More than a few times this past week, friends and clients have called complaining that there is a pale of sadness and hopeless around them. One said he felt like he was walking through an emotional bayou. Another observed that everyone she knew was fighting, engaged in endless round-robins of discontent and finger-pointing. Yet another found himself in the middle of chaos at a job that usually was calm and orderly. One woman moaned, "I feel so helpless."
Not too long ago, in a published commiseration for the tragic death of Michael Jackson in The Hartford Courant, (7/15/09) Peter Tork (the former bass player for the Monkees) summed up the King of Pop's emotional essence in this statement: "I think just about everybody grows up believing two things, at least for some part of their lives. One is that you can't do this life thing alone, and, two, that there is no help. Entertainers"are particularly susceptible."
Why do Americans feel this way? Why is it such a prevalent emotion now? We have more capacities to alter our environment than ever before. More hands to move mountains. More minds to create whatever is needed from healing hearts to hardening of the arteries.There are more doctors, holistic psychotherapists
, special education teachers, preachers, life-coaches, and self-help societies than at any time in recorded history. We are surrounded by help. Unless we need to redefine terms and understand what is meant (especially in Michael Jackson's case) as "help."
So as I read that, my hand went up as if I were still in the third grade, my mind filled with an odd admixture of confusion, eagerness, and sorrow: "Uh, I have a question"" Is either of those things true? Are they both true? Can they both be true simultaneously? If so, how far out into our culture does that self-conflicted idea ripple? And what in God's name does that mean for us?
"There is no help"" Those words rang in my head for hours after I read his article. What would make a person believe that? How would it manifest? What hopelessness would overtake him? What would he have to do to compensate for it? Particularly if the first thought were also true: "You can't do this life thing alone."
It's a nightmarish paradox: To urgently need help and believe that ultimately there is none. To me, the despair is unthinkable.
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No wonder Michael Jackson nearly cut himself into pieces. No wonder there's more Viagra, Prozac, and pain pills in Hollywood than anywhere outside of a pharmaceutical plant. No wonder people are running back and forth to doctors to have their breasts augmented and their sexes changed.
If what he is saying is true, it does not bode well for our relationships, whether they are intimate or business-based. It is the sort of paradox that corrupts core programming, distorts perception, and generates behavior that is supremely syphilitic and self-destructive. If we are in the sort of conflict that Peter Tork contends we are in, we are stuck in a hamster wheel of discontent, distrust and disappointment. We long for connection, we know we "can't do it alone" but we can never surrender to love. We are left forever searching, forever lost.
It seems that for many people "help" means "make it go away." Hence the current relationship Americans have with pharmaceuticals of all kinds--from Viagra to codeine. It also seems that many people are offered help of a very limited variety--the kind that lets the helper control the one who is being helped. That makes it very untenable for many people except the most desperate or most submissive. Help often comes with a high price in some circles and this is particularly true in entertainment, where help may mean the end of a career, or worse, the end of the delusion that sustains their careers. For Michael Jackson, for instance, "there is no help" could easily be re-written as "there is no one I can trust to help me. No one who will tell me the hard truth."
But, he did allude to an answer, even if it was only parenthetical. He wrote: "(I have more recently found the help it takes to get me through life, but that's for another time.)" It was curiously and (obviously) deliberately vague but the implication was clear to me: He had found a way to re-connect with God.
The other day a client who finally came to an acknowledgment of her powerlessness (appropriately so) asked me if I really believed in God and an immortal soul. I told her I did. She asked me if it helped.
I asked her, "What do you mean? Helped in what way?"
"Just helped, you know, be happy?"
I told her it had less to do with happiness than with contentment and joy. But, yes, it had helped me enormously.
She asked, "But what if it's a lie?"
And I answered, "What if it's not?" I had presented her with a post-modern, colloquial form of Pascal's Wager.
All I heard for a moment was her breath as she considered the possibilities that there was help--not just an empty coterie of aphorisms or a new self-esteem building technique but a Love that actually promised everything we ever longed for, a connection, a restoration, a redemption that was limitless.
In my work and in my life there is help. But it does not come from fuller lips or ever-lasting sexual attractiveness. It does not come from money or being invited to the "right" parties or awards that attest to our greatness in this world. It will never come from the things Michael Jackson sought or the insanity the sycophants around him perpetuated. It will not come from ourselves or the people we pay to compliment us. It will not come from bigger homes, bigger cars, or bigger erections. All of those things are booby prizes. They are the crooked fingers in the creaking hallways we all know how to avoid and fear in the movies but follow foolishly in our lives.
I mourn for Michael Jackson. I mourn for all those who walk through life believing that love is a by-product of bling. I mourn for all those who live under the delusion that there is no help when it's right there, waiting. And I'm relieved for people like Peter Tork who have found it.
Thisarticlewasoriginallypublishedin a slightly different version on AmericanThinker.com