More on the orchid, on the Michael Jackson problem, and on meditation

by Rob Tiller


We’re heading to New York City for the weekend, but I wanted to share some new pictures of Sally’s revived orchid and a few thoughts on Michael Jackson.  I thought the flowers were a good reminder of the miraculous beauty that can be close at hand, but is also easy to miss. It took some patient looking, as well as a fair bit of technology, to make these particular images.  

This week Sally and I watched Leaving Neverland, the much discussed new documentary on the late MJ’s sexual abuse of children.  It was painful on several levels, but also thought-provoking. It raised questions that don’t have good answers, such as, How could he?  With innocent little kids? What were their parents thinking? Why did the victims refuse for years to tell the truth?

It also indirectly raised questions about how fragile a hold we have on reality.  According to news reports, die-hard MJ fans have addressed the evidence of his child molesting with complete denial and threats of violence against those who disagree.  That is, some fans are taking the Trumpian road: it’s all a hoax and fake news. This is a reminder (if anyone needs one) that there is a meaningful segment of America that inhabits something other than ordinary reality and is immune to evidence and argument.  We’ve got a block of people who are not in any technical sense insane, and yet have taken leave of their senses.

It’s difficult to be sympathetic and respectful to those who are in denial as to MJ’s appalling misconduct.  But I’m guessing that their denial relates to their love. MJ did make some fantastic music and projected a sweet persona.  It must be that they just can’t conceive of a person who is so talented and likeable being a serial sexual abuser of children.  They seem to have an idealized vision of the man, which they have imbued with so much meaning that they take it to be vital for their own well-being.  They may think they’re defending their own lives.

There’s a related confusion about the music.  Some who accept the evidence of MJ’s molestations take the view that his music is now unacceptable.  This has been a recurrent issue with regard to other artists: what to do with their art, after they’re determined to be statutory rapists or otherwise guilty of heinous acts.  

This doesn’t seem so difficult to me.  A lot of gifted people, including great artists, have a dark side, and some do horrible acts.  Our understanding of artists’ lives will likely affect how we view their art, but their crimes don’t actually change their art.  Even for child molesters, their art is what it is. Appreciating their art doesn’t mean condoning their acts.

There are so many ways our minds can get untracked and cause problems either for ourselves or others.  I really think meditation can mitigate that risk.  I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation regularly for a few months now.  Although I haven’t seen the heavens suddenly open, I have seen intimations of greater happiness.  My electronic New York Times last week served up a fine short little guide on what meditation is and how to do it, which looked to be helpful and reliable, if you’re thinking of giving it a try.