Virgin's Guide to Burning Man

A Virgin's Guide to Burning Man can be found here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tribute to MJ

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I wasn't planning on writing this. Probably everything I want to say here has already been said a million times, by a million voices all across the globe. With twitter and facebook, I could literally watch the world's response ripple out as we learned the news. I'm not normally engaged with celebrity lives and don't usually give a rat's hoot about any scandal or other such thing involving people whose name I know simply because they've been on TV. But MJ was more than just a pop star, and even when I woke this morning, I still felt saddened by his loss. (And yes, I know a bunch of other crises are going on; I'm capable of caring about multiple things simultaneously.)

I think we feel his loss so keenly because he was not just some really talented performer. He is the backdrop of so many memories in our lives. Who here, who has lived through the 80's, hasn't sung Beat It at the top of their lungs, or tried to moonwalk in socks on their mom's kitchen floor? Who doesn't remember watching Thriller on Halloween? Who hasn't danced to Billie Jean at skate nights and weddings? Who hasn't felt the bitter truth of Man in the Mirror? And when he sang Heal the World, I almost believed we could.

Looking back over his life, I am struck by what a tragic figure he was. He gave us so much, in music, in dance, in fashion, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars in charity to children's foundations and famine relief. But the cynics don't like to remember that part. What they remember are the scandals, mocking him for bleaching his skin, when really he suffered from two separate skin diseases (lupus and vitiligo). And of course the child molestation charges. I'm not entirely sure I believe those (maybe just because they're too horrific to imagine), but what I do believe is that he was an exploited child, who lost his childhood before he even could experience any of it. And I have seen others who have lost their innocence too young and how it left them psychologically stunted. So I have no trouble believing that all his strange behavior came in part from not being able to grow up in a normal way and in part from his desire to recapture childhood. And he cared so deeply about children because of it.

But instead of falling into bitterness and anger, he seemed to accept that his life made him who he is, and he chose a path of love and forgiveness instead. Speaking with the public, he was nothing but humble and shy; respectful to his parents and gracious about his achievements. But his lyrics, and how they've changed over the years, tell us quite plainly who he was, with almost a childlike simplicity. From the fun and vibrancy of early years, his later music shifted to plain speaking calls for love, understanding and acceptance. He was hurting and he told us so through his music.

There are always going to be the haters and cynics, who find it easier to point fingers and pass judgment, than to find optimism and forgiveness. But MJ, when you left us, we played your music for you. We danced and we sang your songs in tribute to you. Because even though you're far away, we wanted you to know, "you are not alone."

So here's to you, Michael, who died of a broken heart.

Rest In Peace
Michael Jackson

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