Monday, October 3, 2011

Jackson's Doctor, Exaggeration of Emotion, and Buddhism

Trial of Michael Jackson's doctor enters 2nd week
The Associated Press 

Posted: Oct 3, 2011 11:02 AM ET 

Last Updated: Oct 3, 2011

 11:48 AM ET

Michael Jackson's doctor begins its second week Monday with prosecutors furthering their examination of an emergency room physician who gave paramedics permission to pronounce the pop superstar dead in the bedroom of his home.
Prosecutors have been laying out their case against Dr. Conrad Murray largely in chronological fashion, with witnesses during the first week of trial recounting the singer's final performances, his interactions with fans on his last day and frantic efforts to revive the King of Pop.
Authorities contend Murray gave Jackson a lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol and other sedatives in the singer's bedroom in 2009. Murray's attorneys are presenting jurors with an alternate theory —that Jackson gave himself the lethal dose when Murray left the room.

The Houston-based cardiologist has pleaded not guilty. Murray, 58, faces four years behind bars and the loss of his medical license if convicted.

The Disgusted 
but Practical 
Buddhist Responds

After the King of Pop was buried, a monk in Singapore named Shravasti Dhammika wrote a piece about “exaggeration of emotion.” He said in part:

Both here in Singapore and in reports in the foreign media I read expressions like ‘I am devastated’ ‘The whole world is in mourning’ ‘My family and I am in a state of shock’. Really? When I was in the Medical Corps in the army in the late 60’s I sometimes saw severely wounded soldiers evacuated from Vietnam, some of them in shock.
 Believe me, no one ‘is in a state of shock’ over the death of MJ. And the whole world mourning? I wouldn’t mind betting that a couple of hundred millions peasants in India have never he heard of MJ and even those who have are far more concerned about the fact that the monsoon is late. I suspect that hundreds of millions of poor villagers in South America, China and Africa have hardly given MJ’s death a second thought either, even if they have heard about it. Devastated? Now I saw devastated people on a recent news report of a bomb going off in an Iraqi market. None of the numerous reports I saw about MJ’s showed ‘devastated’ people. The problem with using absurdly exaggerated terminology to describe ordinary experiences, in this case a little bit of sadness, is that when something really shocking or devastating happens we don’t have adequate words to convey its true seriousness or impact. It diminishes it. This misuse of language also encourages people to ‘over-express’ themselves about what are actually rather commonplace events. Sobbing, huddling in weeping groups arms over each others’ shoulders, and gasping ‘Oh my God!’ over the passing of someone you have never met or even seen at a distance on stage, is completely inappropriate. It leaves you with nothing to do when some you are personally are struck by real tragedy.

Another interesting thing about MJ’s passing is how quickly the recent deep concern and even disgust about aspects of his private life has been elbowed aside by an avalanche of accolades, A genuine and meaningful eulogy to him would include mention of his very real talents in some areas, his great generosity, but also the fact that he apparently made a mess of his life. On several occasions I read of or heard people say things like ‘His message will live forever’, as if he was some great prophet or spiritual teacher. I must say, I find this sort of thing to be the height of vulgarity. It also obscures an extremely important point. If MJ’s life conveys any ‘message’ it would have to be that talent, celebrity and unimaginable wealth do not guarantee happiness. The Buddha said, ‘Truly dire are gains, honor and fame. They are serious and difficult obstacle in the way of attaining true safety’ (S.II,226)

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