Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Apples and The Girl From East Orange: How Bites From the Forbidden Fruit Led to the Demise of Whitney Houston

By Gee Joyner
Contributor to Rhetoric Race and Religion

Now that the spectacle of another iconic American celebrity death and funeral has dissipated (only minutely I may add), I think it is high time that the social commentators and those who keenly critique the nuances of popular culture and the inhabitants thereof compositionally delve into the death of Ms. Whitney Elizabeth Houston.

Though I was reluctant to compose a text addressing her untimely death, or timely if you considered the way she abused her body and mind with illicit drugs, I figured I would give it a try seeming that the conversations I have heard and the Facebook posts in which I have seen, and responded to, are inundated with a pain of sorts and an admiration for the career of the Pop/R&B/Gospel nightingale yet no one seems to be openly addressing the impetus for this ‘untimely’ death.

Topically, most coherent individuals would assume that the years of drug and alcohol abuse took a toll on her body and she could no longer maintain amongst the living. Sure, we could blame it on the alleged Xanax and alcohol mixture that led to the unconscious state to which she never recovered, and that would be a probable assumption to say the least. But, I believe the impetus for Houston’s death began long before the night of Clive Davis’ Pre-Grammy party, the excessive alcohol and drug addiction, the fifteen year marriage to Bobby Brown, the multi-platinum albums, before singing childhood solos in that church in East Orange, New Jersey. 

I believe her demise, if you will, began the moment she opted to taste of the forbidden fruit (an ‘apple’ in modern myth, folklore, and biblical illustrations) of fame and fortune and nibble on the excesses and worldliness associated with that fame and fortune. Eating from that tree made a nineteen year old ‘Nippy’ knowledgeable of the things that a commodified talent, fame, and fortune could afford her. Unfortunately, it afforded her the opportunity to experience any and everything that her heart desired, and the presence of enablers who turned deaf ears, blind eyes, and closed mouths to the demon in which she would battle until the day she died.

By no means do I proclaim to be a biblical scholar, theologian, or historian of the Judeo-Christian text, but I am a Literature man, and all of the aforementioned scholarly pursuits require the same analytical deconstruction and explication of words as does the discipline of Literature. Subsequently, I researched the Holy Bible to find a text that could be paralleled to the life and death of the famed Ms. Houston and stumbled upon Romans 12:2 which states, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” I did a little more ‘researching’ and came upon 1 John 2:16 which reads, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” 

Then I had to do an introspective look into myself. I began writing about Whitney, but the draft became not only about her, but me, and even you, the reader. These biblical references can be, and oft times are, applicable to all of us, not just an international celebrity who for the majority of her adult life reeked of success, wealth, and notoriety (sometimes that notoriety was negative).

We all are no different that Whitney. Many of us take bites of that fruit, or apple, in hopes of some kind of success and wealth and notoriety. When you apply for college, you are doing so in hopes of occupational and financial recompense as well as a solidified level of notoriety in the respective field in which you are academically endeavoring. When one seeks that promotion or pastoral position or professorial appointment or publishing contract, the goal is to obtain—money, fame of sorts, and public adulation. Yes, we are all Whitney Houston in a sense. We must all be careful for the things we ask God to grant us, because that very thing may lead to our worldly demise. But, how can we not meet an untimely demise when we so often put worldly things ahead of those things that are ‘holy’ (for lack of a better term)? And do not all things that are world diminish? I first came to this composition to bury Whitney in a scathing commentary turned eulogy, yet I ended up compositionally eulogizing the lust for those worldly things that tend to lead us off the path of righteousness.

For Whitney, that forked road of worldliness ended her physical life in a hotel bathtub in Los Angeles. I believe, because of her Christian roots and professed faith in the Lord God Almighty, she is back on the path of righteousness, no longer singing secular tunes for sold out stadiums, but belting out songs of praise for the most High. And we too will navigate back down the path of righteousness; my only hope is that we all steer clear of the lusts, and forks, in the road of life. Peace to the Righteous.

In addition to being a contributor to Rhetoric Race and Religion, Gee Joyner currently serves as a professor of English in the Fine Arts and Humanities Department at the historical LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis. He is the author of Kim; The Story of John and blogs also at Rainbows and Lilacs

1 comment:

Rhonda Y. Parker said...

Whitney Houston - Extraordinary songstress, Grammy winner, brilliant actress, substance abuser, doting mother, disconnected daughter, Christian, beautiful, saved and now safe! We will never realize the depth of the confusion of her mind,nor the heights she might have reached if not for her untimely death. What the world offered her cannot compare to the life she now lives with her Savior. Rest in peace, Whitney.