Posts Tagged ‘Scientology’

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

June 28, 2009

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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