Life Renewed

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Remembering Michael Jackson who was, after all, ‘only human’

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Thursday was one of those days we will all remember forever. It doesn’t matter how otherwise uneventful the day was, for years to come, we will be able to recall exactly where we were when we heard that Michael Jackson was dead. For me, it was a moment of deep shock, followed by a somewhat surprising level of sorrow. I guess the reason I was taken aback by how sad it made me is because I didn’t really follow MJ’s celebrity when he was in his prime. Growing up, we didn’t listen to secular music, so in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, I knew who MJ was, but didn’t know many of his songs.

In fact, my first Michael Jackson exposure came from watching the music video for “Will you be there” on Free Willy. Definitely not what MJ is best known for, but nonetheless, this was my introduction to the king of pop. And, while I loved the music video, and appreciated Michael’s voice and emotion, as a child, I thought he was just a tad strange.

And he was. The continual morphing of his physical appearance and the allegations that defined his press for the next decade confirmed it. To one who didn’t know much of his music, Jackson was simply a strange, if not eccentric public figure—someone to look at sideways while shaking your head. And that’s what many in my circle did.

It wasn’t until high school that I really became familiar with Michael’s music, largely, by force. Sophomore year, my gym teacher loved to blast MJ’s ‘80’s songs during our pickle ball games and badminton tournaments. There’s nothing like “Beat it” to get the momentum going. In the years since that high school gym class, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for Michael’s talent. His work is simply unparalleled. And let’s face it, when you want to have a dance party, where else are you going to find music that’s so perfect?

But it wasn’t just my recently discovered love for Jackson’s songs that sparked my sadness upon hearing of his death. In some ways, it was the realization that a cultural icon was gone. It was a reminder that nothing lasts forever; a reminder that even those who our culture puts on pedestals are nothing more than mortals—human beings like the rest of us.

That’s something we would have done well to remember during Jackson’s lifetime. Watching the news channels chronicle MJ’s life and rerun old interviews the past few days has only confirmed how broken and hurting he was. Michael was morning a lost childhood and searching for an identity. Like all of us, he had a deep inner longing to be known and loved. Dismissing him as an eccentric public figure or a simple icon makes it easy to forget this. But, as I reflected on his death Thursday, my heart broke for the conflicted person that he was.

I’m not trying to excuse any of Michael’s bizarre or inappropriate behavior, but I think that we too often judge people—particularly those in the spotlight—without taking into account how hurting they really are. Often, the actions we look down upon are a cry for attention and perhaps even a cry for help. Jackson got attention; in fact, he was idolized almost as a god. But that’s not the kind of attention people were made for. The thing that amazes me about the response to his death is how many people are mourning as if they lost someone close to them. The whole world feels as if they know him, and yet no one really did. That’s a lonely place to be.

As I reflect on his life and death, my heart breaks for Michael Jackson
. He so wanted to make people happy and bring joy into the world. Yet from all appearances, his personal life was full of heartbreak and pain. Perhaps the saddest thing is not MJ’s death so much as it is his lost potential during life.

Idolizing anyone is dangerous
. It removes their humanity and makes it all too easy for us to forget that they have the same needs we do. “Will you be there?” is about an individual’s need for a friend—someone to hold him and carry him—and in this song, Jacks clearly states: “I’m only human.” It’s a good reminder that no amount of celebrity can kill our fundamental need to love and be loved. I hope that in the final days of his life Jackson was able to find peace and the love he had been seeking for so long.

And for those who like me, first met Michael through Free Willy, here’s a video you’re less likely to see them playing on the news or other web sites.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fm23tXYiXV4

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Written by liferenewed

June 27, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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