I know that I’ve said some pretty radical things on this blog, but anyone reading the title to this post must think that I’ve finally gone off the deep end. And yet it is true. Although one might expect that the two belong on opposite ends of the “serious” spectrum, there is nevertheless a link between the career of Michael Jackson and the teachings of Ayn Rand. I only wish that it had occurred to me, on more than an unconscious level, prior to having it pointed out to me in another of the many e-mail notifications I’m subscribed to.
This one came from the site known as The Atlasphere, which exists specifically for the benefit of Ayn Rand admirers. This particular e-mail was an invitation to read the article Eulogy for the King of Pop submitted by columnist Orit Arfa. I strongly urge one and all to read it, for it is brilliantly written and clearly links the value of “pop” culture to what it means to be American.
Here’s a brief excerpt:
Pop music is emblematic of a free society. It’s an American stronghold, combining the Western achievements of melody and harmony with beats inspired by African rhythms. Some people dismiss pop music as mass-marketed, pandering, and unsophisticated, but I believe pop is among the most accessible of romantic art forms.
Pop songs abide by Ayn Rand’s definition of art as “the selective recreation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments” — giving individuals a concise medium to recreate and share an emotional idea so meaningful to them that they must sing about it to the world.
These songs may not involve complex arrangements that spell out an expansive, philosophical view of man; rather, they give us in the matter of a few minutes a “sense of life,” which Rand defines in The Romantic Manifesto as “a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence.”
Now as a person with a long history of “emotional” problems, I have know for many years that certain pieces of art can overwhelm my self-control and reduce me to what I fear would be perceived as a quivering, blubbering fool. This is the primary reason why I hide myself away from those who would not only misunderstand, but might well view my reactions as a sign of vulnerability. I’ve had quite enough of being victimized, thank you.
As I alluded to in The Last Man Standing, one of the very first pieces of art to have this effect on me was the song I’ll Be There by The Jackson 5, when I was about 14 or 15. To this day, I wonder if I was somehow able to sense, in the person of Michael Jackson, another terribly vulnerable “soul” brother. And even years later, despite our vastly different paths through them, the craziness in both our lives only helped to enhance this feeling. I can’t help but wonder if at least some of the craziness going on now because of his death is proof that there are others who feel the same way.
But by far, the most powerful such emotional reaction came when I attempted to read Ayn Rand’s The Romantic Manifesto. The very same book that Ms. Arfa refers to in her article. And I say “attempted” because, well – it’s damned hard to read through tears. Because of Ayn Rand’s death, this book will have to stand as her primary non-fiction effort to define the ultimate importance of her work to the future survival of Mankind. I knew this when I started to read it. This frustrating experience was one of the final dominoes to fall in the months before my first hospitalization and diagnosis.
And now, after years of therapy at the hands of those ill-equipped to grasp its significance, I give my most heartfelt thanks to Ms. Arfa for finally helping me to understand the link between these two experiences.
You know, looking back on it some 14 years after my first breakdown, I now know that it was caused, at least in part, by my belief that Ms. Rand’s work must be continued at all costs and my fear that I was perhaps the only one who understood, and cared, enough to try.
Fortunately for all of us, the existence of places like The Atlasphere is proof that I was wrong. You’d be pleasantly surprised at who some of the other members are. Then again, maybe you wouldn’t.
I want ice water.