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Installment 110

September 11 through October 13, 2017

Blessed One,

Today is the 16th Anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. I remember that day so clearly, watching the horrifying news coverage and wondering what in the world was going on. The pictures of those buildings collapsing are indelibly etched in my brain and I continue to pray for all those families who were affected, both in the buildings and the rescue workers trying to help them.

The fact that human beings could be so cruel as to perpetrate such brutality against their fellow human beings still horrifies me, but it seems that the inhumanity towards innocent people continues and is escalating if the daily stories in the newspapers are to be believed. I am so often tempted to just throw my hands up in the air and give up.

Yes, I was there and I was supposed to be in one of those building when the airplanes hit, but I overslept. It was the day after my final concert taping for the 30th Anniversary celebration and there were a lot of you, my children, who had traveled from all over the world to attend who were stranded in New York.

I was supposed to be there for both tapings. I so wanted to be there, and I did have friends in both of those audiences; I wanted so badly to be with them, but circumstances prevented my attendance despite my heartfelt desire.

Another blessing hidden in what you perceived at the time as a curse. Believe me; you would not have wanted to be in New York at that time. It was absolutely impossible to avoid the human tragedy that was taking place. For anyone with even the smallest kernel of empathy, it was heartbreaking and excruciatingly painful. However, it was also kinda bittersweet in a way to be a witness to the heroic actions of so many firefighters and rescue workers. So many New Yorkers rose to the occasion. Humanity is capable of such inhumanity … and humanity … and this event showed both the highest and lowest tendencies of which the human heart is capable!

I was able to leave the city, but I couldn’t escape the heartbreak and pain. Many of you weren’t as fortunate. I tried to make sure that you were all safe by sending my security people to assure that your hotels would extend your stays and make sure you had enough money to eat until the airports were up and running again.

Yes, I remember reading about that, Beloved. God bless you for your concern for those who couldn’t get out of the city before the airports were shut down. You also tried to gather many of the most popular artists in the music industry at the time in a repeat of your We Are the World effort to raise funds for the families affected by the tragedy with your song What More Can I Give and a benefit concert, despite the facts that Sony tried to sabotage your efforts and that the emotional climate of the collective had changed so drastically during the ten years separating the recording of We are the World and Earth Song.

Joseph Vogel notes the change from empathy to cynicism in several of his publications. In Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson, Mr. Vogel comments:

“…Jackson’s image and music seemed too theatrical and slick. “Black or White” and “Heal the World” simply didn’t resonate with the cynicism and solipsism of Generation X. Dance pop and humanitarian anthems were scoffed at by the flannel-wearing grungers and pant-sagging gangstas reacting against the perceived artificiality, flash, and optimism of the eighties.”

And in his very recent release, Earth Song: Michael Jackson and the Art of Compassion, which encapsulates his former Earth Song: Michael Jackson’s Magnum Opus with new interviews and additional information about the recording sessions and filming of the song, along with richly annotated, footnoted, and referenced information regarding your often overlooked compassionate outreach, Mr. Vogel states:

“Critics were quick to point out these shortcomings, often deriding Jackson as “self-indulgent” and “naïve” for trying. Songs like “We Are the World” and “Man in the Mirror” were dismissed as simplistic, utopian sentimentality.”

And Mr. Vogel places this change in the collective emotional climate within the context of the political and cultural attitudes (driven by the reality-show media force-feeding the public sensationalism and fear and pessimism) at the time Earth Song was finalized and released:

“The default sensibility for mid-90s pop culture was alternately cynical, ironic, or nihilistic. It no longer seemed plausible in this context for popular art to speak to serious issues.”

Nevertheless, you were always so involved in the numerous tragedies and natural disasters during your physical presence with us. No one is really doing that now; at least I am not aware of such efforts on the part of the music industry or any industry, for that matter.

That being said, however, I have noted that your beautiful children, Prince Michael and Paris Michael, have become very involved in relief and ecological issues and have been outspoken on behalf of the homeless; Paris has even been designated as ambassador for Elizabeth Taylor’s AIDS Foundation, God bless her.

This year, it appears that we are experiencing Armageddon in the last few weeks here on Planet Earth. In recent days, there are fires raging out of control in the Northwest and California; earthquakes in Mexico; flooding in the Gulf Coast due to Hurricane Harvey; Irma is making landfall in the Southeast and Florida as we speak, soon to be followed by Maria; flooding in Nepal, Sri Lanka, and India; and North Korea has exploded hydrogen bombs over Japan while the North Korean leader and American President have a sparring match about whose nuclear warheads are poised and how far away is not far enough.

I pray they both realize that no one wins those games. You can’t run away from nuclear holocaust and neither can the planet.

I am afraid that your warnings to us in 2009 have been little heeded as the world seems to be headed for the disaster you addressed so poignantly and passionately in Earth Song.

I have faith in us as a people.
I know we can make a difference.

I said those words on stage during the Brits Awards in 1996. I still believe them and I always will.

I understand wanting to throw up your hands and despair; I was often tempted to do the same thing. However, humanity is worth saving and so is the planet. We are all her children; she is our mother; and we are all cells in her body.

Look at it this way. Think of yourself as a tiny cell somewhere in your body … let’s say in the heart muscle. You are surrounded by trillions of other cells that make up a human body … liver cells, lung cells, brain cells, skin cells, blood cells … all contributing to the overall health and vitality of the body. A heart cell has a different function than a skin cell; it may even look different, be a different color or age; it may contain more or less energy, burn more or less fuel, but none of that matters. All the cells work together cooperatively to utilize energy, eliminate waste products, and maintain health for the entire organism. It’s a symphony of organization, a miracle of efficient, self-directed management; there is an innate intelligence to it.

Sometimes, certain cells require more energy and help from the other cells like when you catch a cold, for example. None of the cells sit back and say, “What’s in it for me?” … or … “As long as I am not harmed, it’s not my problem.” All the other cells in your body contribute what they can to restore your body to perfect health. It doesn’t happen overnight, but eventually whatever virus or injury has attacked a part of the body is eliminated through the cooperation of all the other cells. Even something as small as a splinter is eventually ejected through the teamwork of all the cells. They all work together for the benefit of the entire organism.

As we are all aware, there are times when a cell in a body proliferates out of control and becomes a threat to the entire organism by attacking the other cells, which have rushed to the area affected like the firefighters and rescue workers rushed to help the people stranded in those buildings … for example a person suffering from cancer. All the other cells band together to eliminate the threat to the organism. None of them sits back and says, “I’m not responsible for the organism’s health; I’m gonna get mine while I can.” That would defeat the innate intelligence of each of the cells and would be an indicator of insanity. But that is the attitude of much of the world when a natural disaster strikes or a nation attacks another nation.

Sometimes the out of control cells win out and the physical organism cannot fight off the threat. In such instances, the entire organism perishes, including the out of control cells.

Think of humanity in the same way. We are all cells in the body of our Mother Earth. There are times when one cell experiences a catastrophic event and like the cells in a body we are all required to work together to eliminate the potential threat to the overall organism. We can’t afford the luxury of apathy any longer.

There are also times when one cell in the body of Mother Earth attacks another cell in the body of Mother Earth. At such times, we are all required to do what we can to heal for the benefit of all of us.

We’re takin’ over
We have the truth
This is the mission
To see it through
Don’t point your finger
Not dangerous
This is our planet
You’re one of us
We’re sending out
A major love
And this is our
Message to you
The planets are lining up
They’re bringing brighter days
They’re all in line
Waiting for you
Can’t you see?
You’re just
ANOTHER PART OF ME!

I was blessed to be able to sing about events that require us all to gather together and help, to bring awareness to people. And I was successful in bringing that awareness or many of you wouldn’t be here now having this conversation.

There were others who were blessed to be on the ground rescue workers and firefighters. Still others were blessed to provide medical aid, or to feed those who were trying to help. Others were blessed to clear away the rubble and ash or send their love and concern in a spiritual way.

If we all gather together and give what we can give, all of us benefit because we are all ONE big family of cells in the body of Mother Earth. And Mother Earth is one cell in the body of the larger universe. This is the model of creation, from the smallest atom to the largest universe.

We all have gifts to offer each other in trying times. Some of us entertain, some provide healing, some rebuild infrastructure that has been damaged, some repair power lines and generators, some offer spiritual assistance through prayer or meditation. It doesn’t matter what our gifts are; none are more important than the others; all are required in difficult times.

How many people will have to die
Before we will take a stand
How many children will have to cry
Before we will lend a hand
If sending your love is all you can give
To help one live 

How many times can we turn our heads
And pretend we cannot see
Healing the wounds of our broken Earth
We’re one global family
If sending your prayers is something you feel
Helping one heal 

What have I got that I can give
What have I got that I can give
To love and to teach you
To hold and to need you
What more can I give? 

Brother to brother lay down our fears
And reach out and make a pact
Showing the love that is in our hearts
Let us bring salvation back
Just sending your love has the power to heal
So let’s all give

Our creator gave us all the gift of life on this beautiful planet, created us to be His hands, His feet, Her heart. Just as I am wearing all of you, She is wearing all of us … both in the body and out … and experiencing life through us. When we create healing in whatever way we can, She rejoices.

You are all my messengers to heal the world. That has never changed. One way we are doing this is through our Change the World Initiative, in joining in global prayer vigils and visualizing a healed and recovering planet.

Sometimes, it feels like I am not doing much to help, especially when I see film clips of people who have lost everything they have in a devastating fire or flood or hear someone say, “What good does praying do?”

Yes, I understand. The world scoffs at us believers in wholeness, but you are doing what you can do, which is more than most are doing. Your daily meditation topics and monthly prayer vigils are an important piece that cannot be overlooked, as we saw in the lead up to the trial of Conrad Murray. These things are an important and integral part of healing the planet because true healing takes place spiritually in the heart and mind first before it is manifested in the physical world. It takes a lot of us re-imagining our reality to make it happen.

When you sit for a few minutes and achieve a peaceful, non-judgmental state of consciousness, you extend that state to the entire world because we are all ONE.

You cannot give what you do not have. You cannot create peace in your world if you do not have it within your own heart and mind first. You create that consciousness within yourself first and foremost. By doing this you anchor that consciousness in the field of the collective consciousness where the illusion of separation does not exist and there is no time or space or death. It is from that collective consciousness that healing and recovery are manifested into the physical reality.

All we have to do is get enough of us on the same page and extend our compassion and that state of consciousness to all of our brothers and sisters on Planet Earth. It only takes a little over 100,000 of us to create the critical mass required … less than 1% of the total population can turn the tide.

So don’t give up! Redouble your efforts! And, most importantly, KNOW THAT YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE. You are! Do not doubt. KNOW!

It’s not about doing things, it’s about BEING loving, compassionate, and full of peace so that you can give that to the world during your daily and monthly meditations. Then, offer it to the world with all the love you can muster.

From that state of consciousness, you can best decide what you can do to help whether it’s donating to support a needy child or sending food and clothing to an area that is experiencing a challenge or volunteering at a hospital to help take care of those in need. Whatever it is, when you do it from a compassionate, peaceful, non-judgmental state of consciousness, your gift of doing is blessed by your state of being. You give with joy and there is no better feeling in the world.

Share with me the wonderful
Feeling you get when your soul
 is lifted up to become
PURE LOVE 

Thank you, my blessed one. Your thoughts are always so inspiring and encouraging. For the past few days, I have made the healing of Planet Earth the subject of my intentions in several ways.

First, I have been concentrating all of my prayers and meditations on healing the planet and her inhabitants, those who are experiencing catastrophic upheaval as a result of hurricanes, floods, fires, and earthquakes.

Second, I have carried an image around in my heart for the past five years of you holding Planet Earth in the palms of your hands and challenging all of us to heal her, but at the time the image first came to me five years ago, I did not have the experience and skill to manifest it in any justifiable way. During what I am calling my Earth Song Retreat, I have begun to try to draw this image and then paint it and I am attaching the results of my efforts to realize this image in the physical world to this dialog.

20170918_105048.jpg

Third, I have begun practicing Earth Song on my piano keyboard. I have graduated from the halting, hunt-and-peck method of working out the fingering to an almost smooth rendition of your beautiful song (at least for the first part.) The song changes keys towards the end, going from six flats to four flats and I am hesitant when that happens. I still make lots of errors, but I can recognize the song and I can hear your voice when I get it right.

I am also learning what you meant when you talked about music as a “tapestry.” A lone piano feels weak compared to the majesty and depth of color of your composition; its power is reduced without the strings and percussion. As Joe Vogel describes it in his new book, Earth Song: Michael Jackson and the Art of Compassion:

“The term “apocalypse” is typically understood to mean the destruction that will take place in the “end of days.” Yet in the original Greek it means a “lifting of the veil,” a revelation or prophecy that helps humanity to see what is hiding in plain sight.

