David Bowie and recognising when you were wrong

Family Law|January 11th 2016

Like many millions of people around the world I was deeply saddened to hear this morning of the death of David Bowie. Bowie was an icon whose work stretched back to my late childhood and seemed to fill many of the years that have passed since.

I was not, however, an immediate convert.

Back in the early 70s what I considered to be ‘serious’ rock music was my thing. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were my favourites, closely followed by the likes of Yes and Pink Floyd. I did have at least one friend who listened to Bowie, but generally I and most of my friends dismissed him as a lowly ‘pop’ artist, rather than a serious rock artist. The fact that he regularly appeared on Top of the Pops didn’t help – the more an artist appeared on that programme, the less cool they seemed.

But gradually, as I grew older, things changed. I recall in particular a moment when my friends pulled my leg when they caught me singing the song Sound and Vision, which was released in 1977. Slowly, I was becoming a Bowie convert. Much later, I was even one of the few to enjoy his experiment with Tin Machine. And in just the last year or so I have spent a great deal of time on YouTube listening to songs from some of Bowie’s last live concerts, particularly some of his greatest songs, such as Heroes, Changes and Ziggy Stardust. I was reminded not just what a great songwriter he was, but also what a great performer he was.

I had grown to realise and appreciate the genius of Bowie. As someone said on Twitter this morning, how many of us who were into ELP and Yes in 1972 would have thought then that Bowie’s legacy would ultimately have been so much greater than that of our heroes?

My experience with Bowie is a reminder that we can all be wrong. The secret, of course, is recognising that fact, and putting things right. And that is where this post belatedly connects with family law, in particular with the post I wrote here last Thursday. There, I discussed how many parents take rigid positions in the course of contested disputes over arrangements for their children. They seem to form those positions before they have really considered properly what is best for their children, and they can cling to those positions throughout what can be long and bitterly contested court proceedings, rather than taking a sensible and constructive approach to resolving the dispute.

And this phenomenon of holding on to untenable positions does not just affect children proceedings. It is also common in financial remedy proceedings following divorce and in other types of family proceedings. It can be extremely destructive, time-consuming and expensive.

Admitting that you are wrong can be very difficult, especially in the course of family proceedings, where feelings run so high. Any sign of weakness or loss of face can seem like a disaster. However, a far greater disaster can await you if you persist in holding on to an unreasonable position.

The answer to the problem, rather like me with Bowie, lies in listening. Listen to those around you. Listen to the children, listen in particular to your lawyer and, if the matter has gone that far, listen to the judge and to the CAFCASS officer. Listen even to what the other party has got to say – they may just not be being as unreasonable as you think. By listening you may be able to recognise that, yes, you were wrong, and that you need to change your position, for the good of all, especially any children involved.

And with that, I have to go. I’ve got some songs I want to listen to.

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