The Life And Death Of Michael Jackson As A Lesson For Us All

Years ago, during the Bosnian War, I heard someone say something that I’ll never forget. U.S. troops were taking part in the U.N. effort to prevent more genocide, and desperate Bosnian people were scrounging through the huge garbage piles accumulated by the American forces looking for valuables they could see or food they could feed their families.

A reporter interviewed a man on the trash piles, who said, “We are living like animals. Is this all there is to our lives? Is there nothing more?”

It dawned on me that an incredibly poor, desperate Bosnian, or a hugely successful rock star, could be asking the same question. Because both could well be living equally meaningless, empty lives.

Michael Jackson’s life and untimely death – along with the deaths of so many other celebrities who seemed to have everything the world could offer, yet were so deeply unhappy – is an illustration of the truth of that reality.

By most accounts, Michael Jackson earned more than $500 million during his performing career, and some analysts believe that his music catalog holdings could be worth billions. Yet he spent so massively, on so many luxuries and trifles and distractions to satisfy his every whim, that he is apparently hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. And one gets the sense that he never did manage to find anything approaching happiness; just one quick addictive rush to some new toy or new frill after another.

And a once handsome man disfigured himself into some kind of freak due to an obviously profoundly ugly self-image.

Imagine having everything the world can offer: imagine being one of the beautiful people; having fame and adoration; and having a massive fortune that allows you to travel anywhere or do anything you desire.

And imagine being unhappy, and asking yourself, “Is this all there is to life? Is there nothing more?”

I would rather be that Bosnian man living off a giant trash heap than be a man who had pursued everything the world could offer, only to realize that the world was not enough even as I desperately clung to that world and its wealth.

I believe that many celebrities pursue bizarre religious experiences in a desperate search for some kind of meaning. But their world-distorted worldview has limited their search. So they pursue bizarre religions like Scientology or faddish ones like Kabbalah. Ultimately, they want to be able to eat their cake and have it too. They want to be the gods of their own worlds that they create for themselves, rather than bend the knee to a Creator God who demands that they be holy, as He is holy. But at the same time, they want to be part of something that is larger than they are. Essentially, they want the latter in a way that doesn’t cramp the former.

A psychiatrist, doing her own postmortem analysis of Michael Jackson’s life, said that he had never had a role model as a child, and there had never been anyone like himself to model himself after once he had grown up. By many accounts, his father and his older brothers shaped him like a marketing product and sold him like meat for mass culture. And during his childhood, he was sexually abused while whoever was supposed to love him and take care of him failed to do either.

When the psychiatrist said that Michael Jackson had no role models, no one to model his life after, I immediately thought of the one name that is above every name: the name of Jesus. Michael Jackson lived a life that was far outside the remotest experience of virtually anyone else. But Jesus remained as the quintessential role model: and how different Michael Jackson would have been had he sought to model his life after Christ’s, rather than after whatever caricature of himself he fabricated through bizarre behaviors and plastic surgeries.

Augustine, in the famous insight of his Confessions, wrote, “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord, and will not rest until they rest in Thee.”

Ambrose, and later Pascal, aptly referred to that restlessness, that God-shaped hole in the soul, as a vacuum. Apart from our Creator God who made us to find our peace and happiness in Himself, that hole in our soul has a force behind it and it will suck up anything to fill it. G.K. Chesterton explained that when we cease believing in God, we don’t believe in nothing; we will rather believe in anything. Human beings were created to be hungry for meaning. The problem arises when we reject true meaning; we will replace it with any substitute under the sun. And replace the truth of God for a lie.

As a Christian, I do not need great beauty, or great wealth, or great fame, or great celebrity, or great athleticism, or anything that any of those things can buy, to be happy. If I have Christ in my heart, and trust in Him to provide all my needs, I have the answer to the search for meaning. And I have more than the world can ever hope to provide.

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12 Responses to “The Life And Death Of Michael Jackson As A Lesson For Us All”

  1. The best of Michael Jackson Says:

    Michael will be missed greatly. We admired all of his work, especially his books on beer that we educated ourselves with, his television appearances, and his love for our favorite beverage — BEER. Thank you Michael for all of your contributions to the world of Craft Beers, Microbrews, and Brewmania. Rest in peace, and hope you’re enjoying the beer over there!

