Tag Archives: God

Michael Jackson: Shooting Star

I grew up with Michael Jackson, or his music anyways. But that’s not hard to say for most of us. After all, when a career spans forty-five years, many people can say the same thing.

As the news rolled in, people and media have expressed their shock, that they were stunned. Sadly, I can say I was not. I have said that I expected that Michael would die an early death, like Elvis, than live to a ripe old age. I have called him a shooting star for years, for he is and was exactly that. A shooting star ascends high into the heavens, or so high up that everyone can see that light. But such a bright light eventually comes to an end. As opposed to a star that shines constantly and brightly for eons and then fades out at the end of a long lifetime, a shooting star seems all the brighter for its briefer lifespan, and that it will descend much quicker. The candle burned out long ago, to paraphrase Elton John.

That Michael Jackson was a brilliant musician and stage presence, the greatest pop icon of his time, is obvious by the number of albums he sold and the money he made. It’s irrefutable. That he lived a happy and normal life is arguable. The signs are not so hidden at all that Jackson was a troubled and unhappy individual. Like many of us, I’m sure he had his moments of happiness, but like many of us he was also unhappy with who he was. And he had the money to do something about it.

He was a good looking, handsome black child who grew to adulthood and was still attractive. Looking at those early pictures of Michael, you can see he is still black, his hair curly yet fashionable. Slowly his wide, broad nose, narrowed and narrowed again to the skeletal aberration that it became. I certainly hope that the plastic surgeon who mangled Jackson’s face doesn’t advertise that he did the great Michael Jackson. Of course, Jackson also had surgeries to change the shape of his jaw, his lips, his cheekbones, his eyes until the face does not resemble the earlier Michael Jackson at all. How much plastic surgery is needed for a burn of long ago? Not that much, I would think.

He took to straightening his hair, getting rid of any semblance to the negroid curl. And his skin turned white. It’s said that he suffered from a skin pigmentation problem, vitiligo. On white people this sometimes shows as a darker patch, or a pinker patch of skin. On black people, it shows as white or pinkish skin. This could possibly be true but any person I ever saw who had this condition, where the melanin starts to leave the skin, had it in patches, not an overall and even discoloration. Though it’s possible that he started with this and had a chemical depigmentation performed using monobenzone, to even out the skin tone. He also did not exhibit conditions of albinism, evident by the darkness of his hair and eyes. (The Philipines, as one example, sells many skin lightening soaps.) There are numerous ways listed on the internet on how to lighten your skin tone. Michael Jackson had the money, which gives you the means, to do this to the extreme. Perhaps it started as a pigmentation problem but I believe he went in search of being a white man.

These extreme examples of changing his body indicate how unhappy he was with who he had been born. And proves that money can’t buy you happiness. He was too famous to walk anywhere without being recognized, therefore negating his chances of having normal life experiences. As Michael grew farther away from a normal life (even as a child in a performing family he was more used to spotlight than to family life) it became more unattainable.

Where were the family and friends that could bring him back to center? His family wasn’t a good example as they all lived in the limelight to one degree or another as well. If Michael’s only friends were other stars (as often is the case) then they may have been his yes men, only telling him how wonderful he was, never saying, Michael you’ve gone too far. Or Michael, you’ve got to eat or you’re going to die. But if there were those who tried to balance Michael’s extremes, maybe he just didn’t listen. After all, he was rich and powerful in the music world.

Michael lived in fantasy palaces, with private zoos and was probably happiest when he took his creative genius into the realm of  music where he was an innovator and a leader. I was never that in to pop music but I would argue that there is no better music for teenagers, because pop music is catchy, upbeat and fast enough to engage a young mind. Yet Michael was seen as a god, not as a man. I’m sure he was a romantic icon for enough teens as well.

We have a tendency in our world today to put rock/music stars and movie stars upon pedestals. They are our modern gods. But we (people, the masses) are a fickle lot, that get bored too quickly and demand too much. If our gods slip up, we will pull them down, we ridicule them and we hate them for the fame and money and beauty that we cannot hang onto ourselves. We will pick at their every flaw and as their pedestal crumbles we will hack it to pieces.

And then Michael, the unfathomable recluse who invited children into his palace, was charged with child molestation. Whether true or not, such an accusation is devastating and scarring to the core. It could not do other to a man estranged from a normal life who could only live on the idolization of his fans. Even the supposed three children he had with the rather plain woman (who disappeared from the scene shortly after) were suspect. No matter how a man bleaches himself, or suffers pigmentation problems, they won’t transfer to his children. And black being more dominant than white would show in the features, yet these kids (the few pictures that exist) are more white than anything else, one especially being extremely white.

Michael Jackson’s life had become a circus, the star on its descent. The millionaire who owed millions. When I recently looked at a progression of pictures of Jackson through his life and I saw how thin he was (not just slim, but very thin) I knew he suffered an eating disorder as well. This fits in with someone so desperate to change into someone else. Anorexia starves the body on all sorts of levels. Not enough nutrients to feed the muscles or the organs and then those organs must work harder. Anorexics, unless they try to seek help and recover, often die of heart attacks when the strain on their hearts become too much. It really was inevitable.