“Earth Song,” according to this definition, is a musical apocalypse. It takes the listener from an imagined paradise of harmony and vitality to our present state of degradation and divisions. Its final question (“Do we give a damn?”) is about apathy. Why do we passively accept the way things are? Why can’t we see and stop the self-destruction? Why can’t we imagine and work toward something better?”

I think Mr. Vogel has so captured the spirit of Earth Song in that passage. However, that “musical apocalypse” is difficult to reproduce with just one piano; nonetheless, I have totally immersed myself in the turmoil occurring on a global scale with the intention of healing the planet and awakening her inhabitants (particularly our national leaders and heads of state) through my three-pronged focus during the past several days.

In addition, during my self-directed retreat, I received my copy of Joe Vogel’s Earth Song: Michael Jackson and the Art of Compassion, further reinforcing the theme of my personal retreat. And every night for the past two weeks, Earth Song has played during our quiet time before I fall asleep.

Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

Yes, I sure do.

[Long pause.]

I do apologize, my dear one.

Apologize? What for?

Well, I am afraid that our conversation has been interrupted for approximately the last three weeks. I usually try to minimize these kinds of interruptions, but this one could not be helped due to a major upheaval in my life that has required my fullest possible attention.

What’s up? Can I help?

You always help, Beloved. Just your voice in any of your numerous recordings calms my nerves and relieves any anguish I may be feeling.

It appears that due to some rather serious health concerns requiring a week-long hospitalization, my granddaughter has asked to come home and live with my husband and myself. She is now a beautiful 15-year-old suffering from teen angst and she arrived home on the 28th of September. We have been visiting doctors and therapists and getting her registered to continue 10th grade at our local high school since the 28th and she started school this morning.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how all this was going to work out, but so far everything has been fine. She is a sweet-natured child who has been having a tough time with the normal teenage girl problems, rampaging hormones, and not knowing how to deal with the overwhelming changes occurring in her body as well as the cruelty of her classmates in her former school.

The teen years are so difficult; I would not repeat those years for all the tea in China.

You don’t have to tell me about the teen years; I think I could write a book (in fact, I think I did.) They were horrible years for me … sad, confusing, and I cried every day …  and we have discussed that many, many times in these dialogs. Things change so rapidly, overnight sometimes, and it becomes hard to keep up, especially when you don’t understand what is going on and most teenagers don’t. They turn all that anger and uncertainty against themselves. In my case, my entire personality changed and it seemed like the changes in my body just got worse the more I worried about them.

Yes, they do and she has experienced quite a few changes just in the last year. For one thing, the kid is 5’6” tall all of a sudden. I mean, when the heck did that happen? She loves to look down on her grandmother and tell her how short she is.

[Michael laughs.] I told you before. There is no reason to apologize. When life gets in the way, we will just continue where we left off. And I know I told you before that she is your most important job; I can wait; the universe can wait!

Yes, you have and I knew you would understand. It appears that the devastation of Armageddon 2017 will also just pick up where we left off. There are new fires in northern California and near Los Angeles, another hurricane has made landfall in the Gulf Coast, Puerto Rico is in a state of dire emergency as a result of two major hurricanes within a two-week period, and our President has been slow in sending federal aid to help this American territory.

Leading scientists have warned us of rapid climate change and its results. In his latest book, Greg Braden talks about this very issue. He posits that this is a cyclical change in climate patterns that occurs every five thousand years or so and recommends “resilience,” or mankind’s ability to adapt to change, as a way to deal with the rapid changes that are occurring.

Mr. Braden says that what makes this particular cycle seem so threatening is:

“The extremes of life are forcing us to think differently about ourselves and reconsider how we sustain our jobs, careers, health, and relationships. In order to make sense of the seemingly senseless hardships affecting every facet of society, we’re being pushed to look beyond the wisdom handed down to us by our parents and theirs. This is where the message at the core of our most cherished spiritual traditions – our unity with the world and nature’s cycles – is now taking on new meaning, and new relevance, in our everyday lives.

He shows a diagram that describes the position we seem to be in currently:

“Earth changes its relationship to the Sun on a cyclic basis.

The Earth/Sun relationship changes the climate of our world.

Global climate change creates local weather extremes.

Extremes in weather impact the reliability of food crops.

We are changed as we must choose the way we treat one another during the times of extremes: We must choose cooperation or competition.”

In this simple five-point diagram it is clear that we are not separate from those experiencing extremes in weather patterns. We are all affected; all of our institutions from health care to food processing to education are affected. It is time to put away the concept that we are separate from each other or from our planet, as you so movingly pointed out in your performances of Earth Song twenty years ago.

Yes, we can no longer say these problems are “out there” in the world; they are all inside us and impact us all because we are all ONE. If we would all realize that all those “out there” problems are really “in here,” 

We could change this world tomorrow
It could be a better place

 

 

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June 26 through July 18, 2017

You’re wallowing, again!

Fought in a battle
Nobody won
Left ourselves a mountain
To be overcome
You can’t run away
The past is said and done
I need us to carry on

What part of the last two lines in those lyrics don’t you understand?

You’ve buried yourself in a past that can’t be undone no matter how hard you try for the last two weeks. You’ve looked at it from every possible angle and still can’t figure out what happened, how it happened, why it happened. All you know is that it DID happen and that, in your opinion, it shouldn’t have. As a result, you resist it, which causes stress and anxiety.

We have talked a lot about focus in these discussions, so you understand the principle at work. When you focus on the sadness, the heart break, the unanswered questions you put not only your attention on those things, but also all of your energy. When your focus continues for an extended period of time it becomes concentrated there. When you finally do look up, all you see is more reasons to be sad and confused and unfocused because that is what you have asked the universe to show you with your prolonged focus.

It would be much better to experience the sadness; don’t deny it or suppress it; acknowledge it but, then, turn to all the reasons you have to rejoice and be grateful.

I can’t help myself, Beloved. We all miss you here with us so much. June is hard on your children.

I do understand that, but I am here with you. I’ve told you that at least a thousand times just in these dialogs, alone. I will tell you that as often as I think you need to hear it. And that’s not even counting all the other ways we communicate. I have never gone anywhere. What’s more all of you know that I am here with you. In a thousand little ways, you know that I am here.

I am always whispering my love into your heart … always. When you walk into an antique shop and are browsing through the items for sale and you hear my voice on the radio playing in the shop, you stop and say, “Hi, baby …” And I AM THERE and WE ARE ONE in that moment of recognition because we are joined in love.

In that magical moment, there is no such thing as time or space … or death … because we occupy the dimension called love. There are no boundaries in that space … no time limits … no spatial distance … no restrictions. In that place, we are together and we are forever.

You and I were never separate
It’s just an illusion
Wrought by the magical
Lens of Perception 

Try to stay in that moment instead of buying into the illusion of the perception that the physical world wishes to impose on your freedom to choose. I know it’s difficult because our perceptions have been conditioned by the way we have been taught to perceive from infancy. The good news is: we can choose to perceive and experience our reality differently. But it takes monitoring our thoughts. That’s why I am here to remind you when you get caught up in the illusion.

When you look at the clock and the display reads 11:11, what does that mean to you?

I call it a “MAGICAL, MYSTICAL MICHAEL” moment (MMM for short) and I celebrate those days when I notice it twice.

Right! And in that moment, your love calls me to you … because it calls me to your mind and the love dimension where we are one.

When you go to sleep at night, how do you prepare for the night?

I turn on my MJ3 player on my headboard and listen to your voice for about half or three-quarters of an hour. I call it “snuggle time.”

[Michael laughs.]

If it has been a busy day and I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to your voice throughout whatever activity I have been immersed in, I particularly look forward to our “snuggle time.” It has become an extremely cherished part of my day.

Often, I receive assurance that you are here through the songs that play during that half hour.  My MJ3 player is permanently set to shuffle among the songs on my “favorites” playlist which contains almost one hundred songs. There are times that I feel you so strongly in the music that comes up on that playlist. Last night was one of those times.

Will you tell me about it?

Sure! Well, last night I was in mourning mode and felt that I just had to watch you for a little while. So, I popped in a DVD that I call “Totally AWESOME Performances” which contains random performances from your entire career. I watched three or four, including Elizabeth, I Love You, which I was blessed to see in person, and ending with Earth Song from the Royal Brunei concert.

Then, I decided to go to bed and turned on the MJ3 player. As I settled into my pillows and got comfortable, I heard:

Gotta find a way somehow
Nothing’s gonna stop me now
Gotta find a way somehow
Even though you’re gone
Even though you’re gone

I thought that was a perfect song to hear in the circumstances because it so closely matched my mood. Then, the set list started in earnest and went something like this:

This Is It
In Our Small Way
Speechless
She Was Loving Me
Fall Again
Love Never Felt So Good
Someone in the Dark

I always call the demo for Chicago She Was Loving Me because that was your name for it; I call the remix version “the duck version.” I wish they hadn’t changed the entire feeling and character of that song when they “contemporized” (which is just another way of saying “remixed”} it.

When She Was Loving Me begins, the bass is a wave of energy that just gives me a total body rush … it’s so deep and sensual … and when your voice begins, I just melt. Last night, uncharacteristically, that happened when all of these songs started. I felt you so close. I felt you were trying to tell me something.

And did you get any kind of message from the songs that played?

Well, when I look at it in retrospect, I think the overall message is: Enough with the grief, already! Let’s get busy!

[Michael laughs.] Well, I wouldn’t put it in exactly those terms, but it’s to the point and succinct.

Actually, when looking at just the titles and not even considering the emotion or lyrics of the songs listed, the message is pretty clear:

This Is It! This is the way it is. Resistance is ineffective. This is the hand we were dealt; let’s PLAY with it. We need to do what we can In Our Small Way. Love is magical and its effects leave us Speechless. You know that; you have experienced it.

She Was Loving Me always gives me gooseflesh. It gets my fullest possible attention the moment it starts. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, when that song starts … I stop. Sometimes, I put whatever I’m doing aside and dance to it and I always imagine that I’m dancing a slow dance with you, my heart.  It’s not so much the lyrics of the song; it’s the feel of it … the emotion that bass evokes in me. There’s an intimacy to it that I just can’t put into words. It’s a wave of undiluted, inescapable love to me – like being dipped in hot, molten love.

Fall Again is a plea to renew and deepen our relationship. It represents, for me, your invitation after the events of 2009 to rekindle our “spiritual connection.” We all need to realize that Love Never Felt So Good as it does now, when you are with us in an entirely different and more intimate way than ever.

And, finally, “When someone in the dark reaches out to you … It touches off a spark that comes shining through … It tells you “never be afraid.” I remember so well when I first heard that song and recognized you as my “someone in the dark.”

Promise me
We’ll always be
Walking the world … together
Hand-in-hand
Where dreams never end
My star secret friend …
And me.

And I have promised that … repeatedly in these Conversations … from the first to the most recent.

The thing is that I also felt so reassured … and loved … and cherished.

Good! There ya go! That was the point. Like I’ve told you so many times before: I LOVE YOU MORE!

Just put your trust in my heart
And meet me in paradise 

I’m here with all of you, if you will let me be here with all of you. It doesn’t matter where you are, “where there is love, I’ll be there.” You know that, don’t you?

Yes, Michael, I know that. And I can’t tell you how unbelievably grateful I am in that knowledge.

Good! You of all people should know that!

Grief and anger and excessive mourning over what is does no good … and it can block you from feeling my presence, as I’ve told you before. You get yourself all tied up in knots and it becomes a little harder for me to untangle those knots and get you back to the joy you feel in my love and your awareness of it.

Please don’t get me wrong. I know that your grief is founded in the love that we have all found here together; I appreciate all your love; I understand that as spiritual beings still very much committed to your human experience, you depend on your human, physical senses to relate to your reality. You want to see me; you want to hear me; you want to feel me with your physical senses.

However, we are creating a new reality, here … one that holds great promise for you and for your world. In order to create this new reality, which recognizes and promotes the spiritual aspects of the human experience that have been ignored for centuries, we have to exercise the spiritual senses you all were endowed with in considerable depth. Sometimes, you don’t understand that you have an entire array of spiritual senses that need to be developed and that is what we are doing here.

All of you are making so much progress in this and I am so proud of you all. However, occasionally, some of you think of all the sad things that happened in the past and you start to wallow.

I was not wallowing! I was commemorating!

Yeah! That’s what I said, “wallowing!’ [Michael giggles.]

Okay, so maybe I went a little overboard, huh?

[Jan gets a visual of Michael throwing a round life preserver from an ocean going vessel into a vast expanse of water.]

Okay, now, that is just plain cruel.

Well, if you can tease me, I can tease you!

