June 26, 2009

Death of Michael Jackson

This day marks the end of a tumultuous life … I was thinking oddly enough about whether MJ will be part of the In Memoriam section on Oscar night next year …

The extraordinary levels of fame that accrues to people in the entertainment industry is a strange and new phenomenon of the 20th century and beyond … the extraordinary power of music to touch people in the deepest possible way is something quite mysterious.

Bob Dylan talked about people listening and liking a song that he had written and thinking that they knew him … but really, of course, they didn’t. That’s true for all music and all musicians.
Unlike Bob Dylan, most musicians revel in the public adulation that they get … indeed, it tends to be the primary purpose of their music to gain that public acclaim.

But what’s it in a person’s ability to sing well or dance well that makes them so appealing to so wide a spectrum of the population? Are humans so fundamentally a species hardwired to ‘like’ these talents? From an evolutionary perspective, there seems to be no survival advantage to be had from having these skills.

Sometimes, political leaders have been similarly wildly popular — admittedly, quite rarely. Usually, of course, political leaders tend to be figures of derision rather than admiration and their passing away might be secretly celebrated by the public at large.

Some of the admiration for entertainers (and leaders on those rare occasions) might demonstrate our penchant to follow a herd. One of the reasons why someone may get liked might be that he is liked by others. So, adulation might grow on top of existing adulation. People might be innately inclined to like someone who’s already liked and admired by others. Certainly, with respect to religious teachings and rituals, that seems to be the case.

When one looks to all the odd and archaic rituals and beliefs that are part of any world religion, it seems that part of the reason for their popularity has to be the uncritical acceptance of those rituals and beliefs by people at large.

This would definitely help explain how in spite of so many advancements in so many different areas of science & technology, humans are so gullible and uncritical when it comes to religious rituals. People want to feel that they’re part of a larger group.

As long as people have this innate desire, entertainers and leaders will continue to ride the popularity charts.

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