Michael Jackson may have had other conditions too; it’s not clear. But one thing that is, is that he was fighting his body his whole life. To be so gifted and die so conflicted. Could most of us ever hope to shine so brightly? Could any of us fear to burn so painfully? I feel sad for his life, that he couldn’t have loved himself more. Michael Jackson joins the other shooting stars, the famous who died suddenly before their flame burned out naturally: Jimmy Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, River Phoenix, Princess Diana, John Lennon and many others.

Reports are saying that he died of a drug overdose or a cocktail of deadly proportions. Not really a surprise. Jackson was reportedly addicted to painkillers (Vicodin, Demerol, etc.)  since the face burning episode. Put on top of that, the numerous surgeries and his anorexia and you have a collapse just waiting to happen. A bit of a star’s standard way out, whether planned or accidental. This shopping list of pharmaceuticals does support my theory of a man disenfranchised and unhappy with the way his life continued to unfold. So he closed the book.

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Book Review: The Word of God

You might think this is a religious book and in a way it is. The Word of God, or Holy Writ Rewritten, by Thomas Disch, (Tachyon Publications, San Francisco, 2008) was written not so much as a refutation to other religions, but, as Disch puts it, to establish himself as a deity. He begins his book discussing that the only way to talk to many religions, especially the fundamental ones, is to argue on their own level and point out that he too is a god and what his religion looks like.

It is witty, scathing, funny, illuminating. In part this is an autobiography of Disch’s life, but as a pastiche, not as a whole. It is part philosophy and condemnation of many conservative religions, especially Christianity. Disch was raised a Catholic and was publicly gay and since this is his “holy writ” it of course talks of religion in many guises quite a bit.

The book is also a collection of some poems and short stories, interspersed to give examples of birth, afterlife, reincarnation and judgment: “The New Me,” “Room Service,” “The Second Coming of the Christ,” “A Man of Mystery” “A Ranch House on the Styx,” “The School for Traitors,” “On the Road” and “Deus Ex Machina” almost all string together (some continuations of the same story) and of course all do touch on religion and the events that came together to create Thomas Disch. He was the illegitimate child of Thomas Mann, the prolific German writer and Nobel prize winner, though you will not find this listed in either Disch’s or Mann’s Wiki entry (and his father is missing altogether in his entry).

Many of these stories have Philip K. Dick in them, as a sort of antiChrist and in hell. It’s hard to tell from this if Disch had always hated Dick (since he wrote a poetic eulogy for Dick, which is in the book) or if he only came to despise Dick’s right-wing, bigoted, perhaps drug-induced opinions later, when Dick reported Disch to the FBI as a subversive. What the outcome of Dick’s confabulations were is unclear.

Thomas Disch was known to the SF community and was nominated numerous times for awards (and won some), but he also wrote a great deal of poetry, criticisms and other works, and had earlier aspirations in architecture. The book starts out in the present, around Christmas of 2005 when he began to write it, and he finishes on February 2nd, his birthday. Disch lived with his long time partner, Charles Naylor who died in 2005. Disch himself suffered from several illnesses and had a string of personal setbacks, besides being depressed by his partner’s death.

He took his life in July, 2008, just months before Word of God was published. It is somewhat ironic to read his words in this book that proclaims his deity and see where he was at and where life took him to. This is not his last book as I believe a posthumous work will be published this year. I enjoyed Word of God and it gave me a new look at Disch, his mind and his life. I had read his works, On Wings of Song and The Priest which was pretty scathing to the Catholic church while at the same time being deftly written enough for you to care for the very corrupt priest.

And if nothing else, I’m very curious as to what went on between Philip K. Dick, a great experimenter of drugs, married five times, and Thomas Disch, an openly gay man, all those years ago. They were both brilliant writers and characters in their own ways. Here’s to the god Disch and his ascension to his own heaven. Word of God, definitely worth a read, informative and entertaining throughout.

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There is No God

Or is there? An age-old debate that can’t be proved or disproved. But now the atheists have decided to campaign with a poster that first started on the sides of buses in England, with the slogan: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” I don’t know whether they actually capitalized god or not since this was put out by the British Humanist Association. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7681914.stm

Canada’s Freethought Association is running a similar campaign and supposedly the BHA raised more money than anticipated, making their run of ads longer and more far reaching. http://freethoughtassociation.ca/n2ew/ Okay, so atheists don’t believe there is a god, or gods, or divine forces, or mythic animals, or talking snakes or whatever. They have felt a need to champion their side against various ads that have promised salvation or damnation.

This has upset some people, offending some religious groups with “probably” no god. Stephen Green (of pressure group Christian Voice, though I’m not sure what that means) , in the BBC Newsarticle said, “Bendy-buses, like atheism, are a danger to the public at large.” Errr, really? Like Christianity, and Muslim and all those other beliefs in which people have died for not believing or during a holy crusade or pogrom?  I wonder what the danger is, questioning things? That has got people into trouble since the beginning of time: human curiosity.