The point is that things have changed. And that’s okay. I don’t deny that. It is inevitable. Change is what life is all about; it is the one constant you can count on, regardless of context. You are experiencing this as a sad thing, especially at this time of year, instead of celebrating all the wonderful things that have occurred in the past eight years for all of you.

Some of you have traveled to places you never thought you would see in a million years. Some of you have met people who will become lifelong friends. Others are developing talents you had always told yourselves were impossible for you. Some of you have done all three. All of this is a process of expansion for all of us.

You think of it as the anniversary of my death. These thoughts lead you to all the sad and uncomfortable things that occurred leading up to what you perceive as that ending. “The last song … the last rehearsal … the last whatever …” which inevitably leads to gloomy thoughts and wallowing in what could have been “if only …”

The thing is: there is no such thing as death. It is the anniversary of our expansion … the first step of our ASCENSION. And that is more than sufficient cause for celebration.

I have an idea that may help. Have you ever tried thinking of it as OUR BIRTHDAY? Because it is, you know. It is the anniversary of our union. We celebrate the passage from invisible to visible as our birthday. Why can’t we celebrate the passage from visible to invisible as another birthday? It makes a lot more sense because it was not just MY birthday. We share it. It was all of yours as well.

All of you who hear me in the music or in these Conversations … who see me in little signs like license plates and crescent moons and full moons and repeating numbers, it is your birthday, too. It was when WE were born to this new kind of relationship we have spent the last eight years exploring.

As I told you several times during my physical life, believe me, the best is yet to come if you can just stop resisting what was and begin to celebrate what IS. I am not done with you, yet. We have so much still to explore.

When you live in our ONENESS, it becomes more difficult to be overcome by grief because you realize in all those little signs that I am right here waiting for you to be ready to take the next step in realizing and experiencing our ONENESS more fully … more intimately … for all time.

Now that we have that out of the way, I want you to tell me about your recent trip.

Okay, Beloved. For some time now, I have hesitated to travel to Los Angeles and Neverland during what has become known in recent years as “Michael Week.” The trip, itself, is a grueling experience for me. In addition, there are so many people … and so many events scheduled … during that week that the energy of the week becomes frantic and overwhelming for me, which produces a certain amount of anxiety. I try to mask it, but I am not cut out for all that activity. It’s like trying to be something I know I am not.

Yeah, that is never a good situation. I always felt a little baffled by all the pandemonium that attended me trying to go anywhere. You know that I was generally uncomfortable in large crowds, too, unless I was on stage. I do understand how you feel.

While I do not judge the many celebrations that occur and I do not impose my affinity for more contemplative activity on anyone else, for me as an individual who craves quiet communion with you as the uppermost reason for the trip, the hectic schedule becomes a bit disorienting. And as I am getting older I find it a little harder to keep up. My feet swell; my knees ache; my back and ankles become increasingly uncomfortable as the week goes on and I find the discomfort distracting. I have never found large crowds comfortable and it seems that my discomfort is increasing as the years go by.

In addition, some of the people who gather in Los Angeles for the anniversary celebrations are more concentrated on the “Superstar” persona and less focused on the “spiritual master” that I think of when I think of you and that is one of the things I appreciate most about you.

Oh? What’s that?

You have the ability to meet each of us where we are in our individual journeys with you and lead us forward from there.

Of course! You are all on the same journey. You’ve just stopped at different rest stops along the way, as we’ve talked about before when we discussed the trial of Conrad Murray, if you’ll forgive the analogy. [Michael laughs.]

[Reference: Volume 1, Installment 25, Page 249]

This year, a couple of my friends invited a few of us to a “spiritual retreat” focusing on your ongoing spiritual impact on our lives in the wilds of the Canadian Rocky Mountains – Lake Louise, to be exact. From the moment I heard of this idea, I wanted to be a part of it. It sounded so up my alley. I felt a strong sense of being “called” (for lack of a better term.) I determined then and there that I was going to make my attendance at this spiritual retreat happen, somehow.

Good! You are beginning to listen to some of those promptings that are a little less tangible. They can’t really be defined. You “felt a sense of calling.” There is just a sense of knowing that this experience will benefit you in some way. And, as always, when you are benefitted, the world is benefitted because a healed you equals a healed world.

As so often happens when you are involved, my love, the obstacles to my participation … from obtaining a new passport to figuring out how to get there … seemed to just dissolve and blow away. I spent the months leading up to the trip making little gifts and imagining myself there and painting my imaginings. In other words, I was totally absorbed in visualizing the trip and the sense of renewal and revival it would afford.

And? How did it go?

Like clockwork, Beloved, as always. As you mentioned earlier, I had often heard that Lake Louise was one of the few places of natural beauty – nearly untouched and pristine – left on this beautiful planet, but I had never anticipated that I would get the opportunity to see it up close and personal. It was such a blessing in every sense of the term. The trip, itself, was the longest road trip I have ever been on (two full 14 hour days in the vehicle) but I was with three friends in a comfortable van.

Not only can I forgive your little analogy above … I so appreciate it after that road trip. There were times when I thought that I would give anything for a rest stop. As a matter of fact, as we were driving through Saskatchewan, the Canadian authorities must have been aware of this need because they had placed porta-potties in little off road sites for easy access specifically for such occasions. How thoughtful of them!

We had your music and your words to pass the time in total immersion with you and we were all looking forward to seeing the beautiful mountains when we arrived and sharing our “Michael” stories.

The scenery was beautiful beyond words, the mountains in the distance snow-capped between the nearer objects and the sky. We stayed with our friends in Calgary the first night and visited the tree they planted several years ago in memory of you in a beautiful park overlooking Calgary, Alberta, Canada to begin our pilgrimage.

As we drove into the mountains, they loomed larger and larger and gorgeous waterfalls could be seen cascading down the rocky cliffs as the snow melted. What a beautiful drive it was; we couldn’t take enough pictures of the area.

Our hotel was located at the foot of the mountains and was surrounded by snow-covered peaks for our entire five-day stay.  As a matter of fact, there was a blizzard that dropped about six inches of snow on May 24.

We spent the entire time immersing ourselves in your energy with daily sunrise meditations at Lake Louise, an energy vortex reputed to be dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, which seemed eminently appropriate … and eating fabulous food at the restaurants at the hotel and in the immediate vicinity.

There were planned group sessions during which we all shared our experiences with you both before and after the day the earth stood still and invited you to be among us. Our beautiful artist brought many of her paintings to decorate the living area of our meeting room, so you were very present in all our thoughts.

It was amazing to hear everyone’s stories and realize that, although individuals with different backgrounds, ages, and experiences, we all shared many common elements in our ongoing relationships with you, including experiencing the thought that we had all gone crazy and deciding that sanity (as the world defines it) is way over-rated, anyway.

I had been feeling that I wanted to renew our relationship and the energy of the physical area, the beautiful mountain scenery, and the companionship of this group of friends who share that relationship were perfect for the purpose. The only drawback was that I had underestimated the tendency for the mountains to fluctuate so drastically in temperature and had not packed enough winter clothing. As a result, I managed to catch a miserable cold on the second day there. By the third day it had settled in for the long haul, which curtailed my fullest possible participation for the rest of the week a little.

Nevertheless, I would not have traded the experience for all the tea in China. On the return trip, we took a different route and were able to stop at Rushmore (yet another place I never thought I would see) and eat lunch at the wonderful cafeteria below the monument.

On my return, and once I recovered from my illness, I created a little video with some of the photos of the mountains and a poem I wrote to preserve the memories of this remarkable journey.

One of the most remarkable discoveries I made was that I can manage to feel you with me anywhere; I don’t have to travel to Los Angeles. I felt you very strongly and talked to you throughout this recent pilgrimage.

Of course! I believe I told you that earlier in these Conversations. I am with you always and you are always in my heart.

So, now that your two weeks of focusing on all the sad things that happened in the past is over, let’s return to being grateful and immersing our thoughts and energies in our ONENESS.

We have lots to do.

Indeed, we do, Beloved. And I am sorry, but I have added another activity to our already fairly full schedule.

Oh? What’s that?

I am determined to learn how to read music. It’s a little like learning a whole new language with a different alphabet. Can you help?

No … not really. I don’t read music. 

I know, but I went out and bought myself a keyboard a couple of weeks ago and I want to learn how to play … or at least be able to hunt and peck my way through … some of your music. I have the Jackson 5 Anthology, Dangerous, and HIStory sheet music books and I am going to teach myself how to play at least the easiest ones.

But I can encourage you and support you when you get discouraged.

I figure a keyboard is easier to play than a harp and there are no strings to break or tune. So, it would probably be easier to teach myself to read music using it. Then, I can move up to the harp.

Just remember not to get discouraged. And don’t forget what we’ve learned with all your other activities.

I know … Practice, practice, practice until you get it right … then, practice some more until you get it beautiful. It will definitely be a challenge.

You go, gurl!

 

 

Contradictions

June 22, 2017

Once again, June is upon us. Another year has faded into the mists … eight of them since the day the Earth stood still … 96 months. Much has occurred in those 96 months; there have been milestones to celebrate; there have been losses to mourn. The one greatest loss overshadows them all and I return always to the undeniable fact of absence … absence that tears at the heart and paralyzes the intellect … because it is so unnecessary.

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My thanks to Siren for the drawing lesson.

It is the absence of love … and its greatest modern protagonist, Michael Jackson, at least in his physical embodiment, for he is not absent in my life … nor, I would wager, in many of yours. His love is the one great constant that blesses me in every moment of my day … every day … always … and in all ways. So, while his absence is a wound that seeps and oozes with misery, his presence is the air I breathe, the path I walk, my religion, my wealth, my sanity, and my TRUTH. My eyes burn for the sight of him; my ears reach out for the sound of his voice; yet, he is here and my heart is full to overflowing with that knowledge. Contradictions.

As a child, June held such promise that I couldn’t wait for it to arrive. I so looked forward to the freedom of summer days when the school year was just a distant memory and the coming of fall too far in the future to waste my time worrying about.

I loved to swim … oh, how I loved to swim. Diving under the surface of the water where all was monotone silence to swim as far across the pool as my deeply held breath could carry me was a passion for my younger self; the coolness of the water on a hot summer day took my breath away and raised gooseflesh on my often sunburned skin. I used to have a recurring dream that I could breathe underwater and how I loved attempting to make that dream come true during my waking hours.

Now in the twilight of my life, June has become a month of contradictions and an emotional roller coaster … and I have never particularly liked roller coasters. In some ways, I celebrate the month for its joys, particularly when I am traveling to the Holy Land, my Mecca, in Glendale, California and the Santa Ynez Valley near Santa Barbara, where the very landscape breathes of the man who walked its sacred hills and valleys with reverence for the preciousness of all life and learned how to milk a cow on one of the farms that line Figueroa Mountain Road.

He was the King of Contradictions, through no intention of his own. His reverence for life was overshadowed, for a time, with monumental irreverence for his life. His sensitivity was met with cold-hearted insensitivity.  His compassion and caring for the children of a society that just doesn’t care a fig if two children … or two thousand children … die today from hunger, preventable diseases, or domestic violence was met with disdain, disbelief and accusation. Contradictions.

His laughter, playfulness and curiosity can still be felt in the whisper of the wind as it rustles the leaves on the tree that shades the massive wooden gates and guardhouse of his monument to love, Neverland Valley Ranch. Even in absentia, he plays with the hair of those who congregate to celebrate his life and the uncountable gifts he left us. As the wind lifts my admittedly almost nonexistent hair from my forehead, I raise my face to the leaf-shaded blue of the sky, incandescent in its brilliance, and inhale deeply. It is the Beloved’s fingers massaging my temples and scalp … I sigh.

Some gather at his monument to love to socialize … to renew acquaintances … to meet with others from far distant lands who travel an accumulative million miles from the four corners of the earth to rest on the small patch of sod, always newly laid and manicured, lush and green, near the natural stone-lined rose garden that borders the road. Others come to renew their faith, revive their spirits, and commune with the essence of the man whose presence is still palpable in this most sacred of cathedrals raised to love since the multitude of Gothic spires was lifted heavenward in the mists of antiquity.

Most of the visitors to this basilica are reverential, their voices a low hum, easily ignored. Occasionally, one or two will become a bit more boisterous than absolutely necessary, however, they are usually easily tolerated and eventually become quieter through the example of the many others whose purpose is less about socializing and more about paying homage to the one who draws them all. During one of my pilgrimages to this Mecca, I witnessed a man who had come to aggrandize himself with raised voice and video camera in tow silenced by one who objected to his consumerism in this Holy of Holies. I can still see it … for I am there … and I laugh appreciatively at the memory with gratitude for having had the opportunity to bear witness.