  2. hl Says:

    Dear Michael, I appreciate as usual your thoughtful analysis of Michael Jacksons life and death.

    It never ceases to surprise me how many people think everyone who dies is resting in peace or doing some enjoyable earthly activity.

  3. Michael Eden Says:

    Everybody thinks Jesus was nice. And, of course, He was (and IS). But Jesus came to save us from hell (which is REALLY nice of Him). And He talked more about hell than anyone in the entire Bible.

    John 3:16 is a popular verse. But few people stop and think what it means, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him SHOULD NOT PERISH but have eternal life.” We ALL have eternal life as human beings created in the image of God. The same ultimate question of real estate applies to the human soul: location, location, location. We all have eternal souls that will survive the death of our bodies; the question is, WHERE will we be?

    The Gospel message is this: all have sinned. We need a Savior. Jesus is the ONLY Savior God gave mankind. Accept His life, or choose death (i.e. eternal death).

    And when we get to the Pearly Gates, Jesus takes those who truly confessed Him and says, “This one’s with Me.” And that is the only way to get in.

  4. MIttens Says:

    Like many so called Christians, you are nothing of the sort, always being on the lookout for someone to degrade, humiliate and make and enemy of. You are disgusting, nothing more, nothing less.

  5. Michael Eden Says:

    You clearly have no concept of a Christian, or the Bible that is the Word of God.

    You are also a hypocrite: you gleefully do to me the very thing you claim I do, even as you claim that I am “disgusting” for doing it. It seems that you were on the lookout for me, and couldn’t wait to degrade, humiliate, and make an enemy of me. And if I may say, you are FAR more hateful toward me in your criticism than ANYTHING I said about Michael Jackson.

    It would surprise you, if you actually ever bothered to read a Bible, that Jesus talked more about hell and judgment than anyone. Apparently, you wouldn’t think Jesus to be much of a Christian, either.

    Given what an obviously angry, bitter, and hateful person you are to read such an article and explode in rage at someone who did you no harm, I seriously hope you DO at some point pick up a Bible and find the real Jesus.

  6. Lydia efa Says:

    Human beings are so judgemental and in most cases on wrong grounds. Come on we all have one thing in common. we are mankind

  7. Michael Eden Says:

    DO we have one thing in common?

    I wrote my post arguing that we do: that as human beings, we are all created in the image of God, and God created us all with a “God-shaped hole” that can only be truly filled by Himself. That was the whole point of my article.

    If someone wants to say, “Oh, that’s crap” then they’re going to end up with a very different thing that we all have supposedly have in common: that we are all the same result of meaningless, purposeless, purely random forces and ultimately we all share our nihilistic return to nothingness.

    I can see the former being something worth uniting around; the latter? Not so much.

    What does it mean to say “we are mankind”? Does it mean we’re the same product of Darwinian survival of the fittest locked in a life or death struggle for resources? Does it mean that we all share the desire to make human beings more “fit” and therefore agree that the weak should be purged to make room for the strong? Seriously, what does that mean?

    In any event, when you say, “Human beings are so judgmental and in most cases on wrong grounds,” are YOU not being judgmental yourself? Who are YOU judging as being on “wrong grounds” when you say such a thing? We find that people who profess themselves to be “tolerant” and “open-minded” turn out to be as intolerant and close-minded as the very people they claim are “intolerant” and “close-minded.” And the bottom line is that the very people who most profess “open-mindedness” end up saying, “You must think exactly like me, or I will condemn you.” And in what way are they then more “tolerant” or “open-minded” than anyone else?

    When such people point a finger at me and tell me I’m “judgmental,” I always ask, “Is that wrong?” And when they assure me that it is, I ask them, “Then why are you judging me now?” And the funny thing is, they invariably stammer and say, “I’m not judging you.” But obviously they ARE judging me, and their self-image and worldview simply won’t allow them to admit it.

