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The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation Excerpt from The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation

by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach



Possibility of Redemption

In general, there are only two kinds of people: stars and planets. Those who give off an autonomous, inner light, and those who are forced to reflect a borrowed, exterior light; those who illuminate the lives of others with an intrinsic inner glow and those who are so inwardly dark that they become a black hole, soaking up every last speck of light so that none is left for others to enjoy. The irony of Hollywood is that nearly all our celebrities are planets rather than stars. Lacking an inner radiance, they become dependent on the external spotlight. Soon they become its prisoner and, bereft of a connection with the Source of all Light, they suffer the corrosive effects of celebrity sunburn, which usually manifests itself in the form of moral degeneracy, irredeemable loneliness, and deep unhappiness.

A close friend of mine who is a television producer called me up after Michael died and told me that he was profoundly disappointed in my refusal to get back into Michael's life to try and help him. "It seemed so unlike you, Shmuley, to give up on someone."

What my friend did not understand was that salvation must always involve some act of personal redemption. One cannot rescue someone who is not prepared to exert any effort to rescue themselves. I knew that if I went back into Michael's life it would be me who would end up needing rescuing. Michael would have dragged me back into his orbit and the dysfunction and chaos would have ripped me from my moorings. I would have been one sinking ship trying to save another.

Do you really believe that all the hucksters who surrounded Michael at the end of his life -- the publicists who served as apologists for his most reprehensible behavior, the doctor-pushers who fed him his constant supply of drugs, the agents and managers who sucked his blood dry -- were all bad people? I assume many or all of them were once quite decent. But they got slowly pulled into the unethical world of supercelebrity until they were compromised by it. A doctor would start by trying to resist Michael's entreaties for more sedatives. But Michael would seduce him by making him feel that he needed him so badly. And it's heady stuff to be needed by a global superstar. It makes you feel important and special and soon you close your eyes to all you know to be righteous. The glow of fame is too bright, the gravitational pull of celebrity too difficult to resist, until you have become nothing but a satellite in its orbit. All resistance has been quelled by the superpowerful narcotic of superstardom.

So, was Michael Jackson beyond redemption? I am loath to answer that question. I am a rabbi, for goodness sake, and with the exception of cold-blooded killers, terrorists, and violent rapists, I believe in the divine spark of every human being. And it was undeniable that Michael had a luminous soul that once shined brightly.

But having said this, I believe that short of the most profound and gut-wrenching intervention, Michael's early death was almost inevitable. The reason: He had lost any real reason to live. Yes, there were his children, and he loved them dearly. But that was all. Other than that, his life had become so riddled with pain, his existence so directionless, his everyday routine so vacuous, that, aside from watching his children grow up, he had nothing to took forward to.

It remains a mystery to me why the precious responsibility of caring for his children was not enough to make him choose life. But what is clear is that everything else that was important to him -- being loved by the public, helping the world's children, having relationships that were not mutually exploitative -- were, in his mind, out of reach forever. In this sense, dare I say it, Michael was beyond redemption because he could not summon the strength or energy to redeem himself. He was lethargic, burned out, and drugged into a near comatose stupor, all under the watchful eye of people who claimed to care for him.

The above is an excerpt from the book The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation
by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation