Metaphysical musings on the world’s most enduring star
by Christopher Cooper
“Hold a good thought for me,” she used to whisper to her acting coach before making an entrance or tackling a particularly important scene. “Will you?”
Fifty-one years after her death, and 87 years after her birth on June 1, 1926, the thoughtform labeled Marilyn Monroe is indelibly carved upon the collective unconscious. Despite the help of technology that keeps them ever-available, other classic stars fade into oblivion or at least obscurity. But not Marilyn...we simply will not let her go.
Most young people today have never seen a Marilyn Monroe movie or know any of the details of her life and death, yet they pin her obsessively on Pinterest and experience her in bite-size YouTube clips that give a glimpse of an extraordinary charisma and unique energy essence. They don’t know why, but they love her. They admire her. She is compelling.
In his metaphysical novel Sum: Tales from the Afterlives, author David Eagleman posits that your soul cannot enter heaven until your name is no longer spoken or remembered by those still on earth. If that is so, Marilyn Monroe has a long, long wait in purgatory’s green room.
Marilyn’s horoscope gives us a few clues about a woman who was made to be remembered, but the deeper meaning of her legacy is found within the hearts of those who continue to keep her memory alive.
Gemini sets up a mass of contradiction and paradox that make a subject particularly interesting. Mercurial and unpredictable, Gemini is the sign of the twins and shows two distinct faces to the world—images like the two-faced underworld god Janus and the masks of comedy and tragedy come to mind. An air sign, Gemini’s free flow of energy and ideas are hard to pin down or pigeonhole.
Happy, carefree, giggling, bubbling and sparkling like the champagne she loved, Marilyn was equally prone to dark periods of depression and despondency. Her fears and insecurities would literally send her to bed hiding under the covers for days and weeks on end. A budding intellectual whose library included works by Goethe, Sandburg and Thomas Paine, she cultivated a public image that epitomized (and subtly satirized) the stereotype of the empty-headed blond bubblehead.
Fiery Leo is the sign of showmanship, and in the ascendent is a placement shared by many successful show business personalities. In Marilyn Monroe, it manifested as a streak of exhibitionism that shifted an entire generation’s views on sexuality and the beauty of the human form.
In the 1950s, nudity on screen and in print was taboo. In 1952, a Hollywood scandal erupted when it was discovered that a young starlet had posed provocatively on red velvet for a calendar shoot. Advised to lie and say the nude model wasn’t her, Marilyn instead faced the music and admitted that she was indeed Miss Golden Dreams. Instead of imploding, her career skyrocketed—and she helped launch the empire of a savvy young man named Hugh Hefner when the pictures appeared in a new publication called Playboy. Later, at the end of her life, she disrobed again, for a nude skinny dip on a film set and for photographer Bert Stern. A door had been opened—the sex symbol as cultural pioneer.
She died too soon, at the age of 36. But her death was far from the end of the story. Each time we mention her name or display her image, we revive her spirit, perhaps as a way of exorcising the tragic event itself. Collectively, we have refused to let her die.
Just two week’s after the actress’s death, the usually stoic objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand wrote a glowing tribute in the Los Angeles Times that gives a clue as to why Monroe continues to be remembered. “The death of Marilyn Monroe shocked people with an impact different from their reaction to the death of any other movie star or public figure,” wrote Rand. “ All over the world, people felt a peculiar sense of personal involvement and of protest, like a universal cry of ‘Oh, no!’ They felt that her death had some special significance...”
Could the significance Ayn Rand alludes to be our own determination to live forever? Our continued fascination for Marilyn Monroe embraces life, beauty, laughter and pleasure, despite death’s effort to snuff out eternal joy and divinity. By negating her death, are we denying our own mortality?
Metaphysicians and quantum physicists now believe that time is relative, and that past, present and future exist simultaneously...and have theorized that events occur in associative rather than linear fashion. If that is true, then we all live forever. And Marilyn Monroe is the poster girl for eternal life.
So she lives on, in incandescent still and flickering images, in stories and anecdotes that have taken on mythic proportions. She continues to serve as a muse for writers, actors, musicians and artists the world over. Shakespeare’s famous quote about another dead celebrity, Cleopatra, is just as apropos for Monroe: “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.”