Today, I came across a video of Michael Jackson that really left me speechless and thoughtful. See, I've never been much of a Michael Jackson fan- I've always recognised his talent, but his music never really connected with me. That said, this particular video definitely left an impression.
This performance was the first time MJ did his iconic 'Moonwalk'- needless, to say, the crowd, and in fact the whole world, went berserk. This really was a pivotal moment in music history- one that inspired pop culture like few others. What got my attention though, was his energy throughout the performance. It was simply unbelievable. I'm not exactly sure if he was actually singing along with all that dancing (if he was, my respect goes up even further), but the way he was moving, along with that charisma and confidence- it was something else.'
Everyone watching immediately knew that they were witnessing something special. The awe in that room is palpable, even through a grainy video decades later. It got me thinking about why everyone was cheering, and then made me wonder why we adore musicians or dancers or artists or athletes.
After a bit of thinking, I came to the conclusion that we don't really love the musicians or the artists or the dancers or the athletes. We are actually, more fundamentally, in love with the way they make us feel. Though a case can be made that this is in fact true for all relationships, I won't explore that at the moment. We as humans are drawn towards greatness, towards people who seem to be able to do the impossible. I've heard Jordan Peterson say that we are deeply wired towards imitation and that the tendency to imitate is closely linked to our tendency to admire and even worship.
Seeing someone pull off something truly great and seemingly impossible is an experience that, at least for a moment, helps us take our eyes off the shackles and restraints of our circumstances. It helps us believe in the supernatural, and gives us hope that the odds are not as insurmountable as we imagined. Most importantly, seeing someone fully utilising their potential and fulfilling the purpose of their existence, reminds us of the greatness that we are capable of, and inspires us in our own search for meaning.
Perhaps, who we're actually cheering for, is a projection of our ideal self- someone who has found purpose and achieved greatness.