A few weeks ago marked the passing of two artists, who were widely admired for their craft and possibly for their enviable transgenerational appeal. At some level, most of us search for meaning in this life, however we may never aspire to the cultural icon status of David Bowie or elicit the antipathy of archvillain, Alan Rickman. What can we glean from the visceral sensation experienced on hearing of their death? Jones (aka Bowie) and Rickman rose from relatively humble working class origins (Brixton and Acton) yet navigated the turbulence of the 60’s, which marked the breakdown of the British class system. Their social mobility was fueled by their creativity, drive and timing. Both performance artists drew from their distinct historical sociopolitical milieu to interpret the changes, which all of us were simultaneously undergoing, bereft of the ability to understand the problem, let alone articulate or propose alternate realities. In so doing, they transcended the circumstances of their birth, which might have condemned them to gray proletariat postWWII Britain. For my generation they represented the triumph of creativity over breeding.
Across the pond, FB posts relevant to Bowie’s death were extremely nostalgic, celebrating platform shoes, painted faces and fascination with extraterrestrial life. For over a generation, Bowie gave voice to our youthful foolishness, experimentation and futurist hopes; each alterego unapologetically succeeding the prior. Marshall McLuhan argued that “medium is the message” and in this regard Bowie’s physical form certainly influenced the reception of his ideas. That he had (anisocoria) different colored irises, was briefly considered androgynous, attractive and seemed to defy late 20th century concepts of aging, all contributed to the legend. It has been suggested that he provided the soundtrack of my youth and we had grown old together. Latterly, he connected with younger generations, not necessarily for his discography but rather how he continued to manage his evolution.
Pathos, the ability to evoke feeling, sympathy was undeniably a function of Rickman’s seductive voice, which linguists have extolled as “velvety with the lure of a hidden stiletto”. His portrayal of Vicomte de Valmont, Rasputin, Sheriff of Nottingham, Prof Severus Snape demonstrated his complex, cerebral nature. Just as the brilliance of light can only be measured against the darkness, heroes assume dimension when compared to nuanced antiheroes. Although the eventual triumph of the “righteous” is assumed, the denouement is heightened by the downfall of an authentic malefactor. Rickman’s hypnotic archetypes taught us the importance of a balanced opinion and the resilience of the human spirit.
What do these thought leaders have to do with Cosmetic surgery? Their leadership is in integrating art with pop culture and the eternal. In my own domain, I strive to serve my patients by sieving through trends, discarding the chaff and nurturing the seed. No longer ambitious to be the innovator whose patients serve as the experimental group, my practice is progressive, weaving scientific, sociological and humanistic parameters into a treatment plan. Traveling through this life, I am content, reinventing myself and my patients, defaulting to the existentialist creed of assuming responsibility to live authentically. Remaining relevant is a challenge, but like the departed artists, I am undaunted by the impermanence of my works and revel in the opportunity to become the agent of change for my patients.