Michael Jackson is sleeping with the angels, and our world is a little bit different, suddenly, with his unexpected departure. He’d been an icon in the global cultural panorama for four decades; he stood out as remarkable, literally, since he was a child singing hit songs on the radio with The Jackson Five. But his life came crashing down at the end, as if that cartoonish WWI fighter plane he “flew“ in his video had started taking on more and more enemy fire, and unable to fend it all off, he was finally brought down. In his last half decade he was as intensely hated, maligned, mocked, and ridiculed, in some quarters, as he was intensely loved and admired in other quarters. Thus, he remained an icon, a household word, someone that was remarked about, yes, “remarkable.“
So what kind of a message do people get from a life story such as that? With his iconic status, his life’s message will go out to the world; the example of his life will be demonstrating something, revealing a part of our reality, teaching something to the world for a long time. Since he soared so high and crashed so hard, that message is likely to be mixed. For a long time his life was an inspiration, but in the end many may take the story as a warning: “Don’t be too outstanding, too different, too remark-able,“ some might take from him, “for by soaring so far and away from the huddled masses, you are a visible and remarkably easy target. So keep your head low, your powder dry; move only in darkness, making wide berths around any spotlights; you’ll live longer, you’ll endure less pain and agony, and you’re life is less likely to end tragically.“
Is that the message we should take from Michael’s life? If we do, I think that would be tragic. For I think we would be missing Michael Jackson’s real message; we’d also not get what I believe Michael himself would wish to give us, as even in life he wanted to convey it. The message from Michael….?
Let’s back up and refocus a second. We used to say in the Sixties, “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.” Think that harsh? It wasn’t at all for us, it was actually quite grounding and clarifying in confusing times. I had occasion to pass that saying on to a younger friend of mine recently who basically was throwing up her hands over the environmental crisis and saying “I don’t know whether to holler out loud or to shake my fist.” Her point was an exasperated, what’re you going to do about it?
So when I sensed that feeling, I tried to share that we felt like that once. We went up against a horrible waste of life that went on year after year, gobbling up young men who never had a chance to live, and countless Vietnamese, men, women, children; often dying horrible deaths burning alive or worse. It was unconscionable and yet we could do nothing to make it stop.
Well, you can give up when confronted with frustrating realities. But you don’t have to. There is a kind of vision and grandeur, or something very right about that statement from the Sixties that dispelled our frustration and kept us moving forward with conviction about our direction. “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.“ You see, no one can singlehandedly save the world. Yet, if we think about it, isn’t that where the frustration comes from?
My friend thinking “What can any ONE possibly do about it?“ is probably everyone’s reaction to big problems. We’re used to handling things individually. Even huge global wide problems like the current economic depression are dealt with, primarily, at the level of individual and family with each one having to find their own salvation, their own way of surviving — navigating their isolated financial boats through the choppy economic seas. So we think that way out of habit. Yet there are problems that individuals, ON THEIR OWN, can have little or no effect on. So we think there’s nothing we can do, and that whatever it is – a war, an environmental collapse, injustices committed by societies and nations – are part of the inevitable evil of the world that we must just accept.
But our habitual thinking has caused us to miss the hugely obvious, as it too often does. For when we set our single skin-bound selves up against overwhelmingly huge and omnipresent evils, we are wildly misperceiving the situation; we don’t realize how far off we are because we’re surrounded by everyone else doing the exact same kind of ego-centered tunnel thinking. For to be frustrated thinking, “What can I possibly do about it?“ is missing the awareness of our consciousness as being indistinct from the sea of consciousness. When we wish to right a huge wrong, why do we always think we are the only ones who would want to?
The point is that we are not alone; we are even interconnected. And there is great power in the thoughts, wills, and intentions of many being in alignment. Union organizers and activists are ever so aware of this; it is the virtual Bible of social change that guides them: change is effected through “the power of numbers,“ meaning enough people being united in purpose can be strong enough to overcome the power of wealth, dominance, entrenched belief, and so on. But union organizers and social activists exist because people forget that and do the habitual thinking I mentioned that leads to paralysis and submission to the status quo; and their main job is to constantly remind people that they are not alone and that their actions, though small, are additive with uncountable, but unknowable, numbers of others.
The “unknowable“ part is the root of the problem. For we can have faith in the efficacy of the actions we take regarding our individual concerns. But we cannot know the minds and intentions of every soul on this planet, so we easily lose faith. That is why we need to be reminded that we can only do our part, that we are not alone, and that it is as likely that there are huge or increasing numbers of actions being taken that are in line with ours as to think that there are few or none.
And THAT is what is clarifying and invigorating about that simple saying – part of the problem OR part of the solution. Stated that way, you no longer perceive your tiny frame against an overwhelming darkness, you begin to think of it as a 50-50 chance, you start thinking in terms of the mass of everyone and as their being only two choices for everyone. You realize that even people who aren’t aware of what you’re aware of are taking action on the issue and are weighing in on it, even if it is simply in their not-acting. Well, their non-action has an effect that may be part of the problem, but it could also be part of the solution. So with this perspective, you have a basis for faith, a basis for acting and not feeling that your actions are futile, for you cannot know the numbers of others that are acting in concert with you, and cannot have an inkling of the possibility of success. BUT, that unknown could just as easily be hugely in line with you, either now or some time in the future, as not.
Now, that is what is comforting about being part of the solution. You never will know until the future that maybe there are millions or billions of others thinking and taking action in the same direction in which case your small part is quite enough to change the world. And if it doesn’t work out that way, you at least have a clear conscience that whatever happens, it wasn’t lost because you stood in the way, or on the sidelines.
Now what does this have to do with Michael Jackson?
Well, it is easy to look at his life and, regardless of all his success, say that well, he died too young, he maybe was too wacky or crazy or out there so that he became a target and in the end, just like John Lennon, and others who were persecuted for standing out or speaking up, he paid with his life.
It should be clear that the persecution, the fiasco around the trial in 2004, clearly took it out of him, as others said, and it diminished his life.
At the time, I actually wrote a kind of defense of Michael not so much on the grounds of knowing anything about his guilt or innocence, but mostly on the grounds of the idiocy of the roots of the claims against him. The things touted in the media had all the trappings of a witch hunt or a scapegoating. They demonstrated nothing bad about Michael and said lots more about the people making the charges.
I say all this as a trained therapist, with many decades of experience observing people, their defenses, the feelings and trauma that they are hiding beneath them, and the way they act them out when they are not accessed. Michael’s attacks had all the characteristics of the kind of attacks that have been hurled against all sensitive men going back to Jesus.
Michael was sensitive and loving and innocent, and I point out how that is what did him in in a world where people are not, and they cannot understand that anyone could possibly be not like themselves, which means having secret desires, hidden agendas, constantly searching for the right word to advance or at least not hurt their prospects, and so on. In a world of wolves, Michael hurt no one, so he was a prime target to be the sacrificial lamb.
But Michael had two strikes against him. Ironically, in America, the supposed land of the free, which the right-wing is constantly bannering, especially his second “crime” should have been applauded. But that is the hypocrisy of the right-wing — espouse freedom, but you better not be too different from everyone else or you’re gonna be mighty suspicious and we’re gonna have to keep a watch on you.
The same thing happened with the counter-culture. That had to be crushed because corporations cannot make money if people go around being free, being unique, authentic, or individuals. God makes humans as different as snowflakes, thereby expressing the beauty of superb harmony of a universe with infinite complexity.
Right-wingers use free spirits, individuals, like Jesus, to beat out the individualism in others. No, it doesn’t make sense; but then talk to them sometimes and you tell me if you ever hear anything that is a rational sequence of thoughts lasting for more than a few seconds, if that.
So Michael’s crime was in doing what God and even America would espouse: be an individual, carve out your unique destiny, succeed by finding that thing in you that God gave you making you like no other, and express it to the world. And now it occurs to me that there was a third thing that made him a target to be hated, that I didn’t put in the article. You see, Michael succeeded in exactly that way — that way that our religious and our American values say is ideal for a human. But in a culture that is full of unhappy people, particularly men, who have given up their ideals to become zombies in the corporate machine, and have rationalized that they had no choice…. Well, Michael is the stick in the eye, the poke in the face, the constant bee sting reminding them that they just might have sold out, they just might have given up too soon, they just might have been happy, and they just might have wasted their lives.
And worse still, in their unconscious, these macho, zombie robots of the corporate culture, are thinking like “Michael Jackson…how can such a weak, effeminate “pussy” like him succeed but not strong, blah, blah, blah, me; and blah blah blah.”
But they are too weak themselves, actually, to be able to live with that, so they can’t let themselves even think that. So Michael Jackson has to die. When he’s out of sight, or punished severely proving that “we” were right to choose the path “we” took — so their subliminal chatter goes — well then, we’ll be reassured that these are the only choices men really have in life.
So its possible most folks’ reaction to Michael Jackson’s story might be, then you better watch out and you better not show your sensitive side. Really? Then Michael’s life example was for nothing.
Well, I don’t agree. Certainly, there is only one Michael; and he was unique in so many ways that made him stand out – his talent, his softness, his childlikeness. And the thing that made him great was that he let himself be all that he was; he did not say “Oh, that wouldn’t be accepted, or how would that look?“
And that is the example, the message we can take from Michael’s life. If you turn away, you will miss getting the legacy he left us all; showing us that being the unique you, the only one like you in the Universe, with all that you have, is the greatest thing that you can do, and means you end up giving the most that you can possibly give to others. Some people mistakenly think that it is egotistic or selfish to be yourself. No, actually it takes a lot of courage to be who you are and to become someone who actually can MAKE a difference in other’s lives. Michael worked damn hard to perfect his talent; and he shared it and made the world happier and more loving. How can that be considered selfish? It was lots of work and guts. And he even had to take the consequences for daring to be himself, and giving so much to others, for it inevitably made others — others who sold out, and who were more selfish, less hard-working, or should I say, less caring of others and wanting to share their love with them and make a difference in their lives — hound him mercilessly out of this world.
Michael gave us an example, like Barack Obama does today as well, of an authentic person. It is indeed our strongest natural desire to be authentic, to be real. It is that for which we live this life on Earth. Our strongest and deepest desire is to live lives of richness, truth, and love. Call this authentic, natural, or primal, it is the same, and it implies also simplicity, the wise innocence of the child, the innocent wisdom of the experienced, humility, and respect and unity for Earth species everywhere. In every culture these are all aspects of the authentic person, the noble soul, the real person, or simply put, the Human.
But it ain’t easy. For just as Dylan sang “I try my very best, to be just who I am; when everybody wants me to be just like them,“ it’s true that the great majority of people are sick people, so sick, so insecure, and so needy that they cannot see you for the incredible person that you are, nor can they see the incredible person that they are. Their souls have been stolen, usually in childhood, and they spend their lives trying to live up to the demands and shoulds of “ghostly“ others – people from childhood who more than likely for most of their lives won’t be there. Yet they’ll hear their voices and fear their wrath, their hand, strap, stick, or worse. So it is sad for them, but sad for us too, for they only feel better when they feel you are like them, and then their lives are somehow OK; which is the lie that they are trying to maintain because in fact their lives are not OK, and it would be better they realized that and got help for it.
But for those who can make the effort, the rewards are worth all the work. For essential to having lives of richness, truth, and love is the quest to be the person that divinity intended in creating the unique you whose life is holy and sacred the more we can be and express that “chord,” that “energy,” that divine spark that you and you alone can contribute to the world.
Failing this, the world does not receive the gift that is part of Divine Perfection. Wanting this, one finds that one has been burdened and warped in the muddled process of growing up in a culture and world that is estranged from its primal, authentic underpinnings (moorings).
Thus, we require the desire for authenticity and the willingness to seek it, to reach out for help in growing towards it, and divine guidance and support. The last part is the only part that is guaranteed. Unfortunately, though guaranteed, it is useless to the great masses of people who can’t receive it or feel its beneficence and its blessing. Because, as we will say again and again, we are grown and taught and everywhere and at all times heavily impressed into a trance-like hypnotic belief system, which, sadly , drill out of us and even our memories, any of the natural feelings of faith, belief in oneself, courage to be an individual, and rightness and beauty of being authentic and true. So should we awaken to the quest for authenticity, it is usually brought out only after much suffering from that burden of twisted, unreal perception.
People suffer long and excruciatingly, hanging on to the untruths that came from without, for truly the culture has you in a trap: you both suffer from the beliefs it has fed you, yet waking up and striving for authenticity is seen as having to be even worse, in that there is little support for it, and often, one must travel alone, even ostracized for daring such a path. Having forced this Matrix-like total view that blocks out any perception, or even feeling of what is really real, into us, the culture then also punishes harshly those who would dare to struggle with the bonds that enslave them. And small hope there is for them having been robbed of the natural born feelings of faith in a living omnipresence that is real, and true, and most importantly, strong and powerful beyond imagining, steadfast, ever and always present, and available just for the asking.
The message from Michael, however, makes us aware of healing and clarity of consciousness greater than one would think possible. His life was a message of inspiration to openness to feeling, but also strength of body. We remember his astonishing dancing, his phenomenal physical presence on stage, at his peak, reminds us to build a mind-body foundation that will be motivated and hopeful, and thus feel important enough and courageous and brave enough to dare to seek for the highest attainments of life. Physical health and a deep feeling of grounding in a fit, effective body is the basis for everything else: confidence comes; with confidence we aspire for the true ends of life — richness of experience, authenticity of being and feeling, expansion of feeling into greater and greater love and unity, taking us beyond what we thought was possible as a human and opening our eyes to the divinity that is all around and in us and is our birthright. And ultimately, a life whose end is liberation, final and complete.
It’s very common and popular for one to be advised, as if it could just be chosen, “Be yourself.” or “Just be yourself.” I think it’s time to say that, however true that direction, if it were simply that easy, a mere matter of choice, then billions of people for hundreds of thousands of years would not have struggled so mightily for just that divine authentic richness of life, and often feeling they’d failed in the attempt.
Likewise, so much human endeavor would not have been expended to discover the secrets to regaining one’s primal, childlike innocence and natural consciousness. Nor would grand religions be founded upon the words of teachers who stirred that quest and through example especially, catalyzed authentic and rich lives in many. Great individuals’ lives show the way, the way so simple in its naturalness, its “inner wiring,” so to speak. Yet so difficult to actually believe in, as always and everywhere culture, which requires of its members more of being like everyone else and doing for the group at large much that is not true to oneself, in fact, requires the suppression of that uniqueness.
Divine Perfection creates each person unique and perfect as a snowflake and with a purpose and reason for living that, if lived, is attuned with all that is good and better. But those perfect seeds are strewn into cultures, which are the accumulated encrustations of uncountable lives lived primarily in fear and suffering. Therein God’s perfect creations must seek to find nurture and root, and to thrive wondrously, while influenced all about to do anything but that.
So culture, however seemingly rich, has at its base two functions. One is that of creating new cultural members burdened with the exact same kinds of fears and distortions of pure natural divinity as the other members. Cultures create such burdened adults who have been violently separated from their true source within. It remains untainted and perfect, however buried, waiting to be remembered; for while it is our source, our root, it is also our goal, our fruition.
Cultures second function, having stolen our true life source, our meaning for living, and our goal, is to fool us by replacing that stolen richness with a fake. After the harsh processing individuals endure, which begins even at birth in the brutal and unnatural way cultures have contrived to welcome its newcomers, many individuals would waste away from despair and misery, or simply not thrive (though some do, right at the start, so there’s crib deaths). Its second function is about providing, through the efforts of all those terrified predecessors, the contrivances, tricks, rituals, and hocus-pocus to serve, unfortunately not healing or relief, but rather a kind of dimming of consciousness and awareness of what one has lost, and a hypnotic commonly maintained and relentless drumming and forcing into belief the Big Lie of life, that one is happy and content, in the bosom of culture, no matter how one actually feels.
As Kurt Cobain put it graphically and with shocking clarity, “he’ll put you in a jar . . . And you’ll think you’re happy … he’ll cover it with grass … and you’ll think you’re happy . . . And if you save yourself, he’ll give you breathing holes … and you’ll think you’re happy…. But You’re really in a laundry room, you’re really in a laundry room, the feelings that you feigned to use….
But Michael left his example; he left his gift to us that it can be done, that one can throw off the shackles, the diminishment of self, the disempowering weight of the cultural mold and be free…free to soar, free to create what no one ever has, free to be like no one ever has been, free to think, to give, to love…to envision a better world, a better culture, to live it, be an example of it, and to seek to create it and to share it. And for those who shun his message in light of the price he paid, one has to ask oneself whether it is the length of one’s life or the life of one’s life that is important. Michael Jackson had no doubts on that one; he wrote “We Are the World,” giving words to the truth he knew. He lived life large and inspired us to embrace our greatness also. The world is different and better because of his time here. What more could one ask of one person’s life?