Friday, July 31, 2009
michael, may you now be at peace: a reflection (no. 32)
there is a line in a ramones song that is so relevant to you right now: "i want you to stay/but i guess it just can't be that way"... i realize that everyone must go- and of course people always go before we want them to. but as you once sang, "even though we're not together, i'll cherish my experience with you." this is why music will always be so relevant: it is the great narrator of universal struggles and joys. and the music you created will always be with us.
still, as i mentioned before, listening to some of your songs is not easy to do right now. and in writing to you every day i don't listen to any music at all. i'd like this moment to be just between us, with no distraction. a meditation in writing, so to speak.
in watching 'the wiz' tonight on a 35mm print on the screen (much better than watching the DVD i have) tears were coming to my eyes, because i knew the outcome of the film: that you would fade out, never to be seen again (until the next time i watch the film). it's like watching james brown's feet when you were a kid... you got mad at the cameraman whenever they lost the focus on his feet. i love looking at your eyes so much, how they'd be filled with so much, care, concern and sadness. like in the scene where you were saying goodbye to diana ross' dorothy and instead of using a quote from a philosopher or famous figure you used your brain to say: "success, fame and fortune. they're all illusions." you used your heart to continue that statement by saying that nothing is more important than a companionship that two people share. you found the courage to say this, despite never having made such a profound statement without quoting others.
you truly encompassed all of the characters.
(tonight, i did dress up with you in mind... inevitably getting the comments and photo requests. there were two older gentlemen who sat in front of us in the cinema, and after the film one of them asked if i usually make appearances... i told him that this is something i do all the time- this is my life).
i wrote an essay on the film at some point last year; i wrote about how i kept pausing at your image, looking into your eyes... how you gave nipsey russell's tinman an empathetic glance when he spoke of his desire for vulnerability in his life. watching the film i could only imagine certain lines or gestures you related to your own life at the time... i wonder if you thought, what WOULD you do, if people actually allowed you to feel, as opposed to being a performance automaton- this is not to say you were forced into performing. you loved performing very much; it was a safety net for you. but for many years you also didn't have the creative autonomy you desired. people did not see the tears behind the smiles as you performed.
and your line about "success, fame and fortune" all being illusions... did you take that to heart as well? because that seems to be the one thing you consistently told yourself, taking cues from a person your scarecrow quoted in the film: p.t. barnum. those things may all be illusions, but you utilized barnum's 'sucker born every minute' insight to the best of your abilities. you recognized and gave credence to the trappings of celebrity/popular culture yet struggled with it simultaneously. you felt that even though you could reach masses around the world with your status, you were at a disadvantage in terms of inter-personal relations with people outside of the world you cultivated your craft in.
i do wish you felt you had a sense of balance in your life, so that you were able to form significant inter-personal relationships with others outside of those who may have lived a similar life as you. i have also mentioned before that i don't think you believed in yourself, as others have believed in you. this was part of your eternal struggle, as the 'king of pop'. was the name barnum-like title constructed and applied in order to contradict any doubts you had about yourself? would you acknowledge or deny that anything you've done in your career correlating with such a grand title may have been slightly dictated by your struggles with self-esteem?
i don't particularly like to emphasize your role as a popular culture figure, because you meant much more to me than that. that is not necessarily how i see you. but inevitably i must acknowledge this, as that is how you spent a majority of your life; your need for a satisfactory companionship appeared to be compromised by your role as this kind of figure.
when i see you in 'the wiz' i recognize your struggle for creative autonomy. i am in awe when i watch you... you have grasped the technique of classic slapstick, and have displayed that 'jazz sensibility'. you channeled the hollers of our elders in the blues. you have mastered the qualities of the 'tragicomic' in this film, in ways not many others have mastered. you can moan the blues and have dancing crows to assist you in your lament, but that doesn't make your statement any less valid or remarkable. it only makes me like you more.
i hang on to every word you say in watching you as the scarecrow, because i know you are going to go away. i wished so much to have a pause button tonight, as i recited the lines right along with you. i wished to just keep looking into your eyes. and when dorothy began to say goodbye to you, the tinman and the lion my eyes began to water. not only because the message of the film finally comes to light; but also because i knew it was time for you to go. and the way you so lovingly looked at dorothy, i saw such a bond of years of experience there between you and diana, for better or for worse. what i saw in your eyes was true sincerity. i can't even describe how much watching that little scene meant to me. as dorothy sang about returning home i sang along with her, never wanting the song to end. because you then faded away in the background as one of the many she came to share her experience with. i wanted to pause these moments and take them home with me as i rode home. i wanted you to stay.
but i know that it can't be that way.
yes, i still struggle with you not being here. but "even though i feel so bad... inside" as you once sang, i can always take what you have taught me and apply it to the world... i can always return to your wisdom and humility as the scarecrow, which was also an extension of yourself (and i have the DVD so i can always pause).
i will pause and have these moments with you, because i am appreciative...
your humble student,