When I first heard about Michael, I broke down for a few moments as if I knew him. A tear or two fell. I sat there somber, hoping against hope that someone would shake me awake. But as the minute hand crept closer to due north, my hope waned. Reality set in. He was gone.
Like most, I didn’t know what to do. I watched CNN, MSNBC, MTV and BET simultaneously while refreshing my browser tabs for the LA Times, CNN.com and a few other media Web sites throughout Thursday night. I talked to as many of my close friends as possible. I checked on my mom. I started Facebooking and Tweeting his songs and videos. From “ABC” to “Butterflies.” I watched videos from the classic era from “Thriller” to “Scream.” Finally, I calmed.
I came up with the Five Random Questions because I didn’t think I wanted to write anything. I wanted everyone else’s thoughts and reflection. But I felt I needed to write something. So I started reading again — because I couldn’t write. I started trying to write, then stopped. Then I read some more — because I didn’t know what to write.
Then it hit me after I came across these specific words from Vibe Editor Danyel Smith’s piece on CNN.com: “It comes down to the fact that Michael Jackson gave. Whether he chose to or did it because it was all he knew, he sacrificed himself in the name of his art.”
What did I think of when I read this? Fear little. Love big. Give more. Expect less.
The middle two, Michael knew how to do without pause. Hell, sometimes he gave too much and put himself in precarious situations (we all do that, right?). Fear little and expect less? He knew how to do them, but didn’t always follow through. That showed in and because of his eccentric nature, utter weirdness and the awkward accusations.
Sure, Mike was a Peter Pan come to life. He built Neverland Ranch and never wanted to grow up. Like Paul McCartney said, Michael was a manchild. But isn’t that what we’re most attracted to anyway, where we tend to find the most joy … in children, especially those that cease to amaze? Are we not sucked in by their gravitational pull like our feet are to this earth beneath them?
In retrospect, Michael Jackson is the one true child star whose post childhood star exploded through the universe like a comet. And we got to witness the changing landscape of Michael’s comet throughout the 80s and early 90s before it began to flicker.
He kept moving us and giving us greatness, reason to stay tuned or tune back in. He gave most of us greatness in our youth. Whether it was us 70s and 80s babies or our parents. Most of us have our own childhood stories of Michael. They’re fond cherubic memories that we still carry.
I remember watching people pass out on television as Mike performed. Sometimes, he would just walk through a room, and a woman would drop mid-scream. I couldn’t understand it, but I knew then that he moved people like few others did.
I remember mis-learning the words to “Man in The Mirror” and singing them with the deepest conviction in front of my mirror at 8. As I said in the FRQs, that’s my favorite Michael song, because it tells you where you can find yourself and how you can start to make a difference — through self-reflection. Sound familiar? This whole self-reflection thing has been rummaging around my core since I was 8 — because of that song.
Most of us have similar experiences. And maybe that’s why Michael is on our hearts the way he is now in death, because we’ve carried him with us for so much of our own experiences.
And now we’re finally accepting the enigma we had for 50 years for what he did. He gave each of us who listened, learned and loved everything he had to give. The better. The worse. The best. And the worst.
Most of us marveled at his genius. But some who gazed also gawked at the unmistakable absurdity of his eccentricity, his troubled soul and his alleged exploits. We all taunted, jeered and/or questioned him at one point or another. Some swore and/or wrote him off “forever.” On Thursday, many of those people soiled their faces with tears and their hearts with sorrow as though they were his most loyal fans. Yes, there are plenty of unrelenting people full of hatred that don’t quite get it.
But there are more former taunters in Michael’s comet-viewing coliseums around this world — mourning, reflecting and celebrating his life.
Why? Because they knew the manchild’s greatness, too. It’s undeniable. Many of them lived through the 80s and watched Michael transform from black boywonder to “I don’t know what he is, but he’s larger than life” global icon. As Michael altered his complexion and facial features, they — the taunters — knew that he was half-crazy. But they also knew he was half-amazing. They knew Billie Jean wasn’t his lover.
They, like us, wanted a glittery glove. They wanted a red leather zipper jacket. They, too, wanted to Moonwalk like a Smooth Criminal. And on Thursday evening, they began mourning, like us.
Some of us ponder why? Why should the people who turned their backs on Mike for so long be allowed to celebrate him now that he’s gone? Why should they be able to switch sides, and throw roses at his feet in death.
Well, why not? Let them change their minds, and allow their heart’s longing to sing “Remember The Time” force its way through their ridiculous, yet re-convicted vocal chords. Now’s not a time to hate. It’s a time to be grateful that we were able to witness.
It’s a time to reflect and realize that the man moved a race — the majority of the human race — with his songs, his voice, his weirdness, his nerdiness, his movement, his style, his grace and his words. But mostly, he moved us because he was himself and he gave us the best and worst of who he was.
He did so from his youth until he was a grown manchild. Very few, if any, of us can say that. His life was the unadulterated, unscripted version of The Truman Show. And the world watched. It’s still watching now.
Maybe, in death, Michael Jackson is an enigmatic macrocosm of life trying to force us all to see a man for who he was in his completed, crazed state. To see the flaws despite the triumphs and the triumphs in spite of the flaws. Yet, in the end, enough of us still choose to love him for what he gave us.
That’s just what I see. Maybe I’m overthinking it like I do everything else. I don’t know.
What I do know is that I’m about to find my brush, turn on “Man in The Mirror,” head to the bathroom mirror and sing my heart out because that’s how I first learned to find myself. Through self-reflection in 1988.
And it’s time to remember and reflect some more. We miss you, Michael.
Peace be still,
P.S. These Words.