things he hasn’t done, but just you wait.
1 - "In the middle of life's journey..." - Dante, The Inferno. Trans. JJK
2 - "I imagine death..." Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton "My Shot"
3 - "There's a million things..." Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton "Alexander Hamilton"
4 - "You're like me. I'm never satisfied." Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton "Satisfied"
5 - "You like me and I like it all." David Bowie, "Rebel Rebel"
6 - "Let this moment be the first chapter" Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton "That Would Be Enough"
7 - "Let me tell you what I wish I'd known" Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton "History Has its Eyes On You"
8 - "I should've known..." Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton "The World Was Wide Enough"