Hanging Out with Michael Jackson
MAY YOU MEET YOUR INNER MICHAEL HERE!
They say when the student is ready the teacher appears... What teachers have appeared in your life? How did you recognize them? What new discovery did he inspire you with? What startling revelation did she teach you? What has really touched your heart recently? Was it a lick on the hand from the animal who showed up on your doorstep not really intending to bring you home, yet ends up adopting you anyway? Ah, close encounter of the furry kind!
Where do you find God? Could God be hiding in the in-breath of awe at the next sunset? Perhaps The Creator was present during a movie that captivated you so much you don’t remember the drive home from the theater? Was Spirit in a photograph you saw that inspired when you Googled, enticing you to follow the inspiration only to remember an hour later that the laundry never made it to the dryer?
Was there a spiritual message waiting for you somewhere you never dreamed? Was it in the violent windstorm that took the old majestic oak tree in the backyard, the one you mourned for months until you discovered the tiny saplings in a circle round where the mother tree once stood? Was it in the smile of that child in the wheelchair who can’t speak or hear so he’s learned to communicate with his heart and you clearly heard what he couldn’t say? Was it lying there waiting beneath the last footstep to the rim of the Grand Canyon?
Just how does one find one’s guru? And is that discovery preceded by a pilgrimage to the Ganges without food and water with a stone in the shoe? A trek to the Himalayas? Perhaps a walk to Assisi? Or along the Camino? Maybe it’s as simple as watching Star Wars just one more time. Perhaps the Holy Grail is not a cup but an attitude? An attitude of expectation? Who do you expect to see? God or something you think is anathema to that? If you want to take that particular journey quickly and have that Aha! I would suggest Michael Jackson’s short film: Ghosts.
Can you know what form your next spiritual messenger will arrive in? How will the message or messenger be cloaked? In what guise will they arrive? In what costume is your next messenger clothed? In robes? A cape? Pajamas? Feathers or fur? Is there an official uniform? Sandals? A crown? Turban? Maybe a fedora? A gilded Gold and Lapis mask? Maybe a surgical one? How will he speak? In soliloquy? Stories? Perhaps parables? Maybe myth? In what language will the message come? Aramaic? English? The universal language… music, maestro?
We can be sure there will be beauty in the creation whether it’s messenger, message or mess. We know that because from whence it comes. Even the messiest and most loathsome entanglement is beautiful if it is a message from God. And That is everywhere. A messy kind of message may impel us to make a change in our reality because the one we’re working in isn’t working. Could be it’s not promoting growth or in our highest interest. The Universe likes to shake us from our complacency now and then. Remember the oak? New growth can’t occur where there is too much shade. Growth needs light.
Yes, where indeed do you find the shine? The light that will illuminate where change is needed? Spotlight. Hot light. Sunshine. Highlight. Sparkle. In-sight in-light; in-flight. Flash. Flash-dance. Reflect. Reflection. Moonglade. Maybe enlightenment shines from a little light of the moon. Maybe a bit of lunacy? When the teacher appears, maybe he resembles an extraterrestrial? A little Moonwalker maybe? Now who could have predicted that? And in what form will the next spiritual message come? Perhaps in the lyrics of a song?
squeeze round the chest
wrap the throat
wipe tears that sting
and steal the breath.
I want to apologize to you
I can only…
make that change
in Michael’s name.
I am so sorry we didn’t
The mind reels
and eyes reveal
landed here too late.
But better late
than never to arrive.
It’s not your fault.
So will I…
to make that change
in Michael’s name.
The harm we inflicted
not just you—but us
and the world.
Oh the dark
we cloaked you in--
wounded so deep
as to take your sleep
and then your life.
I only know I will…
make that change
in Michael’s name.
We mistook your life for
Gave no rest,
chased your every move,
to mock, laugh,
rip your dignity
from outstretched hands
those same ones that
held the world,
tried to save it.
So I will…
make that change
in Michael’s name.
I can’t ever make it
How could you
give so much when
we cared so little?
Held no mercy?
Heaped even more
upon your head
until you bent so far
you began to break.
I promise I will…
make that change
in Michael’s name.
The only thing we can do
Remember too that
no matter how much
we hurt you--
fisher of mankind,
you were ready to return,
to defy human nature
and try again
to capture us.
The least I can do now…
make that change
in Michael’s name.
(c) B.Kaufmann 2010 & beyond
*Note: Permission granted to reprint with (c) and author credits.
As a child I made a vow to make a difference in the world; I would ‘do something’ because the adults of the world who were in charge weren’t doing anything. In fact, they were messing it up pretty well. My generation had a different image of the world—we had a dream called ‘peace.’ Over and over I watched my peers—boxes and boxes of them—offloaded from aircraft returning from the war. When I had enough, I rolled up a joint and the sleeves of my army shirt, bought a van and began an anti-war journey. I left home, changed my image and moved in with musician friends to tune in and drop out.
A blur of music festivals, anti-war protests, traveling with musicians, learning to be a promoter and how to organize, I railed against anything establishment. If you want to understand what establishment means, tune into the mayor in Ghosts short film. I meant well. We all did. And then we hit young adulthood and many of us gave up. We had families, we fit in, we lived normal lives.
But for me, the dream never faded; I couldn’t conform. When I became a single parent, I realized the one thing I could do to change the world was to teach my children to be the change. I joined Beyond War and Ban the Bomb groups ; exposed my children to all different kinds of races, faces, places and ages; I hung out with peacemakers; hosted Russians in my home; donated time and energy to anti-war and anti-nuke organizations; joined Hands Across America and hauled my children with me across several states to join the line; I played and sang Michael’s We Are the World until it became our anthem.
One day the light dawned. The energy of anti wasn’t working for me. To the chagrin of friends, I refused to organize any more rallies or stand on any more street corners with signs. I began to create artwork with a message, studied creative writing and began to write poetry, enrolled my daughter in the Peace Child Project and joined Sister Cities. I became the producer, a performer and even Master of Ceremonies for the Annual Harmony Peace Concerts at Lawrence University. The epiphany that landed on that day was that when you are anti-anything your energy is oppositional and harsh. When you extend a hand and ask people to join you in making the world a better place, that is asking a favor that is hard to say no to. That’s when I began to learn diplomacy, how to become a global citizen, how to make friends with an established enemy, how to become a ‘fisher of men’ and to use energy to appeal to the loftier side of human nature.
That’s when the Spiritual Masters began to arrive in my life because “when the student is ready the teacher appears.” They taught me that there is nothing wrong with righteous indignation or being unsettled with the status quo; we can change the world. And often we should. But the approach makes all the difference. They taught how to: recognize the ego’s voice; become an advocate of we are one race, one humanity; recognize the mirror and how to use it; be the change and what that means; make peace with yourself first; find no enemies, but only those not converted to love yet; shift the body’s energies with breathwork and body disciplines; use a practice to still the mind; hear the voice of intuition; set powerful intention; learn and master healing practices; perform energy work; study bio-illumination; recognize and seek enlightenment; see the journey not the destination; communicate with all of life and too many more to mention.
People feel who you are being. Being anti-friend and anti-“them” doesn’t work. Neither does trying to shout someone down because well… you’re right, right? And that makes them what, wrong? No one wants to be defeated? What does work is seeking always to be the vibe you’d like them to join. Lecture from across the desk and you get resistance; come to this side of the desk and explain how we are going to work on it together and the listening gets easier. Encourage and you get engagement.
People are not "being the change" because they don’t know how. They don’t see the benefits of it or they aren’t motivated. They want to know ‘what’s the advantage?’ ‘What’s in it for me?’ People do things for their reasons not your reasons. Find their reason. Feel their pain. Touch their dream. Then give them the light: ‘Here is what I see you becoming…’ or ‘come on with me and check out the light over here...’
It doesn’t always work at first. But once the door is open even a tiny crack, there is opportunity for light to enter. Even if it's only a sliver of light. Criticizing, name calling, slamming others’ self or ideas does nothing to change the energy; in fact, it lets in more shadow, yours, making the light harder to shine. Continuing the argument is not useful. Deliver the message. Period. Dangle the light in front of their eyes by being that light. Then end the dialogue so they can think it over privately. Stop there. 'Let it simmer.' A chess game to maneuver one into checkmate cannot continue if one person leaves the game. What is the fun of playing alone? There's no payoff. End the opportunity to create resistance by ending the game.
What you resist persists. That is how the Universe works. The argument isn't important anyway and wining only feeds your ego-- not the spiritual you! And their losing deflates their self esteem- why do you think they fight so hard? They mistakenly think they are fighting for their self esteem! How hard would you fight? How would you hear the message: "I don't like who you are being?" It’s the duality on this planet that gets us into trouble—us/them. It’s our own ego that gets in our way. Why is it important to argue and to “win?” “Winning” is manufactured in the mind; it's not a real thing. You can't hold it in your hand or use it like compensation to gain anything. It's not substance. It lasts only awhile; glory always fades quickly. But human hearts last a lifetime. Capture hearts.
Mystery invites. Enchantment works. In the midst of a challenge take a moment to feel your heart. Feel the love that lives there. Then extend that same feeling across the space to the other. Let them feel who you are being. That is what changes hearts. Can you be that all the time? Even if you can’t extend it always, it’s important to try. I know, I know; I write it better than I do it! But intention is everything. Intention is your energy. Your intention communicates to another person non-verbally. Can you feel it? It’s not perfection; perfection is not required. It’s a practice. And practice improves the performance—for the performer and the audience. Just ask Michael.
And look who showed up- a spirit visitor.
Yes, I have met the enemy and I can assure you he is us. I wrote about it in the book Looking Back: History through the eyes of those who lived it. I have seen weapons of mass destruction stockpiled for human doom. I have walked through a secret location with a military escort in a place in Siberia where a decommissioning facility was being built, a place that I could never find again and had better not. I have sat in the corner of a restaurant in Russia with an American Commander holding a laptop connected to God-knows-where while he sorted through its data to find some things that had recently been declassified so he could show me; there were some things he couldn't show me. The large shells that held chemical weapons were about my size; the smaller ones that would turn the Super Bowl into a morgue, were about the size of wine bottles. I have stood in assemblies holding two wine bottles and wearing a gas mask in order to graphically make a point.
But now I have identified an even more scary weapon of mass destruction. I discovered it while doing some new research. My advice: be afraid; be very afraid for this weapon is a heat seeking predator. Why is it so dangerous? Because it is 'friendly fire'; it's constructed so as to do the most damage in short bursts; it isn't aimed at an enemy but at one of our own. It's a stealth weapon that can come out of nowhere and take away your life. Yes it could happen to you in your fifteen minutes of fame and your six degrees of separation. What is it? The media.
The Mission: Human Suffering
Suffering is one of those common denominators and levelers for all of humanity. Humans know misery; humans suffer. Suffering comes in many forms: physical maladies that cause bodily pain, mental anguish, psychic wounding, imaginal fears, ecological dilemmas, circumstantial misfortune, and self inflicted injury or defeat. Some suffering appears to be accidental or resulting from particular twists of fate. Some suffering is wielded for political reasons, some for entertainment and profit.
One may be born into poverty which appears to be a geographical accident of birth; one may be born with deformity or acquire a handicap that sometimes is genetic and sometimes an acquired calamity; one may be subject to many kinds of accidents and mishaps through a lifetime; risk taking required by culture may elevate the incidence of accidents leading to unfortunate outcomes. And certainly these misfortunes are hard to comprehend or assimilate.
We ask “why?” Why has a particular circumstance visited one person and not another? We search for meaning in suffering because we do not want to believe in its randomness or senselessness. Even when misery is an accident of nature in some way, it is not easy to accept and only the most spiritually advanced among us can embrace it. I only knew two: a nun who taught meditation, founder of a spiritual retreat center who held gratitude for her creeping blindness as it assisted in her quest for enlightenment. No longer able to see the outside world, she was forced to focus on the internal one and this greatly accelerated her spiritual growth. Ram Dass has said of his stroke that limited his movement; he had to learn to stand still to know the Presence.
We affix blame when misfortune visits. We have blamed fate, circumstances, ourselves, God, karma, luck, Satan, the gods and goddesses and more through time. We tend to link character to fortune: ‘How could this happen; she is such a good person? She doesn’t deserve this.’ We sometimes try to link character to deserving dark times. When misfortune befalls someone we don’t like we declare facetiously: ‘It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.’
The kind of suffering that is far more difficult to comprehend, for even the most tepidly moral person, is suffering heaped upon someone deliberately by another person. And the worst of those is the individual who with malice, plots in order to heap suffering on another for undeserved gain or something for which they have no claim or entitlement.
But there is another kind of suffering that is perpetrated upon another that constitutes the most vile purpose of all: entertainment. There have been many dark figures in history who have deliberately heaped suffering upon others: Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden, Ivan the Terrible, come to mind. But mostly their reasons were political. There is, however, one famous figure in history known for inflicting suffering for sheer entertainment: Vlad the Impaler. According to the records, atrocities committed by Vlad to at least eighty thousand people include torturing, burning, skinning, roasting, and boiling people, feeding people the flesh of their friends or relatives, cutting off limbs, and drowning and skinning the feet, then putting salt on them and letting goats lick off the salt.
Pathologically sadistic, Vlad was highly entertained by watching people suffer. But his favorite voyeur pastime was impaling people on stakes. He perfected a method of using oil to make the stake slick so that it could be threaded cleverly in a way that would not pierce a vital organ but would keep the person alive for hours, even days. When impaling women with children, he often threaded their babies on the end of the state jutting from their own chest. In this way, the mother was able to witness the horrific death of her infant before her own death. Vlad customarily ordered his meals and dined near the victims as he particularly enjoyed watching them squirm and hearing the screams while eating.
Method of Deployment:
Yes, it’s hard to wrap your mind around that kind of depravity. Depravity comes in many flavors; there is even a contemporary kind that involves sadistic pleasure from entertainment. How much of a leap is it from sadistically impaling someone on a stake and inflicting maximum pain for your viewing pleasure to deliberately impaling someone on the cross of public humiliation, then periodically poking around and reopening the wounds to siphon all the psychic puss for encore? There is something lewd, salacious and obscene about the practice of impaling celebrities with today’s tabloid yellow pornography.
Have you noticed that currently the most popular genre in books and movies in our culture is Vampirism? We love to watch blood-letting and find it sexy? Does the irony of that escape you? Does the clamoring for tabloid gossip about our favorite celebrities satisfy some animalistic urge? It’s simply Neanderthal; no, more reptilian. There is something slimy about a culture supporting an industry that operates like a meat-market surgically slicing up pieces of people for human consumption. Stalking people with a voyeurs delight, carving them up, and feeding on their lives is cannibalism! There is nothing redeemable even human about engaging in a voyeurism that destroys people, their work, their lives and their futures. And our future.
It’s the kind of practice that deliberately looks for the lowest form of humanity. It gleefully attaches itself to its latest popular victim and sucks the life force from them. The worst offenders are journalists who deliberately hurl questions and insults designed to inflame the celebrity, already upset, so as to get even more lurid footage or copy for consumption.
Consumption of tabloid fodder and gossip is the kind of hobby that people engage in without thinking about the impact of their actions. Few think about the consequences of their indulging in the misguided practice of buying dirt rag magazines, watching tabloid TV, clamoring for the latest gossip about their celebrity interests. And reality TV is hardly ever a slice of my reality. How about yours?
If we would think before we consume this stuff or clamor for more we might realize what is lost because of it, what futures are preempted because of it: What gifts do talented people withhold because they are afraid to venture into the public venue? How many performers hold back from introducing new or avant garde art for fear of public opinion? How many people deny they have a personal problem and delay or avoid treatment because if they checked themselves into a rehab facility, their personal lives would be splayed in headlines? How many great politicians have not run for public office because of the uncharitable scrutiny they face? How many books are not written because of the celebrity well known authors enjoy or because they might end up on someone's hit list? How many who have been excoriated by tabloid journalism give up on new work, new discoveries, maybe on humanity itself?
The tabloid frenzy over President Clinton’s indiscretion caused his impeachment. A president was impeached for behavior in his private life. And a beloved president of history was again exposed for private liaisons while in office. Is that our business? These kinds of exposures take down good men. Clinton subsequently has marshaled global humanitarian efforts responsible for saving the lives of millions. Had he been humiliated beyond repair and faded into obscurity because of a human failing what would we have lost?
Do you remember Vince Foster? Vince Foster was the Deputy White House Counsel for the Clintons who investigated the Travel office corruption charges on behalf of Hillary Clinton. He became so despondent over the affair that he committed suicide. His suicide resignation note read “I was not meant for the job or the spotlight of public life in Washington. Here ruining people is considered sport.”
Lady Diana was a favorite target of the tabloid press that insisted on focusing their spotlight on rumors of anorexia, bulimia and depression instead of her humanitarian work with children and eliminating land mines. And all this yellow press, while she was trying to hold together a marriage to a royal husband who was carrying a torch for someone else! What young new bride would navigate all that well? The Paparazzi haunted Diana endlessly and hunted her down on the night she died. Her driver had been drinking and certainly alcohol contributed to the accident. But the driver would not have been speeding if the Paparazzi had not been stalking and chasing Diana. And after the accident they helped to cause, they continued snapping pictures as she lay dying in the back seat.
And then there’s the most recent and visible casualty of the tabloid press: Michael Jackson. Deeply traumatized by the events of his life, by relentless exploitation by tabloid America, by rabid officials who anticipated their own fame in taking down a famous celebrity, dispirited by the treatment of his
face, skin color, his home, his work, his life and even his innocence, Michael had trouble sleeping at night. The two cases brought against Michael alleging impropriety with children brought the tabloids down on a gentle humanitarian whose life was about saving and healing children. A man who was singing “Heal the World” in Super Bowl performances and promoting peace in his concerts.
At his 2005 trial, hundreds of reporters drooling over anticipated juicy headlines, descended on the courthouse periphery. For five months they circled like vultures waiting to pick the bones from the carcass of his life served up in a trial with charges that never should have been brought. Michael simply wasn’t guilty.
Prison for someone like Michael Jackson would have been a death sentence. He lived month after month with that threat while the media conveniently left out newsworthy trial developments proving his innocence. Jermaine Jackson, Michael’s brother says he watched the light gradually go out of Michael’s eyes during the trial. A bone-weary, dispirited and traumatized father took his children and left his homeland, leaving behind a grueling trial, a justice system that failed to protect him from extortion, a media that impaled him and left him hanging exposed despite his innocence. He lost a home he cherished and shared for joy because he could no longer live there, the closeness to beloved Jackson family, and his country. A family with a history of extortion of other celebrities had targeted Michael and law enforcement with the media as accomplice, seduced by the allure of celebrity, played life and death games for sport.
How many Vince Fosters are there? What did we lose when we lost Diana and Michael? The loss is incalculable. Diana was the people’s princess and Michael was the most famous humanitarian in the world. They both were devoted to human welfare and social reform especially for children. Their work on this planet is legion and legendary as is their support of charities and generous philanthropy. Neither one had to, but they used their fame for all of humanity, for the elimination of pain, misery and suffering. And how did we thank these global messengers? We killed them.
Early Warning System:
Yellow press and you know who you are: here is your WMD Early Warning: More and more people are waking up on this planet. More humans are courting their own spirituality and enlightenment. Put your finger on that pulse because that heartbeat of humanity is our future. And I guarantee that you will not be here then. Unless you change your methods and reinvent your genre, you will be irrelevant. I promise you we, humanity, are far more than your narrow definition could ever imagine. We are tired of low slung dramas that don't work, a higher game awaits us and viewed from here, it sparkles.
Your imaginings are wrong; we are better than that! It’s sad enough that pain and misery visits every single life on this planet. We no longer wish to deliberately inflict it. Not for sport. You want to keep us down and drinking your Koolaid? You want us obedient to your doctrine? You think that is really going to work? We want to change. We are growing up and we don't want publications and media that slay people for fun. We are tired of the doom and gloom of people’s wounded humanity; we would like to hear about their brilliance. It's time. We want to applaud human contributions to art and life. We want to respect public figures more and be mature enough to allow them some dignity and privacy.
Decommissioning the Weapon:
We have a request media: We want you to stop inviting us where we don’t belong. We want you to give us the facts without the hype and sensationalism that by someone else’s arrogant determination censors what we are entitled to. We resent being spoon fed untruths so that somebody can sell a vile product and get fat paychecks because we are believed sophomoric. We resent being duped and treated like a commodity: like a consumer pig fattened up with garbage for the purpose of someone else’s slaughter. We are intelligent people; we would really like the facts and to decide for ourselves who and what we value.
Stop belittling us and all of humanity with your de-evolution. And now that we have all allowed the devolved media to destroy people who were national treasures and we have jeopardized a more bedazzled future because of the contributions they can no longer make, we are asking you to please stop killing people on our behalf. No, we are demanding it. We want no part in it. We want to breathe clear air not tainted with the stench of tabloid slaughter. We don't want to sit down to our dinner like Vlad, while tabloid TV shows dangle impaled flailing celebrity bodies in front of us during our meal. We don't want to feel that guilt or shame. We want to be part of creating a world we can live with and we can tell you it's not this one.
We want to create a world where art is esteemed in whatever form, where beauty is a common pleasure, where the human mind and spirit is elevated; no, revered and we want help with that. We want a world where people’s woundedness is cradled with tenderness not exposed with glee. We want you to listen to us, to help us celebrate the human spirit, not feel ashamed of it. We all feel the winds changing and we want you to stop blowing us in the wrong direction. We want you to support us... humanity. We want you to do that by elevating the art of communication back to where it belongs and to feature and be the change we long to see in the world.
We have seen enough of what your weapons of mass destruction can do to a person and a world when they are unleashed. They destroy humanity. Ours. The create vacuums in the future where human treasures might have walked. We are asking you, the media… the latest incarnation of a WMD to decommission your arsenal and help us to make peace with ourselves... with the rest of the members of our human family. And please, help us to close the door on a shadowy era now past. We are ready to be the change we wish to see in the world. We need you now to convey not the darkness of our species, but our brilliance to us.
**To be released soon for reprint.
c) 2010 & beyond B. Kaufmann, One Wordsmith
Better to go yourself to the source, place your finger on the pulse and your hand on the heart. Breathe the same air, look at the same landscape, walk a time in those moccasins. Stand in the essence and especially in the inventions of a life to know the mind of the one who created them.
Better to read or listen to the words of the individual himself than to others speaking about him… to get the nuances, the essence, read the voice inflection, hear the tone and timbre all the while reading the face, the mouth, the language the body speaks and its congruency. Better to see the eyes for where and how they glance and dance and sparkle.
When the spirit of one is engaged, it knows the spirit of the other. Spirit meets spirit; soul meets soul. One is known by what is important to their heart, and how they feel about what their life encounters. Know the man by knowing the man's life. As they move through life, what do they leave in their wake? Spent shells of people? Broken bodies? Shattered and abandoned dreams? Destruction and disappointment? Or do they love well and leave better people behind their footfalls, the world a better place for their having passed that way?
Who surrounds them? Who remains and who departs? From whom do they receive praise? By whom are they embraced? By what claims and kudos are they remembered? Who forms their circle? Whom do they admire? Whom do they emulate? Whose company do they keep? What affirmations of self do they leave for evidence? What objects surround them? What books fill their library? What art graces their walls? Does it speak of inspirations and aspirations? Of better tomorrows?
To know the man, know his landscape. Know his real friends. Know where he is loyal. Know his heart by what he holds dear, what he stands up for, what he gets angry about, what his heart embraces as important, as priority. Watch how and where he wields his influence, what he does for others, and what measure he gives back because of what he has received. Observe how he carries himself in the face of fortune and how he holds himself up within shadow and sorrow. Observe how style, dignity, mirth and grace inform his world. A man’s character is revealed in the acts he engages in and who he is being in navigating the world in every moment. Know what he is doing with his one wild and precious life; for in spending time in his pursuits, he is also spending life.
Who was Michael Jackson? What of his true character? What was the measure of this man? Meet the real Michael Jackson in his work, his films, his writings, his philanthropy, his artwork that depicted whom he admired and to what he aspired, his dreams, his accomplishments, his aspirations; know him in his body of work.
In Michael’s writing is where we meet intimately, Michael the idealist, the dreamer, someone capable of deep reflection and deep commitment. We discover someone who is connected with the world and with his relationship to the world on a very profound level. We learn about someone who is introspective and sensitive and respectful, who finds the Divine lurking everywhere. We can know his character and meet the real Michael in the messages, magic and mystery that he was hiding—in plain sight.
Here are a couple of few clues from Michael’s book Dancing the Dream:
“Enough for Today”
Dance rehearsals can go on past midnight, but this time I stopped at ten. “I hope you don’t mind,” I said, looking up into space, “but that’s enough for today.”
A voice from the control room spoke, “You Okay?”
“A little tired, I guess,” I said.
I slipped on a windbreaker and headed down the hall. Running footsteps came up behind me. I was pretty sure who they belonged to. “I know you too well,” she said, catching up with me.” “What’s really wrong?”
I hesitated. “Well, I don’t know how this sounds, but I saw a picture today in the papers. A dolphin had drowned in a fishing net. From the way its body was tangled in the lines, you could read so much agony. Its eyes were vacant, yes there was still that smile, the one dolphins never lose, even when they die…” My voice trailed off.
She put her hand lightly in mine. “I know. I know.”
“No, you don’t know all of it yet. It’s not just that I felt sad, or had to face the fact that an innocent being had died. Dolphins love to dance—of all the creatures in the sea, that’s their mark. Asking nothing from us, they cavort in the waves while we marvel. They race ahead of ships, not to get there first but to tell us, ‘It’s all meant to be play. Keep to your course, but dance while you do it.’
“So there I was, in the middle of rehearsal, and I thought. ‘They’re killing a dance.’ And then it seemed only right to stop. I can’t keep the dance from being killed, but at least I can pause in memory, as one dancer to another. Does that make any sense?”
Her eyes were tender. “Sure in its way. Probably we’ll wait years before everyone agrees on how to solve this thing. So many interests are involved. But it’s too frustrating waiting for improvements tomorrow. Your heart wanted to have its say now.”
“Yes,” I said, pushing the door open for her. “I just had this feeling, and that’s enough for today.” *
And another glimpse into the measure of the man:
“But the Heart Said No”
“They saw the poor living in cardboard shacks, so they knocked the shacks down and built projects. Huge blocks of cement and glass towered over asphalt parking lots. Somehow it wasn’t much like home. Even home in a shack. “What do you expect?” they asked impatiently. “You’re too poor to live like us until you can do better for yourselves, you should be grateful, shouldn’t you?”
The head said yes, but the heart said no.
“They needed more electricity in the city, so they found a mountain stream to dam. As the waters rose, dead rabbits and deer floated by: baby birds too young to fly drowned in the nest while mother birds cried helplessly. ”It’s not a pretty sight,“ they said, “but now a million people can run their air conditioners all summer. That’s more important than one mountain stream, isn’t it?”
The head said yes, but the heart said no.
“They saw oppression and terrorism in a far-off land, so they made war against it. Bombs reduced the country to rubble. Its population cowered in fear, and every day more villagers were buried in rough wooden coffins. “You have to be prepared to make sacrifices,” they said. “If some innocent bystanders get hurt, isn’t that just the price one must pay for peace?”
The head said yes, but the heart said no.
“The years rolled by and they got old. Sitting in their comfortable houses, they took stock. “We’ve had a good life,” they said, “and we did the right thing.” Their children looked down and asked why poverty, pollution and war were still unsolved. “You’ll find out soon enough,” they replied. “Human beings are weak and selfish. Despite our best efforts, these problems will never really end.”
The head said yes, but the children looked into their hearts and whispered, “No!” *
*Excerpts from Dancing the Dream © 1992 by Michael Jackson
The combination of drugs administered over the course of the night absolutely dictated that Michael be closely observed and monitored for any symptoms of toxicity. Drugs interact with other drugs potentiating the effects making each one stronger than if given alone. Michael should have been on monitors. And giving a potent drug like Diprovan after all those sedatives amounts to playing Russian Roulette with your patient’s life. And it’s particularly irresponsible when the patient was someone who had rehearsed for 8 hours that day and was most assuredly dehydrated. His electrolytes had to be out of normal range. Electrolytes are minerals in the blood. Potassium, which is the most significant, can stop the heart at abnormal blood levels. Murray should have factored in all those variables and he should have been right there monitoring breathing. This is an act of total negligence!
Dr. Murray was a cardiologist not an anesthesiologist. He was not qualified to administer the medication which is used for anesthetizing patients for surgery. In fact Dr. Murray apparently was not educated enough about Diprovan to even have it in his possession. How many times did he administer this anesthetic to Michael? Nightly? That is like putting someone “under” for surgery every night. The effects of anesthesia last a long time and can be cumulative. The reports indicate he bolused Michael which means he gave a dose all at once in a syringe instead of in a slow drip. Placing Michael in a coma nightly would have required placing a catheter in and the collection of urine because you can't get up and urinate when you're comatose. Imagine the indignity and vulnerability Michael endured just to get some sleep!
Do I think Michael may have begged for medication? Yes, I suppose he did. Was he in anguish because he couldn’t sleep? Of course. Michael's insommnia became serious during the 2005 trail and he always had trouble coming down after concerts while on tour. He had great pressures and responsibilities that fell to him with the upcoming comback concerts in London. The stakes were high. Maybe too high.
I also hold accountable the previous physician or physicians who ever gave him Propofol for sleep at any time in the past! What kind of mind even entertains the idea of using anesthesia for an insomniac? That is where the problem began—in the mind that first came up with the idea. Dr. Murray was doing what had already been done before by others. Was he trained? No. Should he have known better? Yes. Is he culpable? Oh, yes. But others are just as guilty. Michael Jackson should have been evaluated in a clinical setting and treated for a sleep disorder and for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that a highly sensitive person who truly cared for children evidenced by his visiting children, hospitals and orphanages around the world, and donating half his total salary to children’s charities would be devastated and traumatized by a haunting past that resulting in losing his beloved home and life as he knew it. There would be no solace and no sleep anywhere to mitigate that kind of past trauma.
Imagine with me this scenario happening to you:
You felt you had to leave the country of your birth because you no longer could believe in it. You could no longer trust or believe in its system of justice. You lost the home that you loved. It became a place of invasion, darkness and ridicule. It was the one place on earth where you could go and find some peace. It was where sleep was once sweet. It was the place you built in order to give people joy. It was the place where you hosted children from the ghetto, children who were sick or dying, children who would otherwise never have magic in their lives.
Imagine that you were accused of unthinkable acts upon children. Imagine having that information reported worldwide and protesting those horrid accusations claiming your innocence from the beginning. Imagine knowing that celebrity has its privileges and one of those is to become a target. And often the target of a shakedown for money. The celebrity you worked so hard for, that you gave up your childhood for and anything resembling freedom to come and go in the world for, invites the sleazy who would exploit you for greed or dark entertainment. You have learned that the human mind is only too willing to bastardize someone they feel has become too elevated in their success. Imagine knowing that the biggest tabloid, The Enquirer, admits to their part in trying to destroy your life saying “We bring these people down; that is what we do.”
Imagine that in 1993 when the first accusations were made, three grand juries convened by the district attorney refused to indict you because evidence didn’t support charges. The boy who accused you refuses to testify against you and it is his father, the real accuser, files charges because you refused to bankroll his career change from dentist to screen writer. He says for that he will destroy you and that statement is documented on tape. You discover that since the D.A. didn’t have enough to file charges, he has traveled round the world looking for another victim to corroborate the accusation and couldn’t find even one. Not one in the whole world! Even though criminal charges are never filed, people still think you guilty because your insurance company, overruling your protest and veto, paid an out of court settlement because it would be less expensive than a full trial. Your insurance company paid for your “abandonment” of the child, not for violating him. But those important facts never make their way into the news.
You wonder why people are so willing to believe the worst of you. You wonder why nobody is speaking about your charitable works with and for children. You wonder: what you could possibly have done to deserve all this? All you ever wanted to do was make music.
Then imagine that the same D.A. collaborating with the same attorney and the same psychiatrist, files the same kind of charges again in 2003. Imagine one day while you are somewhere else in the world, 70 deputies descend on your sanctuary going into every private corner of your life, rifling through your things, photographing your private spaces. The photos expose your private space and private life to all the world. Nothing is sacred. Imagine watching a press conference televised internationally where this same gleeful district attorney announces to the world that he will file charges for those same unspeakable acts. Imagine that those accusations come from a family whose child dying of cancer, asked to meet you as his dying wish. This is the same child who became your personal charitable project: while you were touring the world, you called this child every night to tell him you simply would not allow his dying! You demanded that he hang on long enough to come to Neverland to visit and spend time with you—his idol. You hosted his whole family many times at your estate telling them to put whatever they need on your tab. Then you took them all around the world on multiple tours with you. You did all this to keep that child alive, to give him hope and reason to live. The love you showered on that child had nothing deviant about it. You wanted to keep him alive; you wanted him to heal. Imagine having to live with this nightmare being the way they repay you. Imagine your heartbreak.
So now this time around you resolve you will fight in court to prove your innocence, to redeem yourself in the eyes of the world. You hope to reclaim your reputation so carelessly sullied by those whose agenda was exploitation and extortion of celebrity.
Imagine that as your trial progresses and it begins to look like, once again, there is no substance to the charges. The media ignores those facts in favor of continuing the frenzied madness because it’s selling copy. How do you day after day listen to the vile accusations of being a deviant and harming an innocent child? When you have saved children all over the world by paying for their necessary surgeries, artificial limbs, transplants, funerals, and the building of new hospitals and orphanages? How?
Imagine trying to hang on to your sanity day after day and trying to find reason to hope for your salvation when there is none. Imagine knowing that the audience watching the trial is not seeing the truth because it is not being reported. Imagine wondering what world journalists who are supposed to be professionals are living in—fantasy or reality? Then imagine wondering which world the jury inhabits. Is it the same one? Will they see the truth? Will they see the real you? Will they see this case for what it was? Or will they be drunk on the Kool-Aid too?
And even if you are found innocent, what will happen to the pieces that were your life? You can never go back home because it has become a place that will forever be tainted by the intrusion that took place there. This magical place that brought joy to so many has been so sullied that it would be a constant reminder of your darkest memory of humanity. It will never again feel like a sanctuary. You can’t go back. And what of your country? Its systems? Its media? Its people? In fact, can you still believe in anything ever again? Lots of your songs were about changing the world and making it a better place. Do you still think it’s redeemable? Still worth it? That people are still worth it? Will you ever sing that anthem again? Maybe you can’t ever go home—to a house, a country or in your heart.
In the trial Michael was found innocent. Fourteen times he was found innocent. Apparently the jury saw no evidence and no case. After a grueling five months of living in a world that he never knew, never saw coming, never would have believed existed, he was found innocent. And afterwards, it was revealed that the tabloid offered the jurors lots of money to say they weren’t sure their verdict was correct. Imagine the monumental betrayal.
What one of us could withstand that kind of assault on our lives? People have trouble with an IRS audit; how would anyone survive that kind sustained darkness coming wave after wave? Who among us could stand up and face a daily barrage of it? How many could continue on? Or even show up for life? And in the aftermath could you stay? Would you? Would you go back? Ever?
After everything that Michael Jackson went through do you suppose sleep might have been a problem? People with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have trouble sleeping. During the trial there would have been an accompanying fear of imprisonment. Sleeping well at night would be impossible; in fact sleeping at all would be rare. And the landscape of one’s life would be in shreds. Imagine the exhaustion. The trial was a life and death experience; had Michael gone to prison, he would not have survived. Do you suppose he knew that? Do you think he thought about it?
Do you suppose he suffered trauma? Had nightmares? Endured sleeplessness? Despair? Do you think the wound may have been so severe and so deep that it cut through flesh and bone and right down to the soul? Do you think the ordeal might have slashed his psyche, his mind, his reputation, his future, his faith in humanity and human nature? Maybe his very soul? When something quakes the soul like that, PTSD is a given. I suspect Michael had acute untreated PTSD. There are meds that ameliorate the anxiety of PTSD. They are cardiac meds and a cardiologist certainly should know about them. There are treatments for PTSD and they don’t involve life-threatening and dangerous medical practices! They don’t involve anesthetizing someone into coma night after night!
Of course Michael craved relief from his wounds and woundedness; wouldn’t you? Of course Michael was feeling tentative about his comeback. Would the world even want him back? Could he go back home again? And if medicine could take away some of that anxiety and pain, most of us would say “bring it on.” As tolerance is built to medication, more medication is needed to get the same level of relief. This is how addiction is born. No one sets out to become an addict. People do not think one day “I think my next goal in life will be to become addicted to prescription drugs.” Addiction occurs when the soul is wounded and the pain is beyond endurance.
Can the soul survive assault after assault? Assault to your appearance? Assault to your skin color? Assault to your personal life? Assault from tabloid stories made up to sell papers? Assault from people constantly stalking you? Assault from a media that slams you and never prints any redeeming information? Assault from a justice system that seems anything but just? Assaults from people wanting to make a buck off of their acquaintance with you? Assault from “friends” and employees who are offered obscene amounts of money to lie about you and expose your most private moments? And all this while never being able to venture out and live any kind of normal life.
Yes, I am angry about all of it: the way Michael was treated during the arrest, the trial, and watching as greed by a human or two or few, can negate a lifetime of humanitarian work. I’m angry that Michael’s life’s work was sullied, that the media fed like giant leaches on a celebrated genius who only wanted to make music and make his audiences happy. I am angry with the blood sucking sycophants who surrounded him including his doctors. I am angry with the perhaps dozens of doctors who medicated Michael’s body with drugs instead of getting him the help his soul needed. And don’t even start with me about someone who should have been a soul doctor ie. "spiritual advisor" who reveals intimate in-session conversations in a book. That is like a priest releasing transcripts of what you said in the confessional.
I would be angry about this scenario happening to anyone. I would be ashamed of us no matter who this happened to. I would be mortified that someone had to endure this kind of unkindness. I would be incensed by the mean freaks who dared to crawl out from under the rocks of their lackluster lives to tarnish someone who truly was a humanitarian. I would be livid that we all allowed this to happen, that we could allow it again. I am angry that what killed Lady Diana also killed Michael—the bizarre incessant insistence on a voyeur’s intrusion into someone else’s life because we can find no value in our own. I am angry and I am ashamed beyond redemption.
Is it OK to be angry? Of course it’s OK. Anger is part of the process of grief and loss. This anger is justifiable. It’s warranted. It may even be necessary in order to change the way we find ourselves being and who we are becoming for the future. It may help us abandon our feelings of victimization and step into a greater, more mature and and responsible self-reflective Self. Can you be a spiritual person and be angry? Oh, yes. Sri Ravi Shankar, treasured spiritual leader from India once said in Satsang: “Being spiritual does not mean being sweetie sweetie all the time.” This advice from the most serene man I’ve ever met. Being serene in the face of abomination is an abomination.
Be angry. Yell. Rend your garments. Scream across the lake. Write letters with reasonable arguments to those who should get them. Make sure they sound intelligent and reasonable so they are not dismissed. Petition for changes to the law. Look in the mirror of your own life and see where you are being that which you accuse others of. Write tomes where you rant and rail at the system or the injustices, then burn them a ritual fire. Burn someone in effigy in the same flames. Beat your mattress or pillow. Work out at the gym. That is all healthy. What do you do with your anger? Channel it into something constructive! Use that energy to forge the change you would like to see in the world.
But don’t give anger unlimited safe haven. Do not harbor it. Express it and get it out in a way that does not harm others. Do not internalize it in a way that harms self. Determine that you will work it out rather than leave the toxin inside you to seep into your cells, pshyche and soul. Do not take it out on those around you. Do not contribute to runaway conspiracy theories or gossip. Do not waste your energy fighting the ignorant. Go to where change can be made. Look into the facts. Do not destroy; teach. Do not dismiss; engage. Do not flail about; focus. Put your anger into sacred activism- that means doing something that serves humanity and advances its enlightenment. Do it in Michael's name. Do it in his memory. Yes, please be angry. Be very angry. Then be the change.
The antagonist is a seasoned and hardened warrior from the Military Industrial Complex who sees force as the only means to accomplish the ends. Ever the Machiavellian mercenary, even after the mission is lost, he continues the hunt-to-kill of the protagonist because being a product of indoctrinated violence, he knows nothing else.
The inhabitants of this new and unusual world have discovered a way to bond with the creatures of the planet in cooperative endeavors beneficial to both. The world and its many species are bioluminescent, glowing with their own inner light in the darkness. Initially the part human visitor does not understand that there is a deeper live connection that underlies and weaves its branches like the brain’s dendrite neurons throughout all life on the planet. He sees himself as separate from the world’s biology—a grave mistake. Because he does not know or understand there is another way to navigate the interconnected web of life and because he feels no kinship or link with them, he becomes their victim. His survival then, is dependent on making war with them and killing them.
This human Avatar is eventually educated and converted to someone in reverence to the inhabitants, the biology, telepathy and the bioluminescent and interconnected web of life. He later learns that if he uses an available bio link that allows for a sympathetic and telepathic connection, he is able to “feel” into the body and fields of the life and creatures around him.
This archetypal hero’s journey is not a new theme. The Hindu deity Vishnu is a blue Planetary Avatar who rides on the back of a giant bird. He is one of the triumvirate of deities that include also Brahma and Shiva. Brahma is the Hindu creator god, Shiva is the destroyer and Vishnu is the preserver. It’s another of the holy triunes. His vehicle for flight is Garuda the sun bird, enemy of serpents. Vishnu is said to come to Earth as an Avatar when great evil threatens to destroy the world. He can appear also as Rama and as Krishna. The next incarnation of Vishnu at the Kali-Yuga, thought to be around the year 2012, will be Kalki, the white horse.
At one point during the movie, the aggressive civilization (Earth) that wants the “Unobtanium” matter that is rare and expensive decides the diplomacy with the Indigenous is not working and resolves to take it from them by force. The audience then revisits a dark time in American history—genocide of the Native American tribes for their resource—land. Chief Seattle tried to warn of the consequences of this attitude of entitlement at the turn of the century and ignoring that message has landed us where we are today at global climate crises.
The audience is then engulfed in war-making and destruction while a giant land-mover clear cuts a path to the Unobtanium while locking in coordinates for the tree of souls which is the spiritual epicenter of the telepathic connection center of the Indigenous people’s existence. The military aggressor using giant and multiple typically over-the-top ordinance, brings down the foundation of the alien culture virtually destroying any opposition to their takeover and military-style “acquisition” of scarce resources.
The good news is that this movie has grossed more than any other movie in history. That means it is popular and the theme is popular. The contemporary message is encoded in modern mythology and it is timely; the audience is ready to get it. The bad news is that a bioluminescent little Moonwalker was spreading this message fifteen years ago while many couldn’t hear it or ridiculed the messenger.
Does any of this theme sound familiar? Avatar delivered the message in superstar fashion. Michael would have been delighted; he would have been proud. It is the kind of movie he himself would have made because he planned to make filmmaking his next creative genre. I know Michael would have loved the movie; would have squealed with excitement. In fact, I swear I felt him in the seat next to me.
There is value in mystery. Mystery is an attractor, it pulls you in. Mystery creates an inner tension. From the beginning of time humans have wanted to explain mysteries: Legends, folklore, myths, stories, fables, allegories, metaphors, theologies, anthropology, magic, ritual, archetypes, and more are all ways of attempting to explain mystery. Why do we have the need for explanation? Because mystery makes us uncomfortable. It is hard to sit with “why?" It is also hard to make space for, embrace and hold simultaneously—opposites or contradictions.
Explanations have given comfort in their time but often appear irrational or outrageous when viewed from the future. Displeased gods punished humans for offending them? Mountains are sleeping giants? Stars are mythological creatures? The moon is made of cheese?
To know that we don’t know makes us uneasy yet it is a completely open learning space. If we are so sure of our explanations, we leave no room for amendments. The Divine is mysterious. Life is mystery. The cosmos and creation are mystifying. Yet, we say we are sure of our beliefs, our understandings. For example: if we are so sure of our God, whom we defend even with killing, terrorism and war, then we can never investigate or assimilate what another may have learned about the Divine mysteries.
Blind devotion or unquestioned allegiance to fact is employed because it is easy; it requires no effort, it is the lazy way to knowledge. That kind of knowledge is less about what and more about who. It invites you to tell me an answer I can feel comfortable with; gives you permission to explain my misery and give me hope of finding my way out so that I will adopt that belief and follow you. Remember Jonestown? Remember the Kool-Aid? Want to drink some? We’re talking danger, baby. Shake me out of my complacency and watch the fireworks begin.
Mystery is not deviance yet has been often treated as such through time. Any who do not share the predominant cultural world view are regarded with suspicion. To challenge the existing paradigm is to risk castration of your power in some form—perhaps actual emasculation, shunning, banishment, ridicule, attack, demoralization, disregard, and even death.
Transfer those labels of "odd," "strange," "uncanny," "unorthodox" to a person and you create a “foreigner,” “minority,” or a “deviant” who if untouchable by way of defying explanation becomes “different” or “bizarre” and you set up an unbearable tension that necessarily leads to incoherency. Incoherency is not tolerated because things must, after all, be accounted for! All must be comprehensible! It must somehow fit into the already known world. If it doesn’t fit somehow, it disturbs the validity of a society’s entire fabric of knowledge. Do that and you risk the wrath and annihilation by a society that wants you to cease! Present or represent some kind of un-encountered reality or be an anomaly, and you upset the entrenched view of normal! Disturb the sleeping giant at your own peril! Disturb him and watch 'Neverland' crumble. Anthropologists have called it “metaphysical anxiety” and “anomic terror.”
People who would dare to challenge or intend to disturb the status quo are provocative and evocative and are regarded through the lens of metaphysical anxiety or terror. They awaken the sleeping giant who thrashes about flailing to fend off existential examination. Such people cast doubt upon the reality that inhabits a society. Labels and judgments begin to explain and alleviate this uneasiness: “primitive;” “disturbed;” “different;” “outrageous;” “deviant;” and if I can’t find one, I’ll invent something, make it up. In other words: “Get thee from me.” It’s easier to believe you are a deviant than it is to believe I am flawed or incomplete or that the view I am so comfortable with may be less than ideal or god-help-me—wrong!
Only the most courageous among us walk this path. Without them, Polio, Malaria, Black Plague would still exist; the pyramids would still be buried and Tutankhamun still unknown; germs and unpasteurized milk would still make people sick; DNA would be unknown and criminals would walk free; medicines would be undiscovered; Disneyland would not exist; racial inequality would go unexamined; the Berlin Wall would still be standing; Russia would still be the communist Soviet Union; the ‘Force’ of Star Wars would still be secret; the moon would not have a footprint; and yes, even Earth would not exist.
And most frightening of all, the Internet would not exist and that would mean: the world would not be profoundly connected; genocide could still be hidden; communication would be limited; important voices could not be heard; much of the world would be inaccessible; the potential for critical mass would not be imminent. To kill mystery is a grave error: it is to exhume the unthinkable.
Question and answer period:
Q. Did Michael Jackson use mystery effectively?
A. Oh, yes.
Q. Did it gain him attention?
Q. Did he do it deliberately?
Q. Did he challenge the paradigm?
Q. Did he know what he was doing?
Q. And how well did it go over?
A. It worked.
Q. So the world heard his message?
A. Millions did.
Q. And the rest?
A. They killed the messenger.
Photo credit: Flickr "Magic Photography" (c) 2009