    As a Christian, I embrace a classical view of “tolerance”: we can and should disagree with other people’s views, but we should still respect them as persons possessing free will, and therefore respect their right to disagree with us. I utterly reject the new, postmodern definition of “tolerance”: the claim that all beliefs are equivalent, and the rejection of the notion that one view is right, and another wrong. Such a view collapses under its own standard: wouldn’t THAT view have to be right, and other views wrong?

  8. siti Says:

    you know what?
    MJ is a MUSLIM
    Absolutely MUSLIM
    that why the king of the world “US”, judge him very cruel, unmankind, liar about his life, torture him as a wacko jacko, and anything that right about him, after he convert to ISLAM.
    don’t all of you ever think that?

  9. Michael Eden Says:

    Few people in America (based on the widespread media reports that most people have even heard) have any idea about Michael Jackson being a Muslim – nor not.

    Rather, when Michael Jackson as a grown man described how he liked to sleep in beds with children – and continued to do so even when he’d had issues previously – people started to seriously question whether he was a child molester.

    I don’t associate sexual dysfunction with any people, culture, or religion. It’s just a sad reality of human sin and depravity.

  10. fiza Says:

    mj will be alive if he migrated to somewhere else. america has evrything…everything BUT soul…

  11. retno Says:

    Dear Mr. Eden,

    Not sure how you get this notion that “Michael Jackson as a grown man described how he liked to sleep in beds with children…”. I assume it is most probably from the documentary Living with Michael Jackson which was aired back in 2003, made by Martin Bashir. If I’m not mistaken, from my own memory, that’s not precisely what Michael Jackson said. He mainly stated that (since Neverland regularly accomodated large number of mostly sickly children groups), he welcomed every child coming to his house. And if a child (prominently, a sick child), wants to stay in his house, in his bedroom, he would allow it (with the child’s parent permission of course) and he would sleep in the FLOOR. He did argued with Bashir about the conception of “why everything must be associated with “sexual” behaviour”, when it is not always like that.

    Note that his bedroom was a large 2-floors apartment-style so I guess it had quite a large space for just few people.

    Also note that the documentary was edited by Bashir in certain ways that a lot of other activities done by Michael (especially those related to charities) and certain statements he made during months of the all-access sessions were purposely taken out. There is another version of this documentary in which Michael’s own camera recorded the sessions (perhaps without Bashir’s knowledge upon it), which was later aired after Bashir’s version but sadly didn’t receive the same level of coverage. You can look after it in youtube if you’re interested.

    Just my two cents, if you want to judge a person, you need to be well informed about that person.


  12. Michael Eden Says:

    Let me first point out your double-standard: you tell me, “if you want to judge a person, you need to be well informed about that person.” and yet you clearly seem to be judging me. At the very least, you are clearly rebuking me. And just how well-informed are you about me? I mean, for all you know, I was one of the boys Jackson slept with, and I know it from personal experience that Jackson actually slept with boys in the bed because I was one of them. I always hate the passive-aggressive tyranny trip of people who demand that I be “non-judgmental” when they themselves are simultaneously judging me when they tell me not to be non-judgmental,

    I’m not going to bother to fact check that because I’m just not going to venture into that sickness. I’ll take your world for it that a man in his 40s was admitting to sharing his bedroom with children, rather than admitting to sharing the bed itself.

    Is it your view that if a child molester doesn’t openly acknowledge molesting children, that we should just assume he’s telling us the truth and let him go???

    Do you know how many children not my own have shared my bedroom with me? ZERO. Do you know how weird it would be if I brought children not my own into my bedroom for overnight visits? INFINITELY.

    What Michael Jackson did was particularly weird given the fact that Michael Jackson had already been accused of molesting, and had already paid off kids who claimed he’d molested them with giant multi-million dollar settlements. If I remember, there was a $15 million settlement involving one kid, and then a $20 million settlement with another kid. I mean, it was almost as though he had a compulsion to share his bedroom (at least!) with children. And that suggests a very dark side. Given the accusations and the payoffs, why could he just not do that???

    Now, if you’d let your little boy sleep over with Michael Jackson, all I can say is thank God in Heaven you weren’t my father.

    Now, all that said, my issue with Michael Jackson for the purposes of this article went way beyond his alleged pedophilia. It went to the core of a man who had everything the world can offer, and yet was clearly deeply and profoundly unhappy and troubled.

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