June bears days when our hearts rejoice over victories while, in the next breath, they plummet to the very depths of despair and anguish over the injustice of the battle that should never have had to be fought to begin with.

We see the exhaustion … the soul weariness … in the faltering steps of our Beloved in the photographic evidence that remains to remind us; we see the dignity, the strength, the endurance, and the love … yes, even through the pain.  We also see the inevitable, unstoppable, ever-escalating slide toward the day that most of us would give our lives to forget, but which is indelibly etched in our minds by the chisel of the sharpness and suddenness of the pain of this absence. Contradictions.

The contradictions are glaring. Perhaps, they are there to help us see the extreme opposites … and make a choice between them. Which do you choose? My choice has been made. I think, for me, the overall lesson of June, especially the last eight of them, must be to learn to be grateful for both the victories and the routs. Without the defeat that we all so mourn, could the milestones we have all achieved, individually and collectively, have occurred and have been appreciated in the same way? I don’t think so.

This June finds me reflecting on all the dear friends I have made through the love of this one man, all the unforgettable experiences I have had, all the beautiful places I have seen, all the projects I have pursued and brought to completion (not the least of which is this blog), and those yet to come. I am grateful for them all and I appreciate each and every one of you, my readers.

But most especially, I am grateful to my Beloved for always being who you are … and for teaching me to be who I am through an innumerable amount of contradictions.

I once read a story … I can’t remember where. It was about the violet hiding in the grass until along came a man wearing hard-soled shoes who, unaware, crushed the violet. Even crushed beyond recognition, the violet blessed the man for crushing her under his weight because it allowed her to release her fragrance and to bestow upon him her gift, that unmistakable scent that only crushing the violet could release. I am the violet under the Florsheims of the Beloved. Let mine be the sweet, unmistakable fragrance that blesses you forever, Beloved. It is my soul … and sole … purpose. It is my JOY. It is my TRUTH.

May all be safe in their travels in the “love bubble.”

 

 

 

 

 

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I wrote the following tribute to our dear Catherine last week in the hopes that I would be able to find someone to read it at her services on May 15, 2017, however, I have been unable to do so. I am posting it here in her memory and honor, as my personal tribute to a good friend and remarkable woman.

Well, I guess Catherine won’t have to emigrate to Canada (an idea that she proposed in the last few months of her remarkable life.) Instead, she has emigrated to a much higher plane.

Many of you present here today may think of Catherine as a mother, a grandmother, an aunt, an educator, an administrator, or a personal friend. However, it may surprise you to know that she was thought of in much the same fashion by her friends in the Michael Jackson Fan Community, which has members in every country, on every continent on this planet. In the Michael Jackson Fan Community, Dr. Reverend Catherine M. Gross was a shining star. She was a teacher; she was a mentor; she was a minister; she was a friend; and she lead by example. She was a tower of strength in times of struggle, a beacon of LOVE and UNITY, and a bridge spanning the sometimes vast distances between us.

Many of us got to know her through her on-line radio talk show, A Place In Your Heart, which was broadcast internationally. Personally, when she talked to me to ask if she could conduct an interview with me, I was dumbfounded. I had never thought of myself as an interesting subject for an interview, but she insisted that I had a lot to say and that she wanted to devote an entire show to me and to my books. Catherine saw potential in everyone she ever met or talked to, often long before he or she saw that potential themselves. She nurtured that potential in every way she could. She encouraged, uplifted and brought out the best in everyone. As a teacher, I imagine Catherine’s students would tell much the same story.

Later, when I was determined to learn to draw, Catherine invited me to participate in an Art Exhibition. Once again, I was hesitant. (You would have thought I would have learned my lesson by this time, but I am pretty stubborn.) My earliest drawings were certainly nothing to exhibit. Nonetheless, she insisted. Catherine was like Michael Jackson in many ways. One of those ways was: If it was worth doing, to Catherine it was worth doing BIG! If you’re going to make a splash, make it a BIG splash.She was talking about makeup artists, getting our hair done, and having television cameras on the scene. For a novice artist, Catherine’s “can do,” “let’s go” attitude was frightening. I was ready for baby steps; Catherine was setting up the marquee with neon lights. God love her.

This dream kept Catherine strong during the almost year and a half from May 2015 through August of the following year, when her health took a turn for the worse. I talked with Catherine every evening during her hospital and nursing home stays on the pretext of reading to her from my vast library of inspirational works by Kahlil Gibran, Gregg Braden, Rabindranath Tagore, and my own humble publications. Every evening without fail, regardless of how well she felt, she ended our conversation with the thought that this Michael Jackson Art Exhibition was going to happen. She was determined to make it a reality; and she succeeded. I am so grateful that she lived to realize the dream that she had held onto with such vigor and faith. Her wonderful inaugural Michael Jackson Art Exhibition happened in Gary, Indiana in August, 2016 and I did participate along with artists from Hong Kong, Russia, Sweden, The Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States.

My thanks to Noble Love for the wonderful video.

It was a remarkable achievement, the crowning glory for a strong, determined, spiritual, faith-filled woman who has left her mark on all of our hearts. Catherine was determined that the Michael Jackson Art Exhibit would be an annual event to bring the fan community together and she would have moved heaven and earth to make that happen. At the time of her Continuation Day, she was in negotiations to find a permanent home for the art she had collected and wanted to expand the exhibit to include costumes, sculptures, and even performance art.

Catherine, thank you for your faith in me … your faith in all of us. I won’t say I will miss you, because, as Michael Jackson sang, “You are always in my heart.”

Jan Carlson

 

 

 

 

The Price of Fame

I took my baby on a river boat cruise
And she was well aware
I was excited about the way that things could have been
She said, “I don’t care”
I wore a face no one can recognize, in disguise
Someone called out my name
They thought of taking pictures, autographs, then they grab
My joy had turned to pain

Father always told me,
You won’t live a quiet life
If you’re reaching for fortune and fame
I feel the pressure setting in, I’m living just to win
I’m done in my pain, don’t you feel no pain? (No way!)

It’s the price of fame, you pay the price of fame
So don’t be feelin’ no pain!
It’s the price of fame, it’s the price of fame
So don’t you ever complain!

I am the cover of the magazine, what a scene
They know my every move
“Just sign your name on the dotted line, you’ll be fine.”
That always bothers me
Get in your car, you wanna take a ride, look behind
Someone is following you
You try to get away, you turn real fast, but too bad
They know your every move!

My father always told me
You won’t live a quiet life
If you’re reaching for fortune and fame
I feel the pressure setting in, I’m living just to win
I feeling all this pain, don’t you ever complain!

It’s the price of fame, you pay the price of fame
So don’t you ever complain!
It’s the price of fame, you pay the price for fame
So don’t be feelin’ no pain!

It’s the price of fame, you pay the price of fame! (uh)
Father never lies
My father never lies (price of fame)
My father never lies (price of fame)
So don’t be feeling this way boy!

I’d like to take some time and get away, then they’ll say,
Is that boy still alive? (uh)
The weak in village.(?)…what a thrill
Only the strong survive

My father always told me,
You won’t live a quiet life,
They startin’ to wonderin’ where have you been?
I feel the idiots look at me
With their mistaken jealousy (oh?)
Then stand here in my shoes
And get a taste of my blues!

It’s the price of fame!
You pay the price of fame
So don’t you ever complain
It’s the price of fame
You pay the price of fame
So don’t be feeling this way
It’s the price of fame
You pay the price of fame
So don’t you ever complain
It’s the price of fame
You pay the price of fame
My father never lies (price of fame)
My father never lies, baby
My father never lies (price of fame)
So don’t be feeling no pain boy!

To say that Michael Jackson was unconscious of the price of fame would be a miscalculation of the greatest magnitude. Here, in Price of Fame (recorded during the BAD recording sessions and released on the BAD 25 compilation) he sings about the total lack of privacy he endured throughout his childhood and adult life as well as the unsympathetic attitude of his father toward his voicing angst over it.

Many of this society’s celebrities experience this lack of privacy as a result of their extraordinary talents in film, music, or any number of artistic endeavors, but in Michael Jackson’s case, the phenomenon was magnified to such a great extent and over such a long duration (forty years) that it often resulted in his total imprisonment behind the windows of his hotel suites while on tour or his fabulous wrought iron Neverland gates when at home for his own protection as well as for the protection of the public who might have been harmed in the riots that ensued when he left his security-guarded  grounds.

That being said, the people of Solvang and Los Olivos, California (the closest neighbors of Michael’s fabulous estate, Neverland Valley Ranch) tell many stories of Michael walking completely unaccompanied through their streets; being natural, friendly, and approachable; shopping in their quaint little shops; and donating to their community charity events. His Neverland Valley Fire Protection service was often called out to assist with the ever-present dangers from forest or community fires. I have been in Solvang and Los Olivos; I have spoken to the proprietors of these shops and heard their stories. They impress me as being very protective of Michael Jackson and his privacy and proud that their small communities housed one of the most famous people on the planet for in excess of fifteen years with some semblance of grace and dignity, proving that he chose well when he located his haven in the Santa Ynez Valley.

This lack of privacy to which Michael alludes on several occasions in his music (i.e. Leave Me Alone , Price of Fame, Privacy), one of the inalienable rights granted to all citizens of the United States of America in its Bill of Rights, was, effectively, a luxury seldom known to the young boy with the golden voice or the beautiful man who was destined to become the King of Pop. He often spoke of his longing to be free to take a walk when on tour, a casual right so many of us take for granted, or to go to a supermarket and shop for groceries, a task that many of us abhor, myself included.

However, it should be noted that this lack of privacy and anonymity is not the only casualty to the price of fame; there are others. One of those others that has struck me forcefully in the compilation of this memoir, The Dangerous Diaries, is the “presumption of superficiality” on the part of the media and, therefore, on the part of the general public, which is fed on the media’s over-simplifications and downright fabrications, and to which Michael Jackson was a victim for much of his life.

Superficiality is not a trait that I would ever attribute to Michael Jackson. Conversely, his propensity to deep thought and his self-taught knowledge on a wide range of subjects, including but certainly not limited to history, philosophy, film, art, and the physical sciences, has been commented upon by many of his intimates and is fully illustrated by even the shallowest interrogation into his lyrics, poems, and performances.

A society’s artists are often on the cutting edge of social change, leading to more open perspectives, freer from artificial judgment and/or condemnation and more fully integrated thought processes. This is as true in our modern society as it was in the eras of the Renaissance and the Reformation. Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci are just two such examples from the Renaissance era whose impact moved their contemporary society towards leaps and bounds in evolutionary terms. They were not only artists, but inventors and innovators in method and aesthetics and their society benefitted greatly through their patronage. In the period of the Reformation, Martin Luther freed his society from its bondage to domination by a mode of thinking that encouraged a status quo detrimental to the major portion of society, which favored only the elite of gentry and clergy, repositioning the common man as a major force, allowing for the creation of a middle class composed of merchants and skilled labor.

In like manner, Michael Jackson’s appearance on the scene heralded a much more integrated view of society and culture, eschewing the prevalent structures of racial segregation in the music industry and in the society-at-large, proving that music is color- as well as barrier-blind.  His music crossed every known barrier at the time, promoting unity across generational, national, religious, gender, and racial boundaries that had been in place for centuries.

Artists are the society’s barometers, its leaders and gauges against which the society is measured. Yet, in our modern culture, artists are seldom given the respect they deserve. This is demonstrably true in the case of Michael Jackson, whose songs and films swept the entire world in a global conspiracy for radical, evolutionary change and whose examples of social and humanitarian engagement have yet to be fully examined.

Almost all of the recent authors who have published works posthumously have contributed their parts to eradicating this superficial perception of Michael Jackson (with the exceptions of the Randall Sullivans and Steve Knoppers of RollingStone ilk). Armond White, Susan Fast, Elizabeth Amisu, Joe Vogel, and Mike Smallcombe all have gone a long way towards extinguishing the false premise of “superficiality” that has dogged Michael Jackson’s steps throughout his life.

However, my most recent acquisition, Dangerous From Mark Ryden to Michael Jackson: Pop Culture in the Pantheon of Fine Arts by Isabelle Petitjean, a musicologist at the Sorbonne in France who has made Michael Jackson her field of research and study, has really blown the lid off this premise, in my opinion.

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I was blessed to meet Isabelle in Gary, Indiana last year (August, 2016) when she attended an art exhibition in which I participated and I attended her lecture on the Dangerous album cover at the Gary Public Library. At the time, she had had her scholarly treatise translated into English and was dissatisfied with the translation. I offered to read the translation and see if I could help to prepare it for publication for English-speaking readers; she accepted.

