Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Day that Michael Jackson Died

I got home from work and saw everyone's Facebook statuses, a clamor of MJ this and R.I.P. that. And at first I couldn't even believe it. "Michael Jackson died?" I asked Beth.

"Yep."

"He had a heart attack?"
"Yep."

After confirming it on the news, I felt the urge to listen to/watch the song he sings in Free Willy. So I did.



The footage of the crazed fans make it all even more complicated, the positive impact he had on music, art... on the lives of so many, and at the same time the way it all seemed to eat away at him, don't you think? When you listen to them now, the lyrics are heart-breaking.
Hold me, like the River Jordan
And I will then say to thee, You are my friend

Carry me, like you are my brother
Love me like a mother. Will you be there?

When weary, tell me Will you hold me?
When wrong, will you scold me? When lost will you find me?

But they told me, a man should be faithful
And walk when not able, and fight till the end (but I'm only human)

Everyone's taking control of me
Seems that the world's got a role for me
I'm so confused - will you show to me
You'll be there for me
And care enough to bear me?

Hold me, lay your head lowly
Softly then boldly, carry me there.

Hold me, love me and feed me.
Kiss me and free me, I will feel blessed.

Carry, carry me boldly.
Lift me up slowly, carry me there.

Save me. Heal me and bathe me.
Softly you say to me, I will be there.

Lift me, lift me up slowly.
Carry me boldly, show me you care.
I went for a run, because my soul needed to be outdoors, and my body needed to be worked. The sun had just passed below the tree line, and everything seemed to be overflowing with meaning. The pale sliver of moon against the dulling sky, the yellow flowers folding themselves up for the night. I passed bars, cars, with their windows open, heard snatches of familiar songs broadcast from every radio station.
"...looking at the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to..."


"...is not my lover. Shes just a girl who claims that I am the one..."
The whole world was remembering. Like a lot of people, I did not expect this to happen (and therefore, that I would feel sad). I was talking to Rachel about it, how he was so troubled in later years. You think of him singing as a fresh-faced little kid with the Jackson Five (even though I wasn't even a dream in my parents' hearts at the time). You think of the turmoil, the anguish that was evident in his later life, how the pressure - everything - must have crushed him. I think Adrienne Maree Brown must have said it best, and I sort of want to re-post the whole thing, but I'll just paste in this portion:

We didn’t see the pain, we saw the bizarre, and we are vultures for scandal.

Still, he kept producing for us. As he got lighter he brought us an image of black Egyptians. He made us scream, cry, faint, and mob.

When it became clear that the boy’s face we had loved had become the face of a man who didn’t love himself; we judged him. We tore at him and he fell apart. He was living proof of the impact of our rabid pop culture, an early sacrifice to the new mechanisms of fame which allow no privacy, no time to learn, no mistakes.

Still, he kept producing for us.

When the rumors and the truth were all too prevalent (the children, both his and others), and he wasn’t getting the psychological support and accountability he needed, we turned from him and derided him. We made the distinction of loving the child, but ridiculing the man.

How many times did his heart break before this? How many times did he experience happiness, community, belonging and love in his life, in his off-the-stage life?

You think of all of these child stars, what we do to them with our disgusting obsessions, how we are so quick to point out all of the ways they aren't living up to our expectations. But they are people. And we forget that people are REAL. And that every person matters. And we don't run this risk just with celebrities. We forget that the homeless guy - whom we pass by in a hurry - is a person, that the Green Peace fundraiser kids are too, or our coworkers, even to our own precious family members! This is the tragedy of human existence.

And now I know the words of the prayer I had been saying over and over in my heart all evening in the memory of this man.

Oh God, please bless him. Please bless all of us, humanity. We are trying so hard to be GOOD, or we think we are trying, but really we have no idea. And we just end up clawing at each other in an effort to reach the light.

More than anything I hope there is a God right now. Is that weird? For Michael Jackson's sake, I hope there is a God. I mean, this was a real person. And I suspect we all failed him, tragically. I truly pray with all my heart that there is a God, waiting there to receive this brilliant, anguished soul with open arms and to fulfill all the wishes of that song, to be held, healed, bathed, lifted slowly, carried boldly.

Dear God, if nothing else, let us learn to be kind, and may he rest in peace.

4 comments:

ju said...

i do love you dear newt.

Newt said...

p.s. doesn't the girl in the center at around 2:51 of the video look like Hermione Granger?

Rachel. said...

"This is the tragedy of human existence." True. And also sad.

This is the third time I have read this post and two of those three times I cried tears, or nearly so. It also reminds me of a post/tribute written by my friend Elisa in her blog. http://yalikethesaint.blogspot.com/2009/06/and-i-will-take-from-you-your-stony.html

"His influence on Western culture was remarkable, absolutely incomparable. He was one kid who could sing, and his talent and innovation changed the world. And our culture broke him. His parents took his childhood away so he could be famous, and he spent the rest of life trying to move away from the fame and get his childhood back, and failing miserably."

I hope like you that we can be kind, and also that there is a God. For Michael's sake and ours, and that that God is compassionate, and merciful, and also kind.

Newt said...

Rach, thanks for sharing that blog post with me. What awesome and thoughtful friends you have...