“I’ve tried to avoid all this, but I can’t”
“I just gotta know, are we gonna try to love each other?”
Batdance (1989) (from the “Batman” soundtrack)
The outpouring of love for Prince over the last few days has been deep, wide, and intense. It was more than his music that people loved – it was his purple self that resonated all over the world. Sexually androgenous as well as culturally androgenous, he redefined the boundaries between id and culture to create a new identity that was uniquely his own.
His otherworldly presence also provide an example for a new approach to life that may yet help us all navigate a changing world. Like Prince, we can make it all in our own image, born in love and creativity, together.
Minnesotans, at their worst, are a people who are arrogant and aloof. Minnesotans at their best are basically the same – but totally and completely earn it. Prince was the greatest Minnesotan of all. As the outpouring of grief around the world shown in bright purple we ultimately claim him as our own.
No, actually, he claimed us.
How did he stand apart from all the boundaries of gender and race in purple and frills? As he challenged everything in our culture publicly, his intensely private nature made it possible. He was famously aware of everything around him, constantly creating a “safe space” for him to launch his persona out to the world on his own terms.
It wasn’t ego that drove him, it was love. Love was the calling to perfection.
But the aura that enveloped him was a product of both worlds that Prince inhabited, his inner being and the outward expression of it. He didn’t drink, smoke, or take drugs. He didn’t swear and didn’t tolerate swearing around him. He was a Jehovah’s Witness who lived his life in a higher state, a private heaven which gave him the space to be even more for the world.
Which takes us to how he transformed the lives of so many odd and awkward people touched by his presence even at great distance through his music and his persona. He told the world, “Be the best you that you can be”. It wasn’t a lecture, it was an example.
Now that he is gone the veil between public and private that gave Prince the space to be so much for himself has revealed itself to be even more. He gave generously to those in pain, easing their mortal discomfort so that they, too, could experience a higher calling of love.
Whenever there has been trouble across the US in the form of racial strife Prince would swoop in after the camera lights went out and the noise was turned down. Baltimore, Ferguson, Chicago – they all had concerts given by Prince for the community in the eerie silence that came after the rage and hate. He filled that space with love.
But these were only a cover for his true work, which was to meet with people and distribute money to help the healing begin. He was there when everyone needed an angel – and no one else was to know about it.
In 1989 as Tim Burton was assembling the first Batman movie, Prince insisted his way into writing the score for the movie. It is clear now why this was so important to him. When life calls on you to be Batman, you be Batman.
There will be more stories coming out in the weeks and months ahead which show us how Prince defined the lines between himself and the rest of the world. What is clear is that his inner peace burst forth onto the world in purple rays of love. They went further than the music, which was ultimately a cover for a life and a calling much deeper.
It started with an inner peace, a safe space where the boundaries were carefully patrolled. Beyond that line there was only one thing that Prince wanted to see – and that was love.
Much of the world doesn’t understand the boundary and the self as well as Prince did. Changes around the world burst out of so many people as anger, a push back when surroundings become unrecognized and challenging. For so many, there is no space to be an angel and radiate only love. There is no space to be Batman, taking up the calling to heal when darkness falls.
Prince gave us an example to live by. It wasn’t male or female, it wasn’t black or white. He drew from his mixed heritage and mixed identity to define something even more unique than the purple and frills. He came from a world apart created for the strength to overcome anxiety and hate, labels and shame.
If all the world took up his example we would all be happier. And a lot funkier, of course.