Human Nature?

(The following are the comments of reader Robert J. Seyko, of Laurel, MD, on the recent death of Michael Jackson):

Ayn Rand (or Nathaniel Branden, or Michael Hurd) would have a field day in the life and death of Michael Jackson.  As exemplified by his ever-changing face, Michael Jackson was a study in self-loathing.  Anyone who finds it necessary to deface themselves (literally) repeatedly over time is at war with themselves, and of course, reality.  There has never been anything wrong with Michael Jackson’s face.  Michael Jackson was a good-looking child, and a handsome adult–by any standard, except his own.  It was not his face he despised, but his soul.  When he looked into the mirror, it was not his face he saw, but a reflection of his warped soul.  This was not like the case of an aging movie star who has a facelift, or even someone like Wayne Newton who has frequent plastic surgery to maintain a youthful appearance in an effort to stay “marketable” in Las Vegas.  Michael Jackson has probably hated himself since he was the front man for The Jackson Five.  He was pressured, even forced, to perform, and in the eyes of his father, at least, was never good enough.  In  a world where appearances were everything, Michael, I believe, thought that he could impress his father, and the world, by changing his face.  Perhaps even taking revenge on his father by making himself ugly.  In death he is invisible.  And I believe, that’s really what he wanted all along.  To be invisible, something he could never achieve in life.  He escaped the pain of being Michael Jackson by changing his appearance, taking drugs, and effectively committing suicide.  No matter what the coroner says, that’s what it amounted to.  It just took 20 years to do it.

I can’t vouch for the facts of Michael Jackson’s childhood, but essentially I agree. Jackson acted as if he didn’t want to be a man–or a woman. He didn’t want to be black–or white. He didn’t want the trappings of superstardom–but he couldn’t stand being out of the public eye, either. Whether you liked his style of music and performance or not, he possessed objective talent and worked furiously hard to attain the success he achieved at his peak, in the early 1980s. From that point on, something went wrong–and it wasn’t because of slowing sales. It seems to me that something must have been wrong all along, and it took that youthful success to drive it to the surface. Sales slowed because he was, I agree, in the process of committing slow suicide. That’s really what addiction and other forms of chronically self-defeating behaviors are. Literal suicide is much less common than the gradual form of self-destruction in which many human beings find themselves. Michael Jackson earned the money to achieve the freedom he wanted to live out his life as he saw fit. Look how he used it.

In sad contrast, consider the words to one of his hit songs, “Human Nature”:

Get Me Out
Into The Night-Time
Four Walls Won’t Hold Me Tonight
If This Town
Is Just An Apple
Then Let Me Take A Bite

It seems that Michael Jackson, for all his fame and glory, didn’t take that bite of life for himself. Instead, he withdrew and let life pass him by. It’s a lesson for all time, often stated and now repeated: Celebrity cannot buy you happiness. Only happiness will.