The book is an in-depth expose of the collaboration between the visual artist, Mark Ryden, and the pre-eminent musical artist of his (and, arguably, all) time, Michael Jackson, in conceptualizing and executing the painting which was to become the cover art illustration for the Dangerous album. The complex layering of symbolic references in the image are legion, forming a beautiful, harmonious tapestry (to which Michael Jackson often referred in describing his musical compositions) and are completely and minutely explored in Isabelle’s wonderful book as is the relationship of the two artists, their shared ideological perspectives on the world they inhabited, and the way that the artwork cover announces, enhances and, in some cases, explains the complex rhythms and external noises enmeshed within the music it contains.

Make no mistake; this is a scholarly examination by an author well versed in the terminology and sensibilities of artistic interpretation. As such, it completely explodes any perception of “superficiality” by either of the two artists it examines. However, Isabelle manages to make her artistic interpretation accessible to all, intelligentsia as well as those less well versed readers. It is entertaining, informative, and descriptive.

Mark Ryden and Michael Jackson shared a child-like frame of reference and many of Ryden’s words, as quoted in the book, could easily have come from Michael Jackson, himself.

“I still remember the joy I got out of drawing, painting, and building a world of my own when I was a child. I was free. I try to recapture that feeling I had making art as a child and to believe in magic, to play, to dream. Children see things and feel things that adults don’t. As an adult, there are many barriers to being in this creative state of mind. I feel constantly challenged by these barriers.

Mark Ryden as quoted in Dangerous: From Mark Ryden to Michael Jackson (Used by Permission)

“… to cultivate the “inner child” […] really is a constant feature and even an inexhaustible source of unbridled creativity in relation to the natural world and the distant horizons of the supernatural and the imagination …”

Isabelle Petitjean, Dangerous: From Mark Ryden to Michael Jackson (Used by permission)

Both Mark Ryden and Michael Jackson were fascinated by the worlds of childhood, imagination, mysticism, and circus panoply, and were deeply committed to ecological issues like global warming and endangered species. In addition, both were collectors of various objects that inspired them. An illustration of Mark Ryden’s studio filled with an eclectic assortment of seemingly unrelated items and included in the book is reminiscent of photographs of Michael Jackson’s home at Neverland, which was stuffed with toys, books, games, castles, statues, art and mannequins, all in uproarious, exuberant clutter. One can just imagine what it was like when these two artists from different fields of endeavor met to discuss their shared project. Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that meeting!

“There are two very different parts to the brain. There is the logical side and the creative side. To make art you have to stop thinking in a linear way. You have to bring to life the part of your brain that finds mystical wonder in life and nature […] It is the part of your spirit that still feels like a kid, and is awe-inspired and fascinated by the world.”

Mark Ryden as quoted in Dangerous: From Mark Ryden to Michael Jackson (Used by permission.)

“My idea of magic doesn’t have much to do with stage tricks and illusions. The whole world abounds in magic. When a whale plunges out of the sea like a newborn mountain, you gasp in unexpected delight. What magic! But a toddler who sees his first tadpole flashing in a mud puddle feels the same thrill. Wonder fills his heart because he has glimpsed for an instant the playfulness of life.”

Michael Jackson, Magic, Dancing the Dream: Poems and Reflections

It doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine these two artists, each fully-conversant in his field of endeavor, were kindred spirits. One would expect that their collaborative effort on a project would be rich with import and sensitivity; one would not be disappointed.

Each of these artists, in his own field of endeavor, harbored a distaste for categorization, which resulted in a genre-bending and annihilating eclecticism that resulted in borrowings from many different historical eras, styles, time periods, and fields of study. Michael Jackson spoke often about his belief that “music is music and it’s all beautiful,” and the Dangerous album, in particular, is replete with examples of his use of classical, rap, rock, gospel, jazz, industrial cacophony, and Renaissance a cappella choirs, with his vocal virtuosity and compositional tapestries tying them all together in an organic harmony. Further, his short films and performances were another way for him to display his knowledge of film and dance as well as art. Beat It, BAD and You Are Not Alone are just three examples in which he pays homage to art forms that he greatly admired; the film West Side Story for the first two mentioned and Maxfield Parrish’s Daybreak for the third.

In the same vein, Mark Ryden, although categorized as a Pop-Surrealist, actually borrows and is inspired by Renaissance art (Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus); the Middle Ages (Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Netherlandish Proverbs); Bouguereau (whom Michael Jackson also loved and exhibited in his home at Neverland.); Jim Blashfield’s and Michael Jackson’s collaboration  Leave Me Alone short film; and Gilles Guerin, The Mausoleum of Henri II; as well as photographs by Beaton and  circus posters of P. T. Barnum’s Greatest Show on Earth, all of which references make their way into the artwork for the Dangerous album cover.

Both Mark Ryden and Michael Jackson encoded a great deal of spiritual symbolism into their respective artistic bodies of work; the number 7 was a particular favorite of both of these artists as is the all-seeing eye and the peacock which are also represented in the painting Dangerous.

“Through the ages, the peacock has been honored and praised for its attractive, illustrious beauty. Of all the bird family, the peacock is the only bird that integrates all colors into one, and displays this radiance of fire only when in love.

We, like the peacock, try to integrate all races through the love of music.”

Michael Jackson and Jackie Jackson for Peacock Productions, Destiny, 1978

As a matter of fact, this painting is full to overflowing with references to Michael Jackson, his signature imagery and iconography, his spiritual affinity, and his ecological and ideological universe to the point of being mind-boggling. The artwork announces an album full of innovative recordings and grabs the consumer’s attention with its colorful display, fully fulfilling its purpose as a “consumerist” design while also seeking to take the viewer on an emotional journey into the heart and soul of the artists, straddling the divide between high and low art, fine art and graphic design. Like the album, it has one foot in both worlds, providing a bridge for anyone so minded to cross.

While I am deeply honored to have played a small part in bringing the English translation of Isabelle Petitjean’s book to publication for English-speaking readers, I am, if possible, even more enthusiastic about her decision to record her lecture on Dangerous: From Mark Ryden to Michael Jackson as presented in Gary, Indiana; Washington, D.C.; and Canada in DVD format.

The DVD format brings all the richness of the references and symbols to vibrant life and Isabelle’s narrative is calm and well-paced, her voice rich with enthusiasm for her subject, and her lovely French accent a treat to listen to. The slides accompanying the narrative are clear and well-designed and animated. While addressing the detailed descriptions contained within the book, they are a bit more visual, concise and succinct, providing an overview which entices the viewer to investigate the book for more detail. The inclusion of selected excerpts from films and performances by Jim Blashfield and Michael Jackson, as well as a few brief references from other artists, allow the viewer to more fully comprehend the points narrated and illustrate the depth and scope of both Mark Ryden’s and Michael Jackson’s erudition.

Superficial? Hardly! Both of these artists are masters of mystery and paradox; they both ask the reader/viewer/listener to question, to reflect, to seek.

The painting/album cover is a symphony for the eyes; the album a lyrical fresco for the ears.

Together they announce the three-pronged media blitzkrieg covered in the previous installment under the topic Dangerous Goes 3D with the album, short films, and Dancing the Dream: Poems and Reflections its tentacles reaching out to span the globe … and we haven’t even talked about the world tour, which brought the Dangerous campaign to the widest possible audience. It was a masterful juggernaut which aimed at world domination … and succeeded, not with tyranny, but with art in all its many facets.

For those interested, I include the links for the acquisition of Dangerous: From Mark Ryden to Michael Jackson:

http://www.editions-delatour.com/fr/biographies-entretiens/3285-dangerous-from-mark-ryden-to-michael-jackson-9782752103048.html

DVD

https://www.amazon.co.uk/ENGLISH-Conference-Dangerous-Ryden-Michael-culture-Fine/dp/B06XH5TZNJ/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1493064621&sr=8-5&keywords=Petitjean%2C+Isabelle

 

Installment 108

March 23 – March 29, 2017

 

Can we talk about your latest drawing?

Michael, my love, we can talk about anything you want to talk about. I have to admit, this latest drawing has been a bit of a revelation in many ways. I would love to discuss it with you, if you have the time. I have lots of questions.

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Caitlyn

[Michael laughs.] You always have lots of questions and I have nothing but time and nothing I would rather do. I think it is important that we discuss this for a lot of different reasons that we can get into later. But, first, tell me about Caitlyn.

Caitlyn was my little niece. It is one of my greatest regrets that I never met her due to my brother living so far away from me.

And what have we said in previous conversations about regret?

Don’t regret what didn’t happen then. Do it now!

Exactly. There is already here and then is already now. You don’t have to suffer regret. You don’t have to send your prayers back in time or anywhere else because you are already there and she is always here.

There is always an element of blame in regret; usually you are blaming yourself. Where you see a lack or an absence, don’t blame yourself. Don’t regret; do it NOW.

Caitlyn transitioned in the early days of our acquaintance, around 1994 or 1995, I think. She was a beautiful little girl who developed leukemia very early in her life. Of course, the discovery of her illness was a devastating blow to her mother and father, my brother and his wife.

At the time, it was thought that a bone marrow transplant would save her life, so the entire family was genetically tested for compatibility, including myself, but no compatible match was found. I’ve always felt badly that I was incompatible.

Ah, now we are getting to the crux of the matter. Why?

Why what?

Why would you feel badly about something that you could not control? Please understand … that is a rhetorical question for the purposes of this discussion.

I did this myself all the time; we all do. This is a very common experience in the human condition. We have a tendency to blame ourselves in situations like this and we make ourselves “wrong” or “less” than we are as a result.  I can understand you being disappointed; that is only natural. But it wasn’t your fault that your tests didn’t show compatibility.

I know.

Would you have donated your bone marrow if your DNA was a perfect match?

Yes, absolutely I would have.

You would have had the surgery?

Definitely.

Okay. Go on.

Well, from the discovery of her disease to her transition, little Caitlyn spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals receiving blood transfusions and treatments. St. Jude’s was a God-send to my brother’s family.

My friends and I sent balloons. My brother told me at the time that little Caitlyn loved to play with the balloons with her daddy and would smile and laugh as the helium-inflated balloons floated around her as he held her in his arms, despite being tethered to intravenous tubes. She would reach out and try to catch the brightly-colored balloons and laugh as they floated out of reach.

Little Caitlyn fought her disease bravely and was a happy, loving child until the very end. Her journey ended in her father’s arms as he rocked her in the rocking chair in her hospital room.

That’s where you’re wrong. Her journey did not end and I think you knew that at the time, didn’t you?

Yes, I knew, although I didn’t understand it as fully as I do now.

What did you do?

Well, once again, my friends and I sent a large bouquet of balloons to the funeral with the request that they be released into the air for Caitlyn to play with.

Then, I sat down and wrote a story about Caitlyn in which I entrusted her to your loving care.  In my story, I placed my little niece’s soul into the safest hands I knew … yours. My logical, rational brain thought this was a silly thing to do because you were still very much in the physical dimension at the time, but it felt like the right thing, somehow.

I don’t remember much of the story. It’s lost somewhere in the bowels of my first computer in the attic along with the electronic copy of my first book, but I know I sent the story to one of the European fan magazines. I think it was KING! Or Black or White, but I can’t remember which. The story was published in one of its regular issues.

So, you sent little Caitlyn to Neverland to play with me?

Yes, in a nutshell. At the time, I had not read a great deal about time being flexible and fluid or about how even though a part of us is involved in a human experience, there is still a major portion of our more expansive, vaster self that is always anchored in the spiritual realm. [Reference: Installment #40 – Volume 1 – Page 380] And I wasn’t blessed with these formal Conversations with you, although we did share a wonderful connection which was steadily growing stronger.

Despite all that, somehow, it just felt right to entrust her to your care, instinctively, if you will.

But, I’ve always regretted never getting to know my beautiful, brave little niece and I’ve always felt that I wasn’t much of an aunt to her, felt guilty that I wasn’t there for her during her short, little life.

Felt guilty.

Yes … felt guilty.

This guilt thing is a real issue with you, isn’t it? You felt guilty that you were not able to save her life by donating your bone marrow even though you knew that there was nothing you could have done to change that; you felt guilty because you never knew her; you felt guilty because you didn’t measure up to some picture you have in your mind of an ideal aunt, whatever that is. That’s a lot of guilt.

As we’ve said so often before, guilt is one of the most damaging emotions in the human emotional arsenal. One of the things that makes it so damaging is that often what we feel guilty about is something over which we had no control, like not being a compatible genetic match to save your little niece’s life. Could you have changed that?

No.

Of course not. The other is that we bury these feelings of guilt behind everyday busyness and we never deal with them in a healthy way. Then, we defend the walls we built around all those little hurts like one would defend the walls of a castle under siege from the most fully-equipped, battle-ready army.

