Stories spin themselves out in my mind when I least expect it. They are constructed by the connections I make, between the literature, art, travel and experiences I've had, and my observations of the modern world. I'm at the greatest risk when I actually begin believing that my stories may be true. The only way I can maintain their fictional status, and my sanity, is to write them down. Writing for me is a purgation, and in purging myself of this muck in my mind, I can then turn myself effectively to the task of dealing with my daily life.
Some of my stories are not really stories, they are "what ifs?" They are sketches and contemplations.
And so I begin, with a scenario that may well be a close to the end story, (I have many stories that logically precede this, but on this fine night, this is the story that is working in my craw----) And so it goes:
The Modern Renaissance
We are living at the brink of a Renaissance. In fact, it is beginning already - new art forms are popping up, and new ways of thinking. I'll talk about that more in detail later. Right now I'm a little more interested in the increasing global awareness that we are facing major change, and it may be a change over which we have very little power. Our shared awareness that there are outer forces, most likely celestial, capable of wiping us out in an instant is increasing, and will continue to do so until the year 2012.
I don't want to talk about 2012 right now, but 2012 is part of this story. The amount of propaganda, speculation, and fictionalizing surrounding this year, and, in particular, the date 12/21/2012 (I believe) will only escalate as we approach it. I fear the paranoia that could result more than the date itself.
In addition, many have been contemplating, especially since 9/11/2001, that we are indeed facing the end of the world. Perhaps we are already experiencing Armageddon, with our plagues, planes falling out of the skie, and increasing tensions and fighting between Muslims, Christians and Jews. Are we in fact the lucky generation that will find out if the book of Revelation, and other prophetic books, were authentic prophecy or just a load of crock?
Remember - this is speculation. What I am about to suggest is absolute fiction, but a curious fiction to contemplate.
Of course, if one is Christian or Muslim, the belief is that Jesus is supposed to come again at the end of time as we know it. Recognizing him may be the problem.
At this point, many probably imagine the Messiah will look an awful lot like he did the first time around. The veracity of that belief is utterly contingent upon the accuracy of the representations of Jesus that we've had for over 2,000 years now. I'm not going to suggest that I know what Jesus looks like, but I would like to make a radical suggestion about what he, or she, or they, (why can't Jesus be a plural?) might BE like.
I have always puzzled over Jesus' claim that we must become like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew Chapter 18) This has been used as a prime argument for conversion; in my King James translation, it reads "Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Fundamentally, then, according to this translation, to become as a little child, to toss off all your material connections and follow J.C., is essentially to emulate him.
Emulating that dude is very very difficult indeed, in the modern world; and one might wonder what an individual who acted as a little child would look like in the early 21st century.
Notable Little Children (well, one, for now) and their qualities
What are the qualities of children that make them so endearing to God and Jesus?
They are unassuming. They are innocent. They do not judge, until some jaded adult comes along and influences their perceptions. They are, for the most part, fundamentally moral. Of course, they have some emotional hang-ups, and, well, they're kids, you know. Not much education. But the thing about being a little child is that they learn so quickly, and a child whose talents are recognized and fostered can become absolute masters in their fields, if they remain devoted to pursuing them. Consider the great prodigies in music, for instance, Mozart. Schaeffer's Amadeus (both movie and film) depicted a man of intense genius and skill with his art/craft, but also with the emotional maturity of a10 year old. But the music - ah, listen to some of the arias from La Clemenza di Tito ("Deh per questo istante" - Sextus (Sesto) in Act II) or, one of my favorite's, Suzanna's amazing forgiveness aria at the end of The Marriage of Figaro, (not to mention any number of his instrumental works), and yes, you will hear something akin to the voice of God.
Keep listening, this is a scene where a devoted wife who has been wronged attempts to fool her husband with a masquerade that ends with his realizing his errors and begging her forgiveness. This begins around 3.58 on the video. Her response is utter forgiveness, the type that looks beyond the most horrible misuse of trust and reaffirms the power and sanctity of love.)
What power could have guided that hand of musical genius? What power except for an exquisite creative source, so close to the source that created us? Truly, only someone capable of finding in his being the heart and soul of a child could conjure that type of purity. But, as we have learned from Mozart's tragic end, little children are not all purity, especially when they grow up in a demented, material world. They can develop habits that "normal" society might even categorize as perversions.
But could it be that very type of mentality that Jesus promoted? Or was he, perhaps, instead promoting a wisdom of many years, coupled with the spirit of a child?
We are such complex modern people, the idea of actually acting like a little child seems absurd, and self-destructive.
A Child For Our Times
(This is where my "story" asks its readers to really take a leap of trust. Remember this is fiction, a playful jest toying with a number of literary and artistic texts, playing with surprising connections.)
