Look, I Get It

I’ve been reading the stories, seeing the Facebook status updates and hearing “news” about Michael Jackson’s death anniversary today. I get it. He was really popular for a long time. But I don’t mourn his death.

First and foremost is the matter that death is something that comes for all of us. It’s no more special or momentous when a famous person dies. I know that runs counter to how we celebrate people. There are a few exceptions to the rule, too, when the person is famous for changing the world in an important way or managing a time in history that was difficult (Lincoln, Einstein, Reagan).

But we’re all going to die. Every last one of us. And it’s equally tragic to me when the 30 year old down the street overdoses as when Corey Haim does. My heart breaks for both of them, and they both went far too soon and before they realized their full potential. It’s even more tragic when I read the news and it’s just accepted as inevitable that we’ll read more stories about 12 year olds shooting craps, drugs and/or each other (I’m on season three of The Wire).

In fact, I think it’s more of a shame when the 30 year old “nobody” who OD’s just shuffles away with nary a shrug. Death as a celebrity, meanwhile, absolves you of all your sins and overlooks the fact that you spent the last decade of your life addicted to narcotics that “little people” can’t afford and that they can’t get legally. Seriously. When my mom was dying of cancer, we had to fill her pain medication subscription something like seven pills at a time. Meanwhile, celebrities are getting this stuff delivered to their houses in quantities large enough to get them Costco discounts.

I actually got into something of an argument with an old friend not so long ago because he was bothered that the Academy Awards had omitted Farrah Fawcett from what I call the Restrospective of Death. It’s the part of the show that we all look forward to every year, where they catalog the passage of time by reminding us that those we place on pedestals where struck low.

I evinced a low level of caring about her omission. I honestly didn’t understand the big deal about it. I’ve kind of come around on that — it’s like sitting around a campfire and reminiscing about the past — but it’s not really something I’m down with anymore. I’ve changed, I guess. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a shame when someone talented like Heath Ledger dies like he did, but again, it’s not going to stop me in my tracks anymore.

But it’s more that I’m grateful that he had the chance to give his God-given gift to the world and so help convey art to us. Maybe his death shouldn’t be a time of mourning, but a reflection of how we can’t waste a day to share who we are with the world in whatever way we can. Someone who shares on a large scale may inspire us to try sharing with a larger scale too.

But let’s be clear. I’m not saying that their deaths aren’t reason for reflection and at times shock at the sometimes suddenly tragic nature of life. I’m just saying that I don’t understand the larger reaction. I guess it’s because of that whole communal recognition thing, but it just seems out of scale with the actual event.

Second is that he was a kid toucher. I can’t mourn his absence from the world.

You can give me a raft of reasons – he was psychologically damaged, his father abused him, he was addicted to drugs, his sense of self was out of harmony with Aquarius in the Seventh House. He was a kid toucher.

You can point to the lack of criminal convictions. You can state that he settled out of court. You can throw at me that the parents should have known better (which is a fair point). He was a kid toucher, and just as innocent as OJ Simpson. We all know he did it.

All of that said, I hope that his soul gets to heaven and that he had some sort of miraculous reconciliation for his sins the moment before his death as he achieved complete enlightenment to the nature of what he had become. He gave some great music to the world and I still enjoy the Thriller album. I enjoy the time of life of which it reminds me, too, when the world seemed big and wonderful and not all that scary or tragic.

I kind of miss that time, before responsibility and sadness laid any true claim to any part of my heart. But I’m very happy with who I am now, and wouldn’t want to go back there for any reason. I just wish I had the innocence in there still.

I don’t know. Maybe that’s the chord it strikes for everyone, it just hits it a little stronger for others.


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