04 September 2009

Sir Michael

Morning radio on WWOZ is all Michael Jackson today. Dozing in and out this morning NPR informed me Michael's body was finally laid to rest last night. Some place fancy; where was it?

Ah, yes. Google (how did we live before you?) harvests more than 170 million hits on "Michael Jackson"! "Entombed Among Hollywood Royalty" at Forest Lawn mausoleum reports The Australian.

What a life, no?

Michael's death surprised me but did not elicit an emotional response. What can you say? With celebrity of the magnitude that he endured, you are mostly the projections, conjecture and cravings of fans and the media and big business. Everyone who ever thinks of you, thinks of you under the influence of their own fantasies and nightmares.

I suppose we could call it "public service," giving the world a screen to dream and freak on.

When celebrities die, I always hope there's a book. A collection of letters. A journal. Some written clues about the true heart of the celebrated "public servant." Extraordinary, tragic, gifted public servant.


My parents' playlists dominated the airwaves in my childhood home: Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington, Lou Rawls, Sarah Vaughn (my mother's music)and Moms Mabley, Redd Foxx, Bill Cosby--with Pearl Bailey or Louis Armstrong thrown into the mix occasionally (my father's playlist).

A Jackson Five album somehow found its way into the family collection. We played it on the hulking combo TV-radio-record player stereo cabinet unit and danced around the living room after school. The custom among adolescent girls, possibly practiced worldwide, was to choose a fantasy boyfriend from among the members of popular boy bands--the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Osmonds, Monkeys. I was 15 and I think Jermaine was my choice in the Jackson Five. It was never Michael; he was too young.

I only ever purchased two Jackson albums: Off The Wall and Bad. Each appeared briefly in my personal Top Ten before being relegated to the "never listen to it but can't quite throw it away" bin. Great dance music and I was dancing a lot in those days. I'd hardly noticed Michael in the Jackson Five but he was a much brighter star and more exciting artist on his own.

I didn't pay much attention to him between album releases. All of the media drum-drum and yak-yak had begun years ago and was at a fevered pitch by the time I noticed the covers of the gossip magazines. It struck me as more of the usual ridiculous waste of time that tabloids make their stock in trade.

Michael seemed as capable as any other celebrity of ignoring the drivel and maintaining a focus on his artistry and personal wholeness. I didn't see him as fragile or at-risk. This image, the jerri-curled young artist, was how I remembered him. A bright-eyed artist having a good time as the world responds to his gift.

But his appearance began to change. Dramatically. Looking back, I wonder if each cosmetic modification brought him more fully into donning a mask, living in it, so that even alone, looking into the mirror, he saw only the mask. His natural face erased.

What do the eyes see when they look into the eyes in the mirror, the eyes in the mask? Is that infinity called "soul"?

I once knew a woman whose concept of the world did not include "soul." OK. Give me another word for who and what the eyes see in a mirror, for where and why the heart feels what it does during that gaze....

How many of the gazillions of photo images taken of him did he ever see? Photos are mostly freeze-frames or snapshots of personality but personality is an aspect of "soul".

I cringe when I try to perceive some truth about Michael Jackson from the traces of him found in snapshots and video clips. I feel sad or trapped and then I remember that these feelings are emotional byproduct of my own projection onto a man I never met.

Dancing to the music this morning, I tried to find something true about Michael in the music but remembered again that whatever I feel is just more projection.

What, then, is the significance of group projection? What does it mean when lots of people look at a man and feel a similar ache in their heart? Does consensus validate the projection?

In many photos from the last two or three years, Michael looked already-dead to me. A gifted ghost. And so, while the recent video clips of his children highlight the less-frequently documented collateral damage of his life, these children were raised by a ghost. They are the adopted children of a ghost.

My mind bends into knots trying to imagine their reality...

His body is at last retired.

Maybe someone will try to make a movie? Feed our dreams and memories of the ghost with more images?


  1. I think this may be the best thing I have read in a thousand things about this. Really. x

  2. I love the way your blog reveals the way you think. You are one of the most REAL people I know.

    Thank you for helping me to be more conscious that Michael was a person and not just a commodity.

    I always thought Jermaine was the cutest.


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