Who knows the truth about what really killed Michael Jackson? Much has been written about his strange life and the mystery surrounding his equally puzzling death. No doubt, there will be mountains more coverage of this man who was an American original in the days to come as the feeding frenzy that so characterized his life continues in the aftermath of his death.
If Michael were here right now witnessing the circus around his death, I wonder what he would have to say to us about life under the microscope? What would he want us to know about who he really was? What was it like to be him these past 50 years? What caused him the most pain, brought him the most joy?
Snooping around the internet, I found some interesting quotes attributed to the King of Pop. If he were here right now, perhaps this is what he'd want us to know. In his own words:
"I'll always be Peter Pan in my heart."
As a man who remained a boy in search of his long lost childhood, Michael was probably the most iconic personality in the modern world who personified the Peter Pan archetype, or as Jung called it, The Puer Aeternaus/Eternal Boy. The walls in his boyhood bedroom were covered with photos of Peter Pan and he later named his southern California estate, Neverland, after the home of the Lost Boys in the story. His search for the love of a family and a place to call home took him to the edge and beyond. True to his Peter Pan image, Michael betrayed himself as a man, and remained a boy in his heart, even as his body took a beating and was ravaged by his efforts to remake himself and stave off time. In the end, Michael's time was up and Peter Pan took flight.
"There is a lot of sadness in my past life. My father beat me. It was difficult to take being beaten and then going on stage. He was strict; very hard and stern. My father was a management genius. But what I really wanted was a dad."
His childhood having been stripped away by his driven and ambitious father, Joe Jackson, Michael was on his way to becoming a lost boy by the time he was six years old and performing with his brothers in the strip clubs of Gary, Indiana. His talent was a one-way ticket out of the soot and grime of the blue-collar city for the entire Jackson family. He learned that his worth was measured by the size of the recording contracts his father landed.
"People think they know me but they don't. Not really. Actually, I am one of the loneliest people on this earth. I cry sometimes, because it hurts. It does. To be honest, I guess you could say that it hurts to be me."
Michael's honesty is riveting here. If we were willing to look closely, who among us could not say we've felt the same way at some point in our lives? Could you tell that to the world? I doubt if I could, but Michael did.
Aside from his quirky personality, at the level of spirit, Jackson was mighty. It takes a mighty spirit to be able to hold the amount of attention Michael received from the entire planet. If you and I look into the mirror, take note of our flaws, and worry about that conspicuous blemish or what to do about our sagging neckline, we're not facing the same kind of scrutiny he did. Imagine having the eyes of the world on you, documenting every move you make!
As a teenager, Michael became painfully shy and embarrassed about his appearance after repeated tauntings by his father, calling him "Big Nose". He couldn't do enough plastic surgery to escape the man he saw in the mirror who, as he matured into his 20's, began to look more and more like the father he so dreaded. As his looks transformed, so did his behavior. The man who came to be known as "Wacko Jacko" emerged.
"Success definitely brings on loneliness. People think you're lucky, that you have everything. They think you can go anywhere and do anything, but that's not the point. One hungers for the basic stuff."
By the age of six, Michael's life was already headed away from a "normal" childhood and down a trajectory that seemed destined to have a less than happy ending. His death affirmed what those close to him had been predicting for months, perpetuating the mystery that also surrounded his life. Sadly, one doubts it could have ended much differently than it did.
Michael pushed himself to the limit in every area of his life. He was the consummate entertainer, bigger than Elvis, he was the King of Pop, who knew no boundaries, who sought to see how far he could fly and crossed the line between life and death. I have a feeling he lived very close to that line most of his life, as comfortable with the idea of death, maybe even more so, than with life.
We will remember Michael for two things: his unparalleled talent and the stain on his career and reputation related to his inappropriate behavior with young boys. Although acquitted on ten counts of molestation in 2005, Michael never recovered from the shame and humiliation of what he considered false accusations.
"I just want to say to fans in every corner of the earth, every nationality, every race, every language: I love you from the bottom of my heart. I would love your prayers and your goodwill, and please be patient and be with me and believe in me because I am completely, completely innocent. But please know a lot of conspiracy is going on as we speak."
Some say a Puer type would never consider sexual molestation an offense. Jackson thought it made perfect sense to want to share his bed with young boys. In his way of viewing the world, he'd done nothing wrong.
"I have spent my entire life helping millions of children across the world. I would never harm a child. It is unfortunate that some individuals have seen fit to come forward and make a complaint that is completely false. Years ago, I settled with certain individuals because I was concerned about my family and the media scrutiny that would have ensued if I fought the matter in court. These people wanted to exploit my concern for children by threatening to destroy what I believe in and what I do. I have been a vulnerable target for those who want money".
His career never recovered after his long trials and even at the time of his death, he was involved in multi-million dollar lawsuits involving contractual disputes. His upcoming comeback tour was planned to help him recover financially. It wasn't to be.
"I made a terrible mistake. I got caught up in the excitement of the moment. I would never intentionally endanger the lives of my children. I love my children. I was holding my son tight. Why would I throw a baby off the balcony? That's the dumbest, stupidest story I ever heard."
Notwithstanding the balcony incident, to his family and those who were close to him, Michael was a devoted father. His competency in this department however, was another issue. Michael's children were virtually raised by a nanny, Grace Rwamba, the only mother figure they've ever have known. Custody as been temporarily placed under the guardianship of his mother, Katherine, who is separated from Michel's father.
"Please, I don't want anybody to think I'm starving, I'm not. My health is perfect, actually."
Michael lost touch with the reality of the larger world and spent his final days as a recluse, financially broken, ill and wracked with pain, addicted to pain medication, his weight reported to be 112 pounds at the time of his death.
"I've been in the entertainment industry since I was six-years-old ... As Charles Dickens says, 'It's been the best of times, the worst of times.' But I would not change my career ... While some have made deliberate attempts to hurt me, I take it in stride because I have a loving family, a strong faith and wonderful friends and fans who have, and continue, to support me."
In 2007, Michael was prophetic. He must have seen the end coming around the not-so-distant bend.
"It all went by so fast, didn't it? I wish I could do it all over again, I really do."
With Jackson's death and that of so many other celebrities who died too soon, I'm left wondering: What is the starvation in our culture that has us consume our celebrities with such a voracious appetite?
James Hillman, renowned Jungian analyst, has suggested our culture itself is a Puer Aeternaus culture. Hillman sees us collectively locked into the "I won't grow up" Peter Pan syndrome as an antidote to the greater collective focus on war and negativity. We project our unlived lives onto the celebrities who chose to live out their lives in the glare of fame and fulfill our own desires for transcendence.
But the price for that fame is steep. All too often, caught up in its glare, celebrities end up like Michael Jackson, being burned on the pyre of fame and gone before their time. Jim Morrison, Anna Nicole Smith, Janis Joplin, Freddie Prinze, Jimmy Hendrix, Heath Ledger, John Belushi, Marilyn Monroe all flirted with the edge that transported them to a place where the boundaries between life and death became blurred and human rules no longer applied.
Michael's music will live on forever. As sad as is his death, it seems fitting we'll never see him truly grow old. Like Marilyn Monroe and others who died too soon, he will forever be frozen in time in our minds and memories, Peter Pan, the eternal boy, whose star burned brightly for a time and then suddenly went dark. May he find the peace in his death that eluded him in life.
Events that touch at the heart and soul of humanity can help us to to discover more about ourselves. Aside from whatever judgments you have about him and how he lived, what has Michael's death brought up for you? What has it made you more aware of about your own life? What have you put off because you told yourself "there's always tomorrow". What if there isn't?
I'd love to hear from you in the comment section here or on my personal blog at Rx For The Soul, www.judithrich.com. And while you're kanoodling around here, why not Become A Fan, and help spread the word by posting this article on your Facebook page?
Thanks for stopping by. I'll be away the next two weeks and plan to be back here in late July.
Blessings on the path, Judith