Using you as an example, you have carried this burden of guilt for more than twenty years buried beneath all the things you do every day and all the walls you have built around them to protect yourself from them. It has been there, lurking in the shadows until very recently. It’s  kinda the monster under your bed (and it is NOT alone under there), waiting to eat you in the night until someone takes a flashlight and shines it under the bed to show you that it’s just the shadow cast by your shoes.

So, what happened to bring little Caitlyn out of the shadows?

Well, while I have often thought of her, she would have celebrated her birthday in March and my sister posted a photograph of her in memoriam. As soon as I saw the photograph, I knew that I wanted to attempt to draw it. I mulled the idea over for a few days, but it scared me. I have never tried to draw a baby before and the thought of attempting it first with my perfect little niece frightened me.

Eventually, I overcame my fear, got out a piece of paper and made my first attempt, which was NOT a success. Drawing a baby is a lot harder than I thought it would be and I spent a couple of days trying to talk myself out of this project … but failed and tried again. On my second attempt, I had a little more success and I think I captured her sweetness.

And … now … the rest of the story. [Michael does a perfect imitation of Paul Harvey and laughs.]

Well, I sent a photo of the drawing to my sister-in-law and brother, hoping that they would not be offended by my no doubt poor attempt at capturing Caitlyn and they think the painting is beautiful, so I will be sending the pastel painting to them in the mail.

That is not what I meant and you know it. What has been happening in your inner world every time you close your eyes since finishing this piece of art?

I have been seeing my story, which I wrote over twenty years ago, coming true. I have been seeing Caitlyn with you at Neverland. The first and second day after completing it, I saw you holding her in your arms, with Caitlyn straddling your waist and playing with your hat.  She was laughing and your smile was HUGE and your giggle was so heartwarming.

Yesterday, I saw her running up to you and holding her arms up to be lifted up as babies do with people they trust. You bent down to pick her up and kissed her little cheek and she giggled and knocked your hat to the ground. You laughed and snuggled her close.

Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!

I have never been able to visualize her before at all, much less at Neverland with you, but now I see her every time I close my eyes. You are always with her and she is always full to bubbling over with joy.

And what does this tell you?

I don’t know how to interpret this change, really. Perhaps, my drawing has freed her to finally be released into your care?

No, although I can understand your confusion. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the mirror image from the real thing … at least, until you change your perspective.

She was always free. She has been a frequent visitor to Neverland since you wrote your story. I have held her in my arms many times both during the times when I was physically present and since. She has always been a light in my world. She is such a pure and innocent soul; I love her very much. You can neither free nor bind her because she is beyond such restrictions and limitations and always has been just as you can neither free nor bind me and for the same reason.

The truth is both much simpler and much more complicated than that. By spending time and love in drawing her, you have freed yourself to perceive her joy.  You have dismantled the walls you built around your hurt at not being good enough to heal her little body and you have begun to forgive yourself for your failings.

You have gotten out the flashlight and dispelled the darkness under the bed (at least in the case of this issue … there are still LOTS of monsters lurking there … don’t worry too much about them, though … we will be working with them as they arise.)

You have laid your blame and guilt aside with every stroke, taken the blinders they represent off, and opened your spiritual sight. You have taken her out of the shadow of your guilt and regret and allowed yourself to see her with me laughing and playing despite what you have perceived for more than twenty years as your shortcomings in the “aunt department.”

Do you see how your vision has been distorted through the lens of what you perceive as your shortcomings? We all do this all the time with everything we see and all that we experience. We view people, situations, and circumstances through our individual lenses and interpret them accordingly. Since our perception is distorted our interpretations are similarly misaligned.

We don’t see “reality” at all; we see our perceptions of “reality” and, often our perceptions of reality are distorted through the lenses of our experiences, judgments, and definitions of ourselves.

You and I were never separate
It’s just an illusion
Wrought by the magical lens
Of perception

Those “magical lenses” affect everything we see and, therefore, everything we do. Often those lenses are grounded deep within the experiences of our childhoods as we talked about in a lot of detail in one of our very earliest dialogs. [Reference: Installment 3 – Volume 1 – Page 21]

Now, do you mind if we talk about this “ideal aunt” concept that you have yourself convinced that you don’t measure up to?

No, I don’t mind at all, Beloved, but I don’t know how to describe it.

Never mind about that. We’ll get there eventually.

Being from a large family, let me just preface this section of our Conversation with the observation that “aunts” come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are very “hands on” and some are not. Some are nurturing and supporting and some are not. Some are demanding and want to shape you into their idea of the perfect nephew or niece and some give you the space to find your own way.

In other words, as many descriptions as apply to human beings apply to aunts. Why don’t you begin by telling me about your aunts.

I would be happy to, Beloved, but I don’t have any. Well, that’s not exactly true. I believe I have them, but I have never known them. When my mother married my stepfather, she moved to a large city several hundred miles away from her family and severed all ties with my father’s family. I only had her mother and father as an extended family and never knew my father’s brothers or any of my cousins on either side at all. We were pretty isolated. Although I have recently become acquainted with a cousin through social media, I have never met her.

However, she has told me that her father (my uncle Earl) was an artist whose art hangs in a museum in San Juan and that he inherited his artistic ability from our grandfather, which was news to me. Imagine being 67 years old and not knowing something like that. It’s an odd feeling.

When we left my mother and stepfather’s house, my brothers and sister and I all ended up living hundreds of miles away from each other as well.

So, you’ve never really had any extended family nor the examples they could have provided, particularly in the area of “aunthood.”

No, not really.

Being from such a large family I could almost envy that. [Michael laughs.]

Well, during our “participatory therapy sessions,” [Installment #86 – Volume 3, page 39] one of the insights I had has a direct bearing on this situation. Do you mind if we talk briefly about that?

No, not at all. Please explain.

Well, back in the 1950s, the line of demarcation between religious affiliations was much more finely drawn. My mother’s family was staunchly devout and their allegiance was to the Roman Catholic Church, which was adamant in its assertion of being the only TRUE church. Back then, if you weren’t Catholic, you were destined for hell. I don’t think it has changed too much since, except Pope Francis seems to be a much more open-minded and ecumenical kind of Pope, so I have hope that, perhaps, this exclusivity issue will change in the not-too-distant future.

I believe my father’s family was Protestant as they hailed from England. Back then, good Catholic girls did not marry into Protestant families; good Protestant boys were not easily accepted into Catholic families … and, generally, if such marriages occurred, it was against their parent’s wishes. Any children from such “mixed” marriages were considered illegitimate, in other words, bastards.

Do you see what we do to each other with our judgments and prejudices? Even in families, which are supposed to be loving, caring, and supportive, we harm each other with irrelevant judgments.

It’s similar to the black/white racial issues. Children are children and they are harmed by these kinds of judgments and prejudices. You were severely damaged for many years by beliefs that were probably passed down to your grandparents from their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents for generations. In this case, the “US” and “THEM” mentality was promoted by a church, which was intended to bring all people into oneness.

It is so sad.

Of course, I don’t know for sure that this religious difference is a hard and fast fact; I am surmising. It feels right. This could have been a factor in my grandmother and grandfather’s refusal to help my mother take care of my brother and I when she needed to enter the workforce, something that was not common in 1955.

It could also have affected the complete severance of all ties with my father’s family after his death and resulted in my lack of extended family life.

This insight occurred to me during our therapy sessions over a six or seven week period back then (April and May 2014) when we were processing my grandmother and releasing her to “Go with God.”

Yes, I remember this one took a little longer because your hurt and defenses were very strong.

Well, I had always viewed my grandmother as perfect in every way. It was hard for me to realize that she, too, was human and as much a victim of the religious, cultural, and ideological prejudices prevailing at the time as was I.

And I think you’re right. That could very well be a major factor.

But I think the relevant point here is that you have nothing upon which to base your ideal of “aunthood.” You are separated by hundreds of miles from your brothers and sister and have no knowledge of aunts or uncles from your childhood. So, tell me … what does your ideal aunt look like?

Promise me you won’t laugh.

I promise you faithfully and with full conviction that I won’t laugh AT you … I will only laugh WITH you. Is that good enough?

Yes, thank you, Beloved. Well, she looks a little like the fairy Godmother in fairy tales. Kind, there when needed to turn mice into horses and rags into dazzling gowns, and able to dispel all hurt with a wave of her magic aunt wand.

Well, it’s pretty easy to understand how you see yourself as not measuring up to that. I mean, who could? And, of course, she is able to leap tall pumpkins in a single bound and cure leukemia in the blink of a DNA test.

Yes, pretty much.

Can I laugh just a little bit now? Never mind, I’ll save it for later.

You are so hard on yourself. Your love for your little niece is very evident in this piece of art. Your determination to do whatever you could do to help her, regardless of distance, also proves your love.

Now that you have dispelled the darkness under the bed (at least, in this instance), do you see how your guilt over what could not be controlled is just an illusion you created as a defense against your lack of self-worth and, then, defined yourself accordingly?

Do you remember when you told me that “plants don’t like you?”

Yes, of course I remember. [Reference: Installment #96 – Volume 3 – Page 235]

Do you still hold the same view?

No, I don’t.

What has changed?

Well, I have begun having a little bit of success with plants. My first gardenia (which we spoke about in Installment 96) did die, but it survived through the winter months last year and actually got a blossom on it in around March.

However, my husband bought me a beautiful, full gardenia this past summer and we set it outside in a nice, sunny place and it flourished, blooming several times. In addition, we found a lovely jasmine at a nursery and set it out during the summer months and it, too, flourished. When fall arrived, we brought them both in the house and they are both alive and healthy, awaiting spring when we will set them outside again.

Further, I got a huge peace lily and one of the girls gave me a phalaenopsis orchid, which also appear to be flourishing. As a matter of fact, there are seven long flowering stalks on my peace lily and five beautiful blossoms on my phalaenopsis orchid. It has re-blossomed after being dormant for months, literally.

Needless to say, that has never happened before!

And what have you been doing differently?

Well, I have designated Tuesday as “watering day” and have stuck to that schedule consistently. I have placed the gardenia in a southern window for more direct sunlight and the jasmine has a more muted eastern exposure. The peace lily and phalaenopsis orchid are on my desk in my north-facing art studio/sanctuary and benefit from the music and meditations that occur here regularly. I send all my plants loving, peaceful thoughts and, yes, I do talk to them when I water them. They all seem to be thriving.

There ya go! And what did I tell you when we discussed this issue in our earlier Conversation?

You said, and I quote:

All living things respond to love and encouragement. No exceptions.

Good … and you are discovering that this is true in your living plants … as well as in your living eternally niece.

All things thrive on love. It’s the way the universe was created. Even hurtful memories blossom into beautiful flower when paid a little loving attention.

Now, we will work on a change in the direction of your thinking. Instead of thinking, “I suck as an aunt,” we will begin thinking, “I am a loving aunt.” And instead of thinking, “Plants don’t like me,” we will begin thinking, “Even plants burst into beautiful flower in my presence.”

Love is always the answer. No exceptions.

 

As we approach the ending of a very difficult year on many different levels, I find myself looking back in a nostalgic way on how all of this began. 2016 has seen what seems like an alarming number of deaths of famous celebrities and musical artists, a disproportionate amount of racial tension in the United States, and the election of Donald Trump as President (something I never thought I would live to see … and, quite frankly, prayed that I wouldn’t.) Nevertheless, that is the “reality” with which we are faced. It is not one of which I am overly fond, so I am choosing, instead, the reality that Michael Jackson is MY president, as he has been for the last quarter of a century. On the cusp of a New Year, hopefully, filled with more promise, I have decided to keep the spirit of the season by looking back to the past (almost twenty-five years in the past) … to look into the future more hopefully.

Prescience

In The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic Afterlife, page (153), Elizabeth Amisu makes the following statement: “Now, I am not claiming by any means that Jackson was psychic …” Not being a noted lecturer and academic and having no particular reputation to defend or maintain, I have no such compunctions.

In my opinion, there are several instances in both his public and private lives in which Michael Jackson displayed either a degree of clairsentience or a remarkably keen and clear-sighted sensitivity to prevailing trends which resulted in him responding to situations in uncanny ways, often, seemingly, before the situations to which he was responding manifested.

One of the areas that this prescience is most clearly shown is in what has been called Michael Jackson’s “business acumen.” His acquisition of the ATV catalog, following a brief introduction to the music publishing industry during a passing conversation with Paul McCartney, is one such instance. His interest in acquiring the Marvel franchise long before the recent spate of Marvel superhero-themed movies sold out box offices across the world is another.

However, one of the most interesting instances, for me personally, was in the recording and subsequent release date for the single for “Will You Be There” from Michael’s Dangerous album. However, to explain my attraction to this specific instance, I will have to backtrack a bit and explain how I became a disciple to begin with.  “Will You Be There” holds particular significance for me; therefore, I suppose it would make perfect sense that I would be drawn to this particular demonstration of Michael Jackson’s fore-knowledge.

