defragment.me

This is it: The genius who wanted to change the world but couldn’t save himself

*This post may contain spoilers if you didn't watch the movie.*

I just watched "This is it" at the movies. I was teary from the beginning, amazed during the middle and totally in tears at the end. I hope to pen down my thoughts about Michael Jackson and the movie when the after-thoughts are still fresh as there was many a time that I had very much wanted to write but just couldn't remember enough when I had time to do so. So, this may end up being totally unstructured but it is the thought that counts right?

My personal review

The movie was better than expected, though I did hope to see more of his personal side. You will see that undeniable brilliance of Michael Jackson. His genius. How he has that innate artistic ability to direct his crew at his concert. Little details like pauses longer here and there, requests for the musical beats to be simpler, how he always had to attain perfection on stage. I was blown away. Now we all know he was in such poor health and spirit, yet he was able to dance and sing for hours. He could have just gone through the motions, but no, he fussed over details, made sure his crew knew that he appreciated them, and gave them a chance to shine on stage.

I am very grateful for the chance to experience his genius by watching the movie. How he knew every inch and note of his music. How he could detect the slightest, most subtle change in the music arrangement or alter the entire effect of the choreography by moving a few seconds. How he showed his very generous and humane side by asking his female guitarist to make good use of her chance to display her own genius. He even knew how to direct in specifics for the videos to be shown during the concert. I just don't know how someone can be so extremely talented.

Watching the concert redefined the concept of "hard-work" for me. I feel sorry about all the times I complain about working hard when a quite literally broken man like MJ could work so hard.

Concert that was never to be, deserved to be shown live

I feel upset because the entire production deserved to be shown live. Seriously. To me, the world missed an amazing concert. The band and dancers were the cream of the crop, the stage production was just too good for words to describe, everyone was just putting in their best effort and talent on show. I felt very, very sorry for the crew, really. So much planning, hard work, anticipation that went into the preparation, that would never see the light of the day if not for the movie.

I don't care whether it is an attempt to cash-in on his death, it is just something that is very worth experiencing. The concert that never was did not belong to MJ alone, it is only fair that the amount of work and the come-together of all these talent get shown to the world. I really hope that many people will get to watch it, not only for the concert itself, but for all the messages MJ wanted to carry to us but never had the chance to. I cannot help the tears that come to my eyes each time I think how heartbroken and devastated the crew was because they clearly adore him and put in so much just to be able to share the stage with the great man.

On Michael's death

I actually penned half a post a few months ago after MJ passed away. To be really honest, I was never a huge fan of him and I thought he was just about snazzy dance moves and feel-good music. However, being the curious info-junkie I am, I read up quite a bit of him after his passing and was particularly moved by a tribute penned by Deepak Chopra. I was very much intrigued that the well-known spiritual teacher was a good friend of MJ and his intricate, expressive writing shed a lot of light on the sensitive, kind, soul that MJ had.

One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was re-listening to his music, pouring over his lyrics and reading up whatever that would give a little more information on the mystery of the greatly talented but visibly broken soul.

Then, I poured my thoughts and emotions into that post, but I never got to finishing it. It was too personally empathetic and I did not want anybody to perceive that I was comparing myself to the great man. I will never understand how much burden (neither will anyone else) it was to bear that sheer amount of talent but I can personally identify with the pain, self-torture and the isolation. Not to that extent of course, but that is precisely the point. What I feel on a personal level is already enough to drive me to the brink at times, what about the scale he had to endure?

A blessing & a curse

I have two theories on why so many talented artistes die young. One, is that there are not enough highly talented souls to go by on this earth so they will need to do short lifespans in order to reincarnate quickly enough to inspire generation after generation (yes I can picture you rolling your eyes now). Two, is that the burden of immense talent is just so difficult to bear that they either kill themselves (Leslie Cheung), or die of drug overdose in an attempt to nullify the pain (Heath Ledger, MJ).

I mean, can you imagine doing one mind-blowing hit or performance and the entire world expects you to churn that out on a regular basis? And if you don't, they automatically assume you're finished. The public is impatient, cruel and does not possess much empathy. Right now, I am just referring to expectations from people and I have not even started on self-expectations yet.

The one that makes you breaks you.

