Saturday, June 27, 2009

On Kings & Things

The recent sudden death of Michael Jackson, the 'King of Pop', has caused a sensation and a self-perpetuating media frenzy.
It also points up something about us as a society; that we desperately want -crave- heroes that we can idolize.

That seems true whether they are real heroes, entertainers, sports stars, egregious villains, the super wealthy or political figures are chosen.
Human nature is a strange beast that manifests itself in patterns through history.
And, sometimes, history itself seems to magnify and distort popular opinion.

Those two words, 'popular opinion' are key.
Popular means accepted by many or most people.
Opinion means perception, whether fact-based or not.

Interesting, that after centuries of learning and advances in science that we are still ruled by our senses, emotions and perceptions, isn't it?
Sir Francis Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton, John Locke can also be thought of as popular figures in history, but they do not begin to rise to the level of Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson in the hearts and minds of most members of the American public.

Hard to say why that is so, but I expect it has to do with emotions being accessed before thoughts.
Like the heart always seems to trump the head in matters of love or other strong emotions.

Over 200 years ago, I expect things were similar in the midst of George Washington's immense popularity following the War of Independence.
Back then, folks were keen to make GW 'King for Life', not just President.
But, wise old George had other ideas.
He wanted to return to private life, not that he regretted spending about 50 years in the service of his country.

No, Washington was essentially a modest man, with strong ethics, work habits and a quiet sense of duty.
He is my preferred type of hero, and history only seems to enhance his image.

Even that other George -King George of England- thought our George Washington to be 'the greatest man in history' because he willingly gave up power!
Different strokes for different folks I guess.
Once a King, always a King - they like all that monarchy stuff that we fought to escape.

But, now we seem to crave 'kings' of a different sort; ones that can entertain us in ways that we enjoy -often without thinking required, just plain feeling without any lasting obligation aside from the costs which we willingly pay.
And, the new 'kings' seem to crave the spotlight, and the fame and the fortune it brings, until it's not much fun for them anymore.

They often become captives of their own success, seek privacy, develop coping mechanisms, and suffer in their own unique ways that are hard for their fans to understand.
I suspect that some would like to return to private life, like George Washington did.
But, maybe without the satisfaction of real sacrifice and public service?
I don't know.

At some point, I have to think that some kinds of success are inherently more rewarding than others.
But, that is not to say some modern 'kings' have not contributed mightily to humanitarian causes, and have developed strong values and goals in their lives, and set good examples.
It just seems sad that so many of today's 'kings' seem so shallow, trapped in materialism, hounded by the media, and doomed to a life that becomes less and less rewarding and satisfying to them.

Part of human nature, I guess.
I suspect that particular exploration and mastery is our real challenge and frontier.
Nobody knows...

"If we keep going the way we are going, we are going to end up where we are headed." - Groucho Marx