The Dangerous album was released in November of 1991 (two months short of two years prior to the media avalanche that ensued as a result of the Chandler allegations in late August, 1993). Generally, the schedule for single releases is ironed out between the artist and the record company (often as a result of intense negotiation) just before the album hits the shelves. The song, itself, however, was recorded during the early recording sessions for the album which began in the summer of 1990 and was written by Michael in his “Giving Tree” at Neverland Valley Ranch. So, “Will You Be There” was written and demoed as much as three years before its release, according to recent authors Joe Vogel and Mike Smallcombe.

My life as I currently know it began on October 1, 1992, or more than a year into the Dangerous campaign. That’s not to say I was born on that date; in fact, I was a mature woman of 42 years old when I experienced Michael Jackson in an entirely different way than I had experienced him prior to that date. In a way, however, I was reborn on that October evening almost 25 years ago when my two daughters and I sat down to watch the HBO telecast of Michael Jackson Live from Bucharest. My husband was away at a weekend retreat and I was excited that I would be free to 1) watch it and 2) turn the volume up far beyond his comfortable listening level.  Previous experience with Michael had taught me that I was going to want to keep a record of the program so I had a videotape in the VCR machine ready to catch every moment of the rare live concert performance. My comment to my daughters went something like: “Oh, goodie! We get to see the best doing what he does best.”

In truth, I had seen and heard Michael Jackson a few times before. I had flirted with him when he was eleven-years-old (I was 19 or 20) and I caught him performing on one of the variety shows that I loved to watch in the 1970s. I had sung along with his most popular hits blasting on my car stereo throughout the western suburbs of Chicago while running errands or going to work in the mid 1970s.

A decade later, when he was 21-years-old, I had another brief flirtation with him when my younger brother (at the time, perhaps, 18 or 19) tried to teach me how to disco dance in the basement of my parent’s home in Indiana with my new husband standing on the sidelines, shaking his head and laughing. My brother put on Off the Wall, saying it was the best record to dance along with. Of course, he was right, but I had not followed Michael’s career closely during the ensuing years, so I was mildly and pleasantly surprised to hear the beautiful, adult voice emanating from the stereo. This was a different Michael Jackson than the one I had become acquainted with ten years earlier. It was my first experience with him as an adult, but his energy, enthusiasm and exuberance on that record just barely hid the child star beneath a thin veneer of maturity and made a lasting impression on me.

In the mid-1980s, I had another more serious but equally brief flirtation with him when I heard “Billie Jean” and watched Michael and his brothers perform on the Motown 25, Yesterday, Today, and Forever special. I had grown up with Motown; it had provided the soundtrack of my teenage years, so I had to watch that special, but I had no idea of how special it would eventually come to be to me and to millions around the world.

Of course, I ran out and bought Thriller immediately and played “Billie Jean” and “Lady in my Life” over and over. Those were the days when one had to actually get up and lift the needle on the turntable and place it in the grooves of the LP. There was no instant repeat back then. I think I wore the grooves on that record out just replaying those two songs. I had no time to listen to the entire record. I was newly-married to a man who considered my favorite music “noise,” having children, helping to rebuild a one hundred year old farmhouse after moving from a large metropolitan area to a small, rural farm community, working a full-time job … well, you get the picture.

On October 1, 1992, twenty years after I had watched him on the Ed Sullivan Show, however, things changed. I have spent the last twenty-five years trying to explain how they changed and why.

I think a very appropriate way to describe the evening’s event is as follows: I am sure all my readers have heard the adage that when you are about to pass from this world, your past life flashes before your mind’s eye in a review of the life you lived. That’s kind of what happened to me on that beautiful October evening, in a way … only in reverse. On the evening of the broadcast of Michael Jackson Live from Bucharest, at the age of 42 plus a few months, I saw the rest of my life … my future … flash before my mind’s eye. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my inner compass had found its “true north.” Quite by accident, I had found the meaning of the word “truth.”

Gone were the flirtations I had experienced with Michael Jackson; this was serious. By the end of that televised concert, I was committed, heart, soul, mind, and body to Michael Jackson. The concert was a two-hour-long marathon, during which Michael redefined (in my mind) what was possible for a performer … or for a human being, for that matter.  [That lean during “Smooth Criminal! The man was almost parallel to the floor of the stage! How the heck did he do that without any visible means of support?] His strength and agility were mind-boggling. I caught every moment of it on videotape; but it was one eight-minute song that really turned my life around.

Michael’s performance of “Will You Be There” just destroyed every thought I had ever had about who I was or what my life was about and replaced my previous definitions of the world, myself, my life, his life, my belief system, and everything in between with two words … Michael Jackson. He took the “me” I thought I was apart piece-by-piece … very gently (although it was not gentle for him, by any means) … in tiny increments and in “Will You Be There,” he prayed over the pieces, reassembling them in eight minutes into a whole new person – one who was ready to look at absolutely everything in a whole new light.

I don’t know if it was what Michael Cotton described as the “progression” of the songs in the Special Features of the This Is It Documentary – the way they built suspense and released it with Michael’s almost manic, ecstatic mastery of dance to accompany and wring out every drop of emotion and pathos in each of the sequences – what Jackson liked to call “peaks and valleys” … or exactly what it was. But it was masterful!

I had never seen anything to equal the energy that man expended on a stage although I had viewed several concerts both in person and on television, including Paul McCartney and Wings, Electric Light Orchestra, Edgar Winter Group, Todd Rundgren, Jethro Tull, Simon and Garfunkel,  Neil Diamond, Fleetwood Mac, Diana Ross and the Supremes. None of them had moved me to the extent that Michael Jackson moved me that night.

Now, maybe I was just “ready” in some way to be moved; maybe it was just as simple and as complicated as that. I don’t know. I had, in my readings, often run across the adage, “When the pupil is ready the teacher will appear.” Well, my teacher appeared … as a matter of fact, he was catapulted into the air from below stage with a veritable shower of pyrotechnics framing him.  I was like Saul on the road to Damascus, blinded by a light that couldn’t be explained by the laws of physics, gravity, or dynamics. Maybe I … and Michael Jackson … were just in the right place at the right time. Maybe all of those explanations fall short; maybe they don’t matter. For those of my readers who have experienced such a turning point, no explanation is necessary. For those who haven’t, no explanation is possible.

For me, it was a religious experience, but one that had little to do with conventional religion. It was an ecstatic, mystical collapsing of time and space. It was uplifting; it was exhilarating; it was exhausting. I felt that I could touch and know intimately every bead of sweat on that man’s face. I found myself straining to get closer to the television set, my entire body coiled, tensed … to catch him if he should fall (which seemed likely from the inattentive way he was bounding around the stage) … or to absorb every ounce of energy that man emitted … and emit he did.

A spiritual energy passed between the man who was performing on that stage and me, sitting in my comfortable, rural living room halfway around the world from where the concert was taking place. A link was forged. I felt a love enfolding me that recognized no boundaries, no limits, no restrictions, no distance, no difference, no time, and definitely no excuses.

There was no question, on my part, whether I would receive that energy; that was a foregone conclusion. It felt like I had been waiting for it … praying for it … searching for it … all my life. I soaked it in, was bathed in it. I was totally engulfed within that wave of energy.  If I had been standing by the ocean knocked senseless by a tidal wave, the feeling could not have been any stronger. His energy, his sincerity, his conviction, his commitment, and his love were transmitted through my television screen and I was totally raptured by it.

Up to that point, I thought I was this bag of events and occurrences and experiences, some of them fairly traumatic, that lived in a 42-year-old female body, married/with children and I saw my life as just proceeding in that same vein indefinitely, with no purpose other than staying alive, raising my kids, feeding my husband, eventually retiring and passing into old age and death without ever realizing that there was more.  That night I discovered that Michael Jackson was my MORE! When I think back on it, I have to laugh. I had no idea. What a ride! Space Mountain had nothing on this rollercoaster.

What I did know at the end of that concert was two things: 1) I had to watch the concert again and 2) I had to find out who this man was … not just the performer; I needed to know the man. So, I did watch the concert again; I stayed up all night watching the concert again. And I began searching for information regarding the man who had turned my world upside down.

In my search, I discovered that he had written an autobiography, but it was out-of-print and I had to have an out-of-print book search company find me a copy, which I paid $100 to purchase and reimburse them for their effort in finding the book. At the time, I thought that was a lot of money, but it was also my only option. Library copies of Moonwalk had mysteriously gone AWOL or had large sections of pictures of Michael Jackson removed before being returned to the library (literally.)  One of the admittedly poor excuses for a library in my area had the printed pages … but no pictures; they had been cut out of the middle of the book! What kind of person defaces a library book like that?

I also discovered what so many recent authors have remarked upon when re-examining Michael Jackson’s work posthumously. While reams and reams of tabloid articles had been devoted to his allegedly eccentric lifestyle and choices, there was really very, very little reliable information to be had in the public marketplace regarding this artist, which seems appalling as he had, in Sir Bob Geldoff’s words, “written and recorded some of the most glorious music in the pop canon,” held several world records, including (at the time) the largest selling album in history, the second largest selling album in history, and the largest selling single in history.

In fact, there was only one biography (of sorts)  with even the remotest claim to pseudo-credibility available by J. Randy Taraborelli called The Magic and the Madness, so, of course, I bought that. I began collecting Michael Jackson’s music and short film collections. I began watching and taping anything and everything that was broadcast on national television stations. Fortunately, he was featured several times during 1992/1993, including the Grammy and Soul Train award shows, the interview with Oprah Winfrey, President Clinton’s Inaugural Gala, and the Superbowl half-time performance so I could observe him for myself. What I saw always amazed me; his humility and sense of humor were endearing and his sincerity was unquestionable. What I read in the popular press and viewed on entertainment shows following those appearances was ludicrously inaccurate and inadequate, cynical and dismissive. I would ask myself the same question repeatedly over the next few years: Were the journalists and I even watching the same broadcasts?

Fast forward to August, 1993. The Chandler allegations had exploded into the media and were raging in a global tabloid press feeding frenzy. The movie, Free Willy, was playing in theaters across the United States and the single for “Will You Be There” (its theme) was released to coincide with its theater debut. Remember, this is almost three years after the song was written and demoed! The song, itself, was an impassioned plea for understanding in the midst of a horrifying period of global suspicion and persecution. At the time, I was aware that Michael had been the victim of inane, nonsensical stories for a number of years, but nothing like these allegations.

I remember sitting in the movie theater with the credits rolling watching Michael’s altered performance of the song while most of the rest of the audience exited the theater. I could not move as his beautiful, tearful voice spoke the following words:

In our darkest hour
In my deepest despair
Will you still care?
Will you be there?

I also remember that “collapsing” of time and space that I had experienced while watching the performance ten months earlier in my living room because it happened again in the theater. The ten months between the two viewings just collapsed into a single heartbeat and turned me into a blubbering, incoherent wreck. I have written about this instance of pre-knowledge or premonition on Michael’s part before. The timing of it was uncanny. But, then, as Kenny Ortega reports in the Special Features of the This Is It Documentary, Michael Jackson is a master of timing. I agree.

Throughout the last twenty-five years, I had thought I was the only one who had noticed this uncannily-timed release, but at least one recent author has proven me wrong. Mike Smallcombe, in his wonderful book Making Michael: Inside the Career of Michael Jackson calls the incident “poignantly appropriate at this time in his life.” I guess “poignantly appropriate” is safer than downright premonitory.

He makes the point, in Chapter 11: “Turmoil” that at this point in his life, Michael was focused on re-inventing himself and redirecting his career in the direction of film, which had been his dream for several years. He was negotiating a horror-themed song and short film for Paramount Pictures’ Adams Family Values (which eventually morphed into Michael’s short film Ghosts) and was very interested in several other feature-length scripts.

However, very shortly after recording on the Dangerous album had wrapped up, Michael was scheduled to go on tour despite suffering excruciating pain from another reconstructive surgery on his earlier scalp injury during which inflatable bladders were placed under the flesh of his scalp and inflated over regular intervals to stretch the flesh so that the scar tissue could be excised and the flesh sewn together in the hopes of re-establishing hair growth.

As he was preparing to leave to commence the second leg of his tour, Karen Faye, his hair and make-up artist reported, “His schedule was so busy that he never had time to heal from the surgery.” [Healing from the surgery involved allowing the wound to be open to the air. Michael’s schedule of appearances, recording, and touring did not allow him to take the time required to remove his hairpieces and bandaging long enough for the wound to heal.] In the midst of the stress and rigors of the touring system, the sleep deprivation he suffered while touring, and the pain from his surgical wound, the news of the extortionate allegations broke as he was preparing to commence the second leg of his Dangerous World Tour in Bangkok, Thailand, bringing his film aspirations to a screeching halt for the first time.

