I hope you’ll bare with me for a few more thoughts about Michael Jackson. The things I’m thinking about today, they are only about M.J. on the surface, though. Beneath the veneer, I think there’s something deeper going on.
I was trying to wrap my brain on just why people are so impacted by this whole affair. One way we can note this is to simply turn on the news. A wise friend observed that there is something of our own identities in all this. People are so effected because there is something of their lives, thier history, and their memories wrapped up in all this. With the death of Jackson, a little piece of them dies too.
It’s clearly not the music. If it was everybody would have had the C.D.’s and downloads before he passed away. But he’s a top seller all over the place again. It’s as if people are trying to hold on to pieces of him through buying a piece of the music. But (hope I’m not beating a dead horse here) really, they only want a piece of him because it’s a little piece of themselves.
It occurs to me that the whole thing is like some Greek or Roman legend. Michael Jackson and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Madonna– they are this milenia’s Thor and Odin and Anansi and Ali Babba. They live in Hollywood rather than on Mount Olympus, but it’s really all the same: This psuedo-human cast of larger than life characters, engaged in the sex and violence and living in this promised land… only the very rarest of the mere mortals can ascend to their heights, though occasionally they lower themselves to walk among us for a while. Some of these figures stay forever unchanging, (Consider the people famous people whose fountain of youth is plastic surgery) some present themselves in a dizzying swirl of new incarnations (We even use that word for both celebreties and mthic figures: incarnations) Even the fact that we call these people “stars” is kind of a fascinating thing. The stars that hang in the night sky, and the consellations formed by them played important roles in these ancient myths.
The thing I know about all this is that we are built to look for God or Gods. If we don’t find the true God that is and will always be, we will find him somewhere else. Thousand of years ago we would have gathered around the story-teller. We would have placed his stories about Asgard in the God-shaped whole in our hearts, hoping they’d fit. Today, we throw five bucks to the cashier and consume our People magazines.
I don’t think these will ever satisfy.
And under our own power, we are imparmanent. Chasing after old songs to hold on to our sense of who we are, it’s a fools errand. Connecting our own sense of mortality to the death of pop stars is a fragile way to live. Virtually everything is fragile and impermanent. Looking to escape death through any created thing is futile. There’s only one thing that’s uncreated, there’s only one thing that is permanent. The only way to escape death is through him.