To meaningfully judge the Café Sabarsky against Chef Mickey’s on their merits as experiences, we cannot base our comparison on some nebulous, evasive ideal of authenticity. Neither would measure up, and the ideal itself would be shown up as a tactic to avoid the admission of bald class signaling. Rather, we must ask what draws people to the different imaginary worlds that different experiences allow them to enter.
Now, it feels to me like the only way we reconcile ourselves to the final, total view of Jackson at his height, is to acknowledge that for our purposes, he wasn’t just a musician, but a musical divinity. This is less charitable than it sounds. As pagans who live among multiple, competing, capricious gods, we understand that Jackson’s discomforting physical appearance, superhuman feats of movement and expression, and his potential for serious violations of our persons and moral order, are all part of an aura that tells us to stand in awe, and maintain our justified fear and distance.
Sad, young, online people talk about Marianne Williamson, about their parents, and about animals with the same pathos with which one mourns a lost childhood—seeming to say, “How beautiful their passion, but how impossible in light of what I know.” In saying so they communicate enthusiasm for enthusiasm, while also communicating their distance from the world in which it was apparently possible.