Of course, one of the star supporters is a writer named Richard Dawkins who said, “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think – and thinking is anathema to religion.” http://richarddawkins.net/article,366,The-God-Delusion-Review,Barney-ZwartzCBC-News Hmm, this guy starts to fall into the same realm as the religious right (any religious right) where they assume one thing and believe not only should everyone follow their version but if they don’t, they’re blasphemers or worse, should be killed for being unbelievers. Sweeping statements tend to fall into the realm of bigotry and blind faith, whether for believing in a god or believing there is none.

Dawkins is a bit into sweeping statements like the bendy bus guy. Thinking is anathema to religion. Noo, not really. But thinking is anathema to some religious sects or branches, those that tend to like the fundamentalist “our way or the freeway to hell” version of belief. Many religions enjoy and encourage open dialogue and discourse, and if one is firm in their faith, questioning it shouldn’t be a problem. Many theologians exist just to study religions, to ask and discuss questions. Maybe Dawkins is an atheist theologian.

I don’t care if one believes in a beard guy in a white nightgown, a sentient mist, the flying spaghetti monster, a three-headed talking god, sparkling fairies, or in the great abyss of nothingness. Every person should be allowed to believe in what makes them comfortable, as long as they don’t injure another in the pursuit of their beliefs. If any god needs people to campaign for it, then that god  is in trouble. I can see why atheists might campaign and there were some good points of view presented on CBC yesterday by a speaker for the Freethought Association.

I’m not an atheist, nor do I believe in the Christian god, but that shouldn’t matter. I can coexist with a whole bunch of belief systems and think that thinking about religion or there being no god is not a bad thing. And yeah, atheists should get their piece to say as well. Maybe it should be Atheists, capitalized. They’ll help keep a balance and I firmly believe church and state should be separate because power can be abused. There are some exceptions maybe, like the Dalai Lama, but I’d need to do more research into that before I could speak knowledgeably about it.

But I’ve always liked the signature line my brother (who loves to play devil’s advocate) put on his emails: “God hates me because I’m an atheist.”

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Politics, the Religious Right and Books

Interesting discussions have come up of late about “Left Behind” books. I hadn’t even heard of these before but it seems they’re tales written by and for the Christian extreme right, the fundamentalists, and portray apocalyptic views. Mostly the earth opens and people are tossed down to Hell, usually by Jesus. Errr…excuse me? Jesus? Wasn’t he the guy that said love thy neighbor and if you are without sin, you can throw the first stone? Wasn’t it Jesus who preached compassion and love and all that stuff?

I’m just amazed at fundamental right-wing Christians who follow these views portrayed in such fantastical books and then try to say they’re loving and compassionate. To me it doesn’t seem that you should be separating good works and compassion by race, gender or religion. Love thy neighbor stands even if he is a Muslim or she a Buddhist, or gay. You don’t pick and choose who to love equally.

Now, over in some of the Middle Eastern countries we have views just as extreme about wiping out unbelievers, smiting them and therefore, even if you blow yourself up, you’ll get to Heaven. Their way is the only way and everyone else is a heathen.

So let me get this straight. Christians believe that Jesus is the messiah and God the supreme being. Muslims believe that Mohamed is the prophet and God the supreme being. Jews believe in no prophet (I hope I have this right) but that God is the supreme being. And um…isn’t this the same God for all three of these branches of the same monotheistic religion?

So, when you die, whether you blow yourself up in holy righteousness taking down “those sinners,” or whether you’re blown up by some right-wing fundamentalist, you’re still going to end up in the same Heaven? The Heaven that will have black and white and brown people, men and women, gay and straight, Jews, Muslims and Christians?

Oh and isn’t converting by the sword or the gun kind of pointless, because someone will say what they must to survive but don’t you want the belief to be in their heart and soul, not just on their lips? It seems to me (who is not Jewish, Christian nor Muslim) that a little compassion and loving thy fellow being might just make conversion a bit more sincere.

Fundamentalists, no matter which religious paint brush you color them with, are scary creatures. Why? Because they’re so afraid of views that don’t agree with their own, that there might possibly be more than one right path, that they will do anything to tamp that down. Anything, like shoot doctors who perform abortions, bomb those who aren’t following their view, trashing religious buildings that they see as offensive. They believe that everyone who isn’t of their religious viewpoint are godless heathens and therefore evil, ready for Hell. The same fundamentalists who think invading Afghanistan was the correct thing to save people from the right-wing Taliban, are often the same, that if they had their ways would be pushing their religious views onto everyone else. (Not that the religious subjugation of so many people didn’t need to be addressed.) Take Sarah Palin, who believes she is on the right path because God is paving it for her. Well, then, her God-given right will mean that she’ll be less likely to listen to other evildoers if she ever holds more power than she already does.

Recent discussion on one writer’s list has ranged from disbelief that these Left Behind books would be listed under SF and fantasy, to others saying where else would you put them; they’re completely fantastical. Whichever it is, I can say one thing. If it is one God for Jews, Muslims and Christians and therefore one Heaven, I think I’d rather stay down here and be Left Behind then end up with all the Evangelicals and Jihadists. Heaven must be a pretty scary place.

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