Monday, July 6, 2009

Living (or dead) symbols

I'm sure everyone has heard about the memorial for Michael Jackson drawing so much international attention that they've had to resort to a lottery in order to distribute a limited number of tickets. This isn't the level of fame that most singers or performers achieve. This is epic levels of adoration - and for a man that a year ago was considered a bit of a joke and probably a pedophile.
The truth of it is that Michael Jackson, even while alive, was no longer a human to most people. He had reached the point where people didn't think of him as a person with needs, but as a flag, a banner that united them with music. Something a coworker told me today triggered this - she said that he begged for anesthesia from doctors just to feel at peace, and that they're looking into that as a trigger for his death. What price do we extract from those who are our symbols?
True fame is the transcendence of even being human and becoming a symbol. Look at Elvis - he wasn't the greatest singer ever or the best performer - but he was the symbol of those things, of sexual revolution, of something different in the merging of the white South and black music.
Once we lose those symbols, we mourn heavily. Perhaps now is the time to look past that though - to look at the toll it takes upon the people we turn into symbols and wonder if the cost is too high for those who must pay it.

I wrote this a few days ago and happened across an article on the Huffington Post that I think describes this as well. Here's the link:

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