The unexpected death last week of Michael Jackson, an international pop superstar, prompted emotional responses from people around the world. Images of people lighting candles, crying, and standing outside famous musical venues, such as the Apollo Theater in New York City, to pay tribute, primarily showed how much people appreciated the entertainer's contribution to the music world.
It was a rough week for celebrity news; Jackson's death was preceded by intense coverage of actress Farrah Fawcett's passing after a long illness.
Despite his life being mired in controversies, and speculation about his oddities, Michael Jackson's music managed to connect people consistently on a global level. In fact, as a child, I can clearly remember roller-skating parties with my friends, while Michael Jackson's songs played over the loudspeakers. Current musical performers from all genres often speak about his influence on their work. Now people may be left thinking somehow that his musical "genius," his creative fire, has been abruptly taken away.
What can the spiritual thinker do to honor the lives of celebrities as people who have made creative contributions to society? Is there something substantial that these public figures leave behind that can't be taken away?
In considering such questions, what's helped me is first knowing that each individual, in the public spotlight or not, has a direct connection to God, who is Life. This is a unique relationship that's not on view for public consumption. And this relationship is safe, even now, continuing on in Life, even though we're not able to see the person anymore. His or her spiritual individuality can't be snuffed out by illness, scandal, even death. In a way, we have a lot in common. God doesn't tally how many albums someone sold, how many movies they starred in, or what scandals commanded magazine headlines. God continues to know who we really are - loved, protected, and always precious in His eyes.
It's also helpful to see that the legacy of creativity and passion that talented stars expressed will always be here, because it is God-given. And divine Love is present. Love hasn't gone anywhere. A sentence from Mary Baker Eddy's writings adds perspective: "Man shines by borrowed light. He reflects God as his Mind, and this reflection is substance, – the substance of good" ("Retrospection and Introspection," p. 57). The soulful, God-derived qualities expressed in the lives of artists continue to resonate with each of us because we naturally love to celebrate good. That irresistible joy and artistic genius, which connects people on a global level, is actually an expression of God as Soul. In our remembrances, everything that does not match up with this view can be discarded, given up to make room for enriching memories.
But how can one address the "dark side" of human nature that sometimes tempts us to dig in and analyze the failings and psychological dramas of people who have passed? Public figures' idiosyncrasies become amplified as curiosity and wild speculation leave people feeling guilty about "peeking" into the hidden struggles of others. It helps to pray to see that darkness can never overshadow the substance of what these people strive to bring to the world. The outpouring of love that the public feels for an artist can sometimes seem like idol worship, but it's helpful to focus on how this outpouring speaks to our capacity to be motivated spiritually.
Today, I'm allowing my remembrances of the famous people who have recently passed on to be based on a more solid spiritual foundation. I'm knowing that they are moving forward with God, as well as appreciating the legacy they have left. What comes along with this is the freedom from voyeurism that suggests we just can't help but stare at any sort of ill-timed decline or demise.
In allowing myself to be free from all that mental junk, I'm finding it's possible to hold tightly to the innocence and wonder that suggests God is our common Parent and we've always been in this together. We never need be at a loss for the music of Soul. We never need to let sadness make us forget how special each person's footprint on Earth is.
Adapted from an article that appeared on spirituality.com