It was the first time I had heard him speak. Until then, I had only heard him sing. He reminded me vaguely of people like Padmarajan, Vincent van Gogh or Professor John Nash. He was shy when he spoke. Shy in an adorable way. Shy with a self-conscious smile that reflected a certain disowning of his material identity. Here was a celebrity. And no ordinary celebrity, but the king of Pop himself. But when he spoke, it was a self-conscious child that spoke. He blushed and his tone was far from assertive. The words were few, but they were beautiful. The way only words from a child’s heart can be. When he was ten, Michael Jackson had said,”I sing what I feel and mean. If I don’t mean it, I can’t sing it.”
There are others I know who are shy in a similar way. My neighbour Swathi. One of my ex-students. One of my aunts. And me myself. It was something that always made me uncomfortable; I was always self-conscious. Now when I look back, I realise where it came from. It came from the inability to ‘grow up’. My natural state has always been that of a child- eternally absorbing the environment, reveling in its sights and sounds, losing myself to the fantasy created thus in my mind. Imagination and fantasy defines the natural state of my mind; I am often lost to it. And so, when somebody interrupts this continuous perception and fantasy, I am suddenly awakened from my reverie. Then I don’t know what to do or how to respond. Because this is the only world I am familiar with. The only situation I am comfortable with is when the other person demonstrates an interest in my perceptions or imagination and finds something of value in it. Then I lose the shyness, and metamorphosize into just the opposite personality. I am comfortable talking about the magic of the world within me, but not about me as such. For there is nothing to talk about me. There are only weaknesses and flaws to talk about. I feel I have none of the worldly attributes that most other people have; I lack that kind of skill and thinking capacity. I am an automaton, driven purely by unconscious forces- forces beyond my control. I see the same trait in all the people I have mentioned here.
“I don’t think on stage. I feel. I am one with the music and that drives my performance on stage”, said Michael Jackson when asked what makes such an introverted, private person a born performer on stage, the inhibitions all gone and replaced by what is nothing short of genius. Yes. It is this automaton in him that responds to the music that he is moved by. After all, genius is the product of the unconscious. It can never come from the conscious. Genius, in simple terms, boils down to the ability to stay raw. The ability to respond as an automaton to what moves us. And thus, to create from within. Create something that is alive…something that overwhelms and moves.
The creative mind, deep within, is trapped in eternal childhood. It refuses to outgrow this childhood. It is all feeling and fantasy that automatically brews into art- the most beautiful art.
Over the years, I have learned to accept this shyness as an inseparable part of my personality. Now, when I understand the larger picture, I am at peace with it. Of course, it is embarrassing at times, but I have learned to live with this shyness and social anxiety. Also, I can now identify it in others and I find myself bonding to such souls on an altogether different plane.
As I listen to ‘Heal the world’ and the old Jackson 5 numbers, my heart goes out to MJ. He is no more, but he will live on in my mind forever.