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Obit Michael Jackson: Fragile Ego and Indomitable Media

Michael Jackson slowly but surely killed himself. He couldn’t take himself anymore. No human ego can withstand that much attention, or notoriety, or adoration. It becomes weighted down with its own self-deceptions, its endless, meaningless public adulations, and its terrifying sense of its fragile place in the universe. Michael Jackson did not die a happy death: his pain was physical and metaphysical. No narcotic nor accolade could fill his empty heart and heavy soul. He could not dance his pain away.

Our Self or Ego is an illusion we have to grow out of, not blow up into monstrous proportions in the hot house of superstar frenzy. Every time his fans (“fanatics”) referred to him as the “King of Pop,” a Legend” and “Icon,” they shot another love arrow into his damaged heart, now stilled by their sweet poison. He fed himself on such adulation, an intensifying addiction.

A look in the mirror at a face he could not recognize brought home to him his homelessness in the human family. We are told he left his compound and roamed the streets at night looking for human companionship. That was before “Thriller” took him over the top, the world's most popular pop star ever, which is of course beyond human capacity to endure. After that he became a zombie, chief of the living dead he gyrated with in the world-famous video.

This is Elvis’ story and Marilyn’s and many others not so supersized. And we have been breeding generations of young, spoiled people demanding fame, grandiose attentions, and idolatry as their birth rite. They long after superstardom as a dream not a nightmare. New forms of media make it much more possible: cell phone photos, twitter, youtube, facebbook, giant tv’s, and the “reality” programming on them can make one’s everyday life into a pointless public preoccupation. Then personal infamy is a good as personal fame in drawing attention to the self. Fame and infamy are nearly the same word. One affects the weird, the sordid, or even the criminal to draw attention and then one becomes that, blending and thus losing both the public and private personality.

Real talent and genius may accompany fame, but real talent serves others or tradition or one’s craft or discipline--not the bloated self. One loses oneself in the art and science of accomplishment. Humility and anonymity are unknown, unfathomable talents these days. We can now project our egos into the heavens on the wireless wings of modern media, where we find choir after choir of roaring tearful fans and no transcendent payoff.

Freud found that our technologic extensions transformed us moderns into “prosthetic gods,” beneficiaries of vastly improved vision, hearing, and physical might through our machines. Increased use of even more advanced technology today has magnified our artificial power, but has not increased the stability of our emotions or health of our psyches, nor reminded us to prune away the vast hairy tangles of our self-obsessions.

The cure for egomania is not megalomania but the slow erasure of the Self from one’s preoccupations. This is not suicide but rather its opposite—self-sacrifice and service to others--a piece of wisdom as unfashionlable and perplexing today as it was perhaps when the spiritual traditions of the east and west spoke to real human needs. Pop wisdom and culture seem as bereft of these ideas as the world stage now without its icon.

A new one will surely pop up. The King is Dead. Long Live the King.


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