“I have been a stranger in a strange land.” Exodus 2:22
I never thought I’d outlive Ziggy Stardust.
When the film THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH came out in 1976 Donna and I and a close friend when out to see it. I still remember the friend getting up and leaving part way through the film. The film was slow…and weird.
You may think me a bit weird but I found the film profound. When my friend got up and left in disgust— “I’m outta here”— I wasn’t sure if he left because of the slowness of the film or the strangeness. But his leaving made me more determined than ever to stay and figure out where this film was going. The result was, I discovered that if you walk out of something that makes you uncomfortable, ask yourself before you go why it offends you. If it offends you because it is offensive— stupid sex or mindless violence— you were wise to leave. But if you leave because it’s not normal, if it proceeds at an excruciating pace that leaves your mind somewhat numbed, keep in mind that the star of the film is an eccentric pop star who was at the time the poster child for all seekers. And if you don’t know what a seeker is, it’s because you too are a “stranger in a strange land”, precisely what David Bowie was trying hard to portray.
What do I mean?
I mean there really are some people out there who are searching for the meaning of reality. “There must be some way outta here, said the joker to the thief,” wrote Bob Dylan, “there’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief. Businessmen they drink my wine, ploughmen dig my earth— none of them along the line, know what any of it is worth.”  People forget Dylan’s roots. Back in the 70’s I didn’t know Dylan was quoting Scripture. I didn’t know Bowie was pushing the envelope. I was a seeker just like him, doing my best to try to make some sense of the world, running with the few bits of light I had available at the time.
Keep in mind, another by-line for this site is “LIGHT FROM DARK PLACES”. I’m here to bring you LIGHT— to let you know that if you were fascinated by this film, there’s a good reason. THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH is a melodramatic attempt to confront the obvious: why are we here, and what are we going to do about it?
Bowie’s character, Thomas Jerome Newton, has come to seek redemption for his planet, but the culture down here on Earth is so mind-numbing and distracting and overwhelming, he finds himself watching twenty TV’s at the same time, scrambling to figure out Earthlings. We are so violent. We are so shallow. We are so pointless. We are so wasteful. One of the most shattering scenes is filmed out in the desert, and you can tell our alien visitor is clearly overwhelmed at the thought that back on his home planet his people are dying for one drop of water, and here there are lakes of it, the sky is piled high with it. Even back in 1976, when I was still a lost young man of twenty-seven, I had the strangest feeling that there was something in this film I needed to see, to hear, to understand. My impatient friend who left early was not a seeker— he was an enjoyer. Enjoyers go through life looking for fun— seekers look for meaning.
I saw the film only once, at a theatre in Scarborough that has long since been torn down and replaced by some retail stores. But I have never forgotten it. In fact, after I was saved in 1980 the analogy immediately “fell to earth”. Bowie’s character “fell to earth” looking for water—something to save his people, something to sustain his own soul, and he found a planet perfectly drowning in resources, and yet curiously aimless. It’s not what you see in the film that is so disturbing, it’s what you don’t see. What is so odd about our alien is that he never thinks to ask for help. Why doesn’t he ask NASA for help? Why doesn’t he walk up to the White House? Or the ACLU? Or the Salvation Army?
I think the reason is, his exposure to the culture, to the media, to the news, to the people, has left him a bit freaked out. I guess he must have thought that the people on Planet Earth are so busy living their pointless lives that they wouldn’t possibly take him seriously. Or maybe they would think he was crazy— imagine asking for help to ship water to a dying planet… what a loser!
Why would people who have so much, care about people who have so little?
Reminds me of my little analogy.
We’ve got philosophers galore teaching our university freshmen that there’s no God, that there’s no afterlife, that there’s no real point to existence. And then we have the heritage of the Christian church— several millennia of REAL ANSWERS. The church is practically drowning in answers. The problem is, they are either preoccupied, or they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be lost, to be a stranger in a strange land.
Yes, David Bowie was strange. Yes, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH was strange. But stranger still is what Oscar Wilde has the golden statue of the Happy Prince say to the little swallow: “more marvellous than anything is the suffering of men and women…there is no mystery so great as misery.” What is amazing is how that the preoccupation with this world makes us all forget what we came here to do.
What did you come here to do? Eat, drink and be merry? Fill your days up with excitement, pleasure, things? One day it will all be over, and the veil will be drawn back and you will see— and remember— that you had a duty to your fellow man.
Jesus said, “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14
When Jesus talked about water, he meant life. Eternal life. It’s funny, but the most necessary commodity of all —immortality— is discussed in whispers in the back rooms of abandoned churches, while the most deadly poison —doubt and uncertainty— is dispensed by the gallon in our culture. If you have not yet found what I am talking about here, surf around in some of the essays on this site until you find the answers. Am I arrogant to say I have found the answer? I am only passing on what I have finally learned. I’ve found the source— why should I keep quiet?
When I walked out of that film that afternoon, I had a strange feeling. “That was a weird movie,” I thought, “But no weirder than my own life! Surely there will be an answer some day soon!” It took another four years of more searching for me to find the source.
It was the last scene in the film that disturbed me the most that day— and then again years later when I was saved. He forgets his mission. He is so distracted by the world, by pleasure and entertainment and details— that he forgets why he came and what he was supposed to do.
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH is you. You are a stranger here, however long you have lived here, however much you think you know. In light of eternity, your little time here is nothing. If you forget the reason you were put here— to find the truth— you will leave this world with nothing. Nothing for yourself, and nothing for your fellow man.
But if you follow the light you are given—and that day in that theatre I was given light: light enough to know that I was not the only man seeking answers, Bowie was seeking answers too— as long as you keep seeking, and don’t fall asleep, you will get what you came here for. “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Ephesians 5:14 You need to ask God to guide you to the Source.
And finally, one more thought.
There are some people so anxious to find analogies in everything they leap before they look. Don’t make a quick analogy that Christ is the man who fell to earth. Christ didn’t come to earth looking for water, he came to bring water. He brought so much water that it can fill every man, woman and child to overflowing. (We’re talking about life, here, immortality.) “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)
The analogy is the fact that you and I, when we have found the Source, must strive to stay awake, to stay focused, to remember why we came, why we are here— as this old Christian hymn relates:
O Zion, haste, thy mission high fulfilling, To tell to all the world that God is light; That He who made all nations is not willing One soul should perish, lost in shades of night
Behold how many thousands still are lying, Bound in the darksome prison house of sin, With none to tell them of the Savior’s dying, Or of the life He died for them to win.
Proclaim to every people, tongue, and nation That God, in whom they live and move, is love; Tell how He stooped to save His lost creation, And died on earth that we might live above.
Give of thy sons to bear the message glorious; Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way; Pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious; And all thou spendest Jesus will repay.
LINK TO: THE HAPPY PRINCE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t57Cg5j6EPc
 ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER/ Columbia Records, 1968/Lyrics ©Bob Dylan Music Co./ Made famous by Jimi Hendrix
 Oscar Wilde, The Happy Prince, First published by David Nutt, May 1888
 “ZION” is sort of a Christian/Jewish pseudonym for the city of Jerusalem, and because of this, is used to represent the entire Jewish/Christian program of reaching the world with the Bible truth about salvation. O Zion Haste/ Author: Mary Ann Thomson: Tune: James Walch, composed tune for “TIDINGS” 1875; Public Domain