Tonight, I found myself watching the MSNBC coverage of Michael Jackson's last years, and his creation of Neverland. In one interview, done several years ago, a tearful Jackson defended himself against sexual misconduct charges, claiming he could "never" do the acts for which he stood accused. He loved little children far too much for that, he said, and never wanted to see them suffer. He worried for the children of our time, he said, and all the turmoils they face. If there were no more children in the world, he said, I would jump right out that window.
Children, he said, gave him hope.
Michael Jackson's love of children got him in a hell of a lot of trouble, and his contradictory answers on a number of different issues make him an easy target, but what if he was actually telling the truth? What if he truly was innocent, and his Neverland gatherings were precisely as he said, innocent little evenings designed to help children escape the difficulties of their lives in the real world.
Michael Jackson's death has allowed us to begin to separate the man from the mirror (if we are to interpret the mirror as being the multiple representations of him we have over time.) One might say that, with the man gone, the multiple mirror images he produced of himself have become the Real Michael Jackson, and his music stands more firmly than any of his interviews ever did as his most consistent self-representation. Michael Jackson did make mistakes, like Mozart did, and countless others like him did, but when we look simply at his ouevre, we see a child/man desperately trying to express simple, pure reactions to both his own personal life and the life of the world. And his reactions - his music and dance - are purely conceived and perfectly executed, the result of capturing his true talents early in childhood and honing them to a level that far exceeded anyone else in the business today. The talent of Michael Jackson WAS a gift, and it was one that was directly linked to something essential and pure, like a little child. I don't know about you, but when I watch that old "Thriller" video, I just have to get up and dance and chuckle and Michael's playful acting.
Watching the older Michael Jackson being interviewed is a little chllling, especially when he talks about the treatment his father gave him in forcing him to develop his talents, and his love of Peter Pan. (I think he said, in one interview "I am Peter Pan.")
He is, he was. And that is the impression he has left us with.
However, as the media munches on this delectable evolving story, demonizing Joe Jackson, gleefully wandering through Neverland's empty halls, and psychoanalyzing Michael, it also assures him a level of post-humous notoreity that may be producing the first global media icon. With his international following and simple universal message, the man in the mirror exceeds himself on the internet. There's no need to go looking for ghosts at the ends of Neverland halls on those CNN tapes - his ghost is not in the place where those who care claim it is. (Instead, look just behind Jermaine's left shoulder in his interview with Larry King - there's something there that looks more like a ghost to me than the shadow at the end of the hall.) His spirit is everywhere, on the radio, on YouTube, in the media's new love affair with his life and death.
But I diverge. My purpose, it is true, is to explore the idea that M.J. himself has and had the power and ability to deliver a childlike message to the global audience, and he did it. Many rejected him as he edged towards being a 50 year old child; however, his work from the later years reveals a man highly aware of his ability to tap a massive audience.
We are all quick to judge, but we have to remember, as we face a potential judgement day, it is not our place to judge. How many people have judged Michael Jackson, without ever attempting to imagine the hell he lived in? At this point, it's fairly common knowledge that he was denied a childhood, and that is why he so vehemently created the childhood playground he never had at Neverland. The media's and the public's judgemental eye may be more guilty of perversion than the man who has been judged.
I would propose, in this modest and rambling first posting, that one individual who may have all the qualities required of a second Messiah, would be Michael Jackson, if, indeed, Michael Jackson is innocent. And for a few seconds, I would like any reader who has gotten this far, to contemplate him innocent, utterly innocent, of the charges pressed once against him. Judge him, if you dare judge, only by his collected words, and find in that collection the spirit of the eternal child. And in that spirit, we hear the craving for peace and goodness that is essential to usher in a new millenium, just as the book of Revelation proposes will happen.
Of course, Michael Jackson does not LOOK like a Jesus, or a Messiah. But neither did the first one. No one thought he would be a simple man, born of simple people. But those were the people he sought to reach, so that was the form he assumed. In the 21st century, in America and the world, why wouldn't he come again as a young black man who turned white during his 50 troubled years on this planet, than was murdered (martyred) by the industry that produced him for our enjoyment?
No one shouted "crucify him." But how many of us expected and waited for him to die of an overdose, or other medical malfunction? Through this perspective, Dr. Conrad Murray is just an unwitting pawn in a larger game of fate. If he had not been willing to break laws in order to meet the star's requests for drugs, someone else would have done it, for the right price. And in doing it, that someone else (or Murray himself) becomes a tool in dismantling the apparatus of illusion that the American entertainment industry has been practicing nearly ever since its inception. Michael Jackson, in life, was the ultimate victim of that illusion-making machine; in death, that machine itself could actually reinvent him as a martyr.
it's growing late. I know this rambling is insufficient, and my final punch is limp. I'll let Michael himself try to help me sign off here, with good intentions to return and explain some of the other notions that ramble through my head, as I observe the passing of time.