Apart from having to cope with the public glare, they have themselves to cope with. I am not sure which is worse. They expect themselves to out-do their previous efforts every single time. This is ironically what makes them great. The relentless pursuit of greater heights. It is also the same thing that breaks them.

It is a constant nightmare having to face the fears of regressing in terms of the quality of the work. The fear of having that sick feeling when they cannot produce something that at least matches their previous successes. Or the fear of never experiencing the feeling you get when you are at the brink of greatness, again. Or when the look of adulation and admiration in people's eyes become disappointment and distaste.

I can totally empathise why they may need substances to help them sleep or to numb their pain. I am not saying that it is the right thing to do, but I can feel why they will do anything just to shut that part of them out. That inner-critic that refuses to let go. Who repeatedly tells them that they're never good enough. The one who mocks them at being done.

I believe that artistes in general have a particularly strong sensitive nature to them and it enables them to infuse this sensitivity into their work. One who is able to be extra sensitive towards emotions, sounds, sights, sub-liminal stimulation, will be able to get inspired and project these during the creation process. I have learnt that everything is a double-edged sword. It is also the same sensitivity that makes these people prone to depression because they take everything (especially criticism or failure) personally and/or they cannot differentiate their own feelings from people's feelings.

He probably loved everything but himself

MJ was exceptionally sensitive and empathetic, you don't have to know him to know that because you can already feel it in his songs. He shows awareness singing "Man in the Mirror",  love penning the lyrics for "We are the World" and "Heal the World", sadness for the state of the world writing "Earth Song". I would feel that he is very much spiritually aware. In the movie you would see him telling his crew that "love is very important and you must love each other", and significantly, that "we are all one". Anyone with heart can feel that he genuinely cares and it is not some attempt at a publicity stunt.

It is extremely heartbreaking and ironic because he clearly felt that he had a mission to spread the message of loving the planet and people should love one another; but he couldn't love himself. He couldn't love himself enough to appreciate his natural good looks, he didn't love himself enough to overcome all the negative criticisms, he didn't love himself enough to tell himself that he was already perfect enough being himself and he didn't have to be better looking or to keep on achieving greater heights just to prove to himself and the world that – he deserved being loved.

It certainly didn't help that the world is particularly harsh and judgmental. He was different, he was an unique individual who was so severely misunderstood as being weird and he had to pay the price for it. He was meant to be nurtured and protected, but all we did was to expose it to abuse and judgment, like we tend to do to everything that does not feel similar or familiar to us.

Before anyone should want to criticise him, they should consider that they will never be able to understand the internal and external pressure he had to face; so what makes them feel that they will do better in his shoes?

The Power of Now

I want to share my immediate after-thoughts of speed-reading "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle, because I know if I do a proper full review, it will probably never be published. By 'speed-reading' I mean letting my eyes naturally scan through the book, picking up the bits of information that jumped out at me and scanning through the rest of the book that I felt wasn't important to what I wanted to know at that moment. I finished the book in an hour and I will probably pick it up to read it again in-depth.

My history with the book

If my memory did not fail me, I was first introduced to Eckhart Tolle by Julia , probably a couple of years back when she implored me to listen to the podcasts recorded by him and Oprah Winfrey. I am not the sort of person who have the patience to listen to podcasts or watch videos, but somehow I managed to finish listening to a couple of episodes. I remember feeling struck by certain concepts he shared and I made a mental note to buy the book, but somehow, even though I have come across the book countless times in the bookstore, I have never wanted to buy it. I have always believed that books are meant to be read when they are ready to be read.

The other reason why I did not feel the need to buy the book was because I thought I have already understood the power of Now. In theory. I know Transience. I know that everything is impermanent. I know our experiences in the current life are no more than mere illusions (okay I know people are going to disagree with me on this but truth is not absolute).

However, knowing and really being able to live it are two different matters. It takes a lot to tell myself not to worry about the future when I know there are bills to pay. Ideally, I would love to go sit beside a rock and meditate my whole life, living like the Peace Pilgrim without a cent to my name. Somehow perhaps I really will one day, but right now I have my loved ones to consider. I am already grateful that they are giving me their support with the life I am leading now, asking them to give full blessings for wanting to be a penniless nomad is a little too much to ask for.

How I came to finally read the book

I have been feeling down (yes, again) recently. I do not even know when it really started. I just feel that something is missing, something is wrong somewhere. Until a couple of days back, I realised in the middle of conversation with my partner, that I have no enthusiasm for anything anymore. Even the thought of travelling somehow did not excite me anymore. Was it because subconsciously I know that – even if I had the means to do all that I've always wanted to do, I still wouldn't find true happiness. What comes next after reaching the ultimate goal?

I imagined myself having a lot of money, jetting anywhere I wanted, opening the animal shelter that was my life-long wish and I asked myself if I would be happy if I were to live the life that I thought was my dream.

The answer was no.

Then I asked myself, what is it that I really want? I had no answers. And having no answers scared the hell out of me. I have always prided myself for attempting to do what I love to do, or trying to head towards my dreams, but what if I no longer loved what I loved to do and worse, what if I no longer had a dream?

The thought of living a life emptily really disturbed me. It made me feel worse than before.

So I was browsing the iTunes app store last night, under the "Staff Favorites" section I noticed "The Power of Now". I had finished some of my work and I had no mood to continue. The ebook was $13.99 USD and I thought that I would probably be better off buying the physical book. However, I really felt like I wanted to read it there and then. Like NOW. I closed iTunes and tried to distract myself from buying the ebook. The thought just kept popping back (okay thank you, guides) and I gave myself proper reasons to buy it. Since I have nothing better to do, I may find something uplifting from the book and it is an ebook I can carry it everywhere, plus save the environment! ;p

Concepts of the book that jumped out at me

(These are in my context and I consider myself weird, so you don't have to agree)

1. I am not my mind. The mind is conditioned to make us worry, fearful and insecure. I should control my mind, not vice versa. This is exceptionally true for me. My mind is ALWAYS worrying. And it seems to have a knack for reminding me how imperfect I am. If I can recognise the mind as a separate entity, I can get it to shut up and not give a shit to what it is constantly making me think and feel. Laugh at it. Why should I even think that I am less than any other being?

2. That it is a fact that we're the only species that killed hundreds of millions of our own in this century alone. Tolle says that the human mind is insane and I agree.

3. That we are always looking to the future or the past but never the present. The attachment to the past and the future is what that makes us unhappy. This concept I have already understood a while ago, but it never rang so true for me until now as demonstrated in the next point.

4. We're always waiting for the future to happen for some kind of salvation. We should stop waiting. I should stop. Because I am always waiting for this and that to happen, trying to find this and that so I can be fulfilled. But what comes next?

5. On up and down cycles:

"It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle bad, except in the mind's judgement. Growth is usually considered positive, but nothing can grow forever. If growth, of whatever kind, were to go on and on, it would eventually become monstrous and destructive. Dissolution is needed for new growth to happen. One cannot exist without the other."

This completely changed my perception of 'being down'.

6. On true compassion:

" True compassion goes beyond empathy or sympathy. It does not happen until sadness merges with joy, the joy of Being beyond form, the joy of eternal life."

I need a little more time to comprehend the essence of this, though I think I am very close. It is a paradox, because if pain is an illusion, then compassion should cease to exist isn't it? Why should I be compassionate to another being in pain when it is simply an illusion?

7. On evil:

"The ultimate effect of all the evil and suffering in the world is that it will force humans into realizing who they are beyond name and form. Thus, what we perceive as evil from our limited perspective is actually part of the higher good that has no opposite. This, however, does not become true for you except through forgiveness. Until that happens, evil has not been redeemed and therefore remains evil".

I particularly like this quote, because it aligns with my belief that evil does not truly exist. Evil exists so that Good can exist. This is the law of duality. We need Evil to realise the Good.

8. Happiness comes externally and is temporary, but joy comes from within and is permanent.

The aftermath of all these

I know I am on the way of a process that does not have a name. There are a lot more processing to go, a lot more to be reconciled. I am not sure where will this bring me, or will it just be a temporary lapse before I go back to my perpetual moping. What is truly important? What do I truly want to do with my time here?

So what if one day I am actually able to put all these in practice. What comes next?

Okay, I realised I am obsessed with the 'next'.

Perhaps I will truly know the answer when I eventually learn to find joy from within. And live in the Now.

Other resources

Steve Pavlina on The Power of Now