Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Moon Walk - 40 Years On

I was one of the one billion people who tuned in to watch the MJ Memorial.

MJ's death on 25 Jun sent shock waves across the globe and the media have been quite busy feeding the hysterical fans with the latest news. While millions of fans wept, many continue to shower harsh comments about him. However, I have yet to come across any criticism on his music talent.

Many of MJ's songs are master pieces. I would not go on to elaborate on his songs for there is nothing much you would not know by now. What is rare is that MJ's remarkable singing talent is so well coupled with his equally, if not more spectacular dance moves.

MJ's signature move has to be the moonwalk although he was not the originator. Many artists before him, such as David Bowie, have performed the move. The first recorded moonwalk actually dates as far back as 1955 by tap dancer Billy Bailey. Watch how Bailey does his moonwalk three years before MJ was born (towards the end of the clip).

However, MJ was the one who perfected moonwalk to such a height which makes imitating impossible. To be able to do those surreal steps, you would need lots of practice and talent. If you have neither, try getting a quick fix by walking on a conveyor belt or travelator. It gives you the same effect.

Whether you like his music or not, you will find it hard to deny the magnitude of influence that MJ had on the world. His short stay on Earth will always remain legendary. Coincidentally, the year of his death marks the 40th year anniversary of the real moonwalk.

On 20 Jul 1969, Neil Amstrong went aboard the Apollo11 and became the first person who walked on the Moon. He spent two and a half hours doing the real moonwalk. When he placed his left foot on the surface of the Moon, he said "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Indeed.

I am sure when Amstrong moonwalked 40 years ago, he stirred the world just as much. You must remember that those were the days without the Internet, Facebook and Twitter. The fastest way to transmit the news was via the radio or television. Just imagine how curious and concerned people would crowd around the only black and white television in the neighborhood, watching footage of Amstrong landing on the Moon. It must have been one heck of a 'moment of truth'.

14 years later, in Mar 1983, MJ performed his moonwalk with his song 'Billie Jean'. Since then, the dance gained worldwide popularity and that marked the start of MJ's legendary move and the rest is history.

I do not consider myself an ardent fan of MJ. But, if you were to ask me what I really like about him, I would say that I regard him as the epitome of 'the best is not good enough'. His great desire to pursue the best in music should be modeled in everything we strive to achieve.

I sometimes wonder what we really meant when we said 'I have done my best' or 'I will do whatever I can'. Somehow, these expressions carry the connotation that we cannot do any better and that we have reached our limits. They also make us sound like we are giving ourselves excuses that there is no need to push on anymore, since we have done our best. Somewhat like giving a disclaimer.

Winston Churchill once said, "It's not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required."

He is right. The best is never good enough. The best is a snapshot of a moment in time. As we move on, there are always rooms to better the previous 'best'. We must not rest on our laurels despite the extent of achievement we have attained.

We often are the only deterrent in our own progress. We tell ourselves that we are not good enough. We convince our own minds that we have limitations. We reaffirm our belief of our inadequacies by acting them out. When others comment on our behaviours, which are guided by our minds, we conclude that we have always been right about our lack of ability to do better. That is how self-fulfilling prophecy works and that is really sad.

Fortunately, the reverse is also true.

Napoleon Hill, author of "Think And Grow Rich", said that "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve." He had a spot-on. It is all in our minds. If we constantly inject possibilities rather than impossibilities in our minds, we will find our behaviour gradually being shaped towards what the minds are 'told' to think.

I was in the washroom inside a shopping mall recently. While I was enjoying the convenience of the modern infrared sensor tap (contactless), a middle-age lady next to me was struggling with it. She had no idea how to get the water out and I had to help.

It was an amusing sight initially but it soon turned into a sense of heavyheartedness. I began to see myself in a similar situation within the next decade if I were to keep telling myself 'I have done my best' and 'this is my best'. The things around us are mutating at a speed many of us find it hard to keep up. And yet, we do not seem to realise that many of us are slipping backwards.

There is no other way out but to constantly stuff new things and ideas into our heads. We eat three meals a day (sometimes more?) and we do the same day after day. That is because what we have eaten the day before would have been either used up or discarded by our bodies.

The same goes with what we have learnt. If we starve ourselves of continuous learning, we will end up being intellectually deficient. I make it a point to learn, at least a little something everyday. Blogging is one of my ways of continuous learning. What are yours?

The author of best seller "Life's Little Instruction Book", H. Jackson Brown Jr. had put it across appropriately when he said, "The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today."

We do and achieve our best now so that we can leverage on that to meet a greater demand on us tomorrow. We cannot afford to stay put, celebrating old achievement repeatedly. On this, I will always remind myself of the lady who could not even cope with a simple daily chore of washing hands.

We shall live today like it is our last but we shall learn as if we will never die.

"I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.
Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Being willing is not enough; we must do."
*Leonardo da Vinci*

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