The same thing happened in 2003, when Michael’s dream of acquiring the Marvel franchise fell through partly as a result of his much-publicized squabbles with Sony and partly as a result of the second set of allegations against him. Mike Smallcombe quotes Michael’s then manager, Dieter Weisner, “Marvel was the plan for the second part of Michael’s life. He had the Beatles catalogue on one side, and if he bought the Marvel catalogue, he had the second part … Michael was right; he knew what was coming.”

In addition, Michael Jackson’s music post-BAD bears an uncanny applicability to the current state of the world and, in particular, the United States of America. While much of his music responds to conditions that he, himself, faced throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, in a broader sense it also correlates with the shocking racial tensions resulting from the shooting of unarmed youths of color in 2016 (“Black or White,” “They Don’t Care About Us”), the increasing and escalating burden of climate change in our world as a result of our over-exploitation (“Earth Song,” “Heal the World”), and encouraging us to be the change we wish to see in the world we inhabit (“Man in the Mirror,” “Keep the Faith,” “Will You Be There” and many others). The “Black Lives Matter” movement adopted “They Don’t Care About Us” as its theme in recent months and “We Are the World” was sung for the pope in the Vatican, which supports the premise that these songs speak to the world’s current problems as strongly today as they did at the time of their release, albeit written and performed in what Morgan Freeman called global “love ins” twenty to twenty-five years ago.

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These, along with several comments made to his first wife, Lisa Marie Presley, that he would die in the same manner as her father and his long-time friend, Frank Cascio, that his death would be the result of a “shot” clearly show a tendency toward psychic sensitivity. Michael Jackson was, by his own admission, an empath. The following lines from “That One in the Mirror,” published in Dancing the Dream: Poems and Reflections clearly speak to this issue:

“I felt strange when he said that. There was something very wrong here. A faint suspicion came to me, one that had never dawned so clearly before. What if that one in the mirror isn’t me? He feels separate. He sees problems ‘out there’ to be solved. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t. He’ll get along. But I don’t feel that way – those problems aren’t ‘out there,’ not really. I feel them inside me. A child crying in Ethiopia, a sea gull struggling in an oil spill, a mountain gorilla being mercilessly hunted, a teenage soldier trembling with terror when he hears the planes fly over: Aren’t these happening in me when I see and hear about them?”

He often referred to his inability to witness suffering and not do something to alleviate it, especially in children. There is a very fine line between empathic sensitivity and psychic sensitivity; it often becomes blurred.

Elizabeth Amisu quotes Michael Jackson, speaking about the Invincible album. “’… people will not understand this album right now. It’s ahead of its time … the album will live on forever’ because ‘music is what lives and lasts …’ Jackson knew that it did not matter how Invincible’s tale began, because ‘what’s important is how the story ends.’” I believe his words speak to all of his musical releases from Dangerous through Invincible.

Dangerous Goes 3D

One of the significant factors emphasized in all of the recent academic studies of Michael Jackson’s creative life is the importance of Dancing the Dream: Poems and Reflections. Elizabeth Amisu calls it “one of the best-kept ‘secrets’ in Michael Jackson’s artistic back catalogue” and Joe Vogel states, “The book was mostly overlooked or scoffed at by critics; Jackson’s sincerity made him an easy target. Yet the book provides a fascinating window into an artist who had an uncanny ability to experience and convey in his performances what Deepak Chopra describes as the “God feeling – a transcendent, ‘ecstatic state’ that dissolves hard lines, barriers, and ideologies and recognizes instead the unity in existence …”

I find it very interesting that Mr. Vogel is describing very much what I experienced on the night of October 1, 1992. That “God feeling which dissolves hard lines, barriers, and ideologies and recognizes instead the unity in existence” is a pretty good description of my take away from Michael Jackson Live from Bucharest.

It is this author’s emphatic contention that it is this conveyance of the “God feeling” that forms the major impetus behind all of Michael Jackson’s later musical releases, short films, and publications. At the time of recording of the Dangerous album, Michael had just completed his BAD World Tour; it was also just a few short and extremely busy years after the filming of the 3D fantasy film, Captain EO, for the Disney Parks.

I think Michael was aiming for that same kind of 3D approach with the Dangerous campaign, with the recorded music, the short films, and Dancing the Dream: Poems and Reflections providing a fully-immersive experience across platforms, formats, and media. I also think that this immersive exposure indicates the importance he placed on the thoughts and feelings conveyed across these platforms, formats, and media. And exactly what were these thoughts and feelings that Michael found so important to convey in so many different ways? Ms. Amisu answers that question in Chapter 13: “Faith, Hope, and Love: The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson.”

Elizabeth Amisu calls the album and the book “symbiotic.” But we must not forget that the short films were also an extremely important component in this three-pronged media blitz. She goes on to state, “They feed from one another metaphorically, semantically, and lexically.” While bemoaning the fact that it was little known except by the most die-hard of the fan community (in which I must count myself as I was fortunate enough to have acquired two copies of the book shortly after its publication), she states, “The world already knows this book; wearing Dangerous as its disguise, it has already made its way into the homes of millions.” She goes on to relate, “Dancing the Dream is incredibly important because, like its musical twin Dangerous, it reveals Jackson as a poet who is acutely aware of all these interpretations …” and states that “It signifies the beginning of Jackson’s artistic self-presentation as an activist.”

Throughout his life, but particularly in his later life, Michael Jackson was an outspoken proponent of the aforementioned “Dangerous Philosophies” through every means at his disposal. One wonders what kind of films he would have been able to immerse us in had he had the opportunity to fulfill his movie aspirations. If his short films are any indication, we have been irrevocably and irretrievably short changed and the thieves who have stolen those films from us have gone unpunished.

The Sony Debacle

While many of the most recent authors have given a cursory examination of the acrimony between Michael Jackson and the EPIC Division of Sony Music, my most recent acquisition, Making Michael: Inside the Career of Michael Jackson by Mike Smallcombe has, in my opinion, done the most thorough job of explaining the motivations on both sides of the “Sony Debacle.”

I remember thinking, at the time, that Michael’s behavior was uncharacteristic, but I was never really able to grasp what was happening. Prior to 2001, Michael had always spoken very highly of his record company and its executives, but suddenly he was making speeches that were very critical of them. I knew that if Michael had “taken to the streets” in protest, something must have gone very wrong indeed.

Throughout his book, Mike Smallcombe describes Michael’s creative process through the voices of those who worked closely with him in the recording studio and in short film production. One of the points he emphasizes from the Dangerous recording sessions on is Michael’s perfectionism … to and surpassing the point of pushing deadlines to their limits and often far beyond. Quincy Jones, he infers, was a stabilizing presence in the Off the Wall, Thriller, and BAD recording sessions; he kept Michael on point and on schedule (at least, as much as it was possible to reign in Michael’s devotion to perfection.)

However, once Q was no longer in the picture, that perfectionist nature, which would not allow Michael to settle for good enough, was given freer reign, often causing delays in recording schedules, interruptions to complete short film production or personal appearances, and mobile deadlines which resulted in huge budget overruns. Of course, any large corporation is firmly devoted to the bottom line; that goes without saying.

Michael Jackson, however, really did not allow himself to be limited by monetary considerations or time constraints. He was driven by the art … the music. His artistic integrity was always paramount in his mind, never taking a back seat to limitation or restriction of any kind.  It had been this sense of integrity that had resulted in his remarkable and unprecedented successes in the past.

Throughout his solo career, he had pushed those limits. The recording sessions for both Thriller and BAD had resulted in at least one deadline extension. The Thriller short film had almost not happened because of its cost; it was saved by Michael’s intention to foot the bill himself and John Branca’s innovative The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller short film compilation. The same is true of Smooth Criminal and the Moonwalker feature length film release.  His creativity knew no such boundaries and he pushed himself and everyone around him to go that extra mile that would result in groundbreaking innovation in both recordings and short films, sometimes to the point of scrapping everything that had been done and starting over. To him, setting an arbitrary budgetary limit for a recording or short film was like living in a straight jacket with both hands tied behind his back, literally. It limited his creative freedom in a similar way to his adherence to his Jehovah Witness faith, which he had jettisoned during the BAD campaign. It was something he could not tolerate.

One can imagine Michelangelo’s patrons standing on the floor of the Sistine Chapel and yelling up the scaffold, “Just paint any hand! It doesn’t have to be God’s hand! Get it done! There is no more money. We have a schedule to keep.” Perhaps, Michelangelo would have “accidentally” dumped a gallon or two of paint on them in retaliation. Like Michelangelo, Michael felt that art should not be rushed or limited.

My gratitude to Mr. Smallcombe for his clarity in explaining the complicated issues at stake for both parties in the “Sony Debacle” in such a way that I feel at least partially knowledgeable. As I see it (with Mr. Smallcombe’s help), it was a battle of ideologies  … the assembly line versus the artistic integrity of the artist. In such a battle, there is never only one side.

On Sony’s side: Michael (along with almost all artists) refused to tour following the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, however, his tour was the lynchpin in Sony’s marketing campaign for the Invincible album. The marketing plan was lacking in innovation, according to Michael. Because of his inability to sleep when touring and the rigors of the touring system, he was adamant that the marketing campaign did not include a world tour. Additionally, he refused to stick to deadlines (set by Sony) for completion of the album, accept budgets (set by Sony) and film ideas (arranged by Sony) for the album’s short films.

On Michael’s side: dissatisfaction with Sony’s marketing plan for Invincible (which consisted almost entirely of sending Michael out to tour against Michael’s wishes and his physician’s medical advice), annoyance over Sony’s refusal to release “What More Can I Give” as a promotional campaign for the album, what he considered to be overly restrictive budgets for the short films he envisioned from the album, and lack of support for his philanthropic efforts following the September 11, 2001 attack in New York were significant complaints. In addition, he thought ownership of his master recordings would revert to him as early as 2004, but a careful re-reading of his contract by his lawyers showed that those recordings would not revert to him until 2009, at the earliest. The additional burden of in-fighting and jockeying for positions of control within his inner circle of advisors (which would become an escalating problem in the latter part of Michael’s life) became a significant factor.

Although, he envisioned many innovative short films from the material included on the album Invincible and was particularly excited to “get his hands on” the film for “Threatened,” he viewed Sony’s proposals for short films and their budgets as inadequate, lacking in innovation and creativity, and overly restrictive to his creative, innovative approach (which had so handsomely rewarded Sony in the past.) He disagreed with Sony’s choice of directors and album art and just about everything. In the end, he just refused to participate and put his name on “cookie cutter” music videos. His artistic integrity would not allow him to settle for being just “one of the cans in the assembly line.”

Mr. Smallcombe states that Michael Jackson began to lose creative control over his short films as early as the HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book 1 films and quotes Michael Jackson from 1998: “I’m submitting interesting projects at times, but I don’t always get to do the things I want. Some people [at Sony] push me to do things fast; they don’t care about the result, so they don’t care that the videos will look like everyone else’s, they don’t want to be creative. They are limited. I always wanted to do videos that were innovative, and I want to continue like that. But some people only want that I put myself in front of the camera, and when the lights go on they hope something magic will happen … just like that, without thinking. Well, it doesn’t work that way.”

Inner Circle (The Sharks in the Water)

One of the most mystifying factors in the life of Michael Jackson is how the people closest to him, his advisors consisting of managers, accountants, lawyers and publicity people, came to be so out of control during the latter years of his career. This situation came to a head during the last year of his life, resulting eventually in the confusion of having at least two people claiming to be his manager in 2009, at least one of them claiming to hold his power of attorney while Michael, himself, claimed that he did not represent him and that he had no power to negotiate on his behalf.

Up to that point, there had been a veritable game of “musical chairs” in Michael’s legal and financial empire. Both of his ex-wives had complained about the people surrounding Michael and the in-fighting that enveloped him at every turn and prior to any decision. Often, each of them found themselves the subject of “whispering” campaigns by people who had Michael’s ear and who harbored agendas against Michael Jackson’s best interests.

Mike Smallcombe claims that this “in-fighting” and “jockeying for position” began as early as 1989 and 1990 with Michael Jackson’s relationship with entertainment mogul David Geffen. From the relative stability of Frank Dileo and John Branca (through the BAD campaign), Mr. Smallcombe recounts that Geffen used Michael Jackson to wreak “havoc” for Walter Yetnikoff [EPIC division of Sony] . “Advising Michael to replace Dileo with Gallin was said to be part of Geffen’s way of avenging his enemy Walter Yetnikoff, the CBS president,” he states.

At the time, Mr. Smallcombe describes a literal take-over of Michael Jackson’s legal and financial empire by Geffen associates, with Sandy Gallin and Jim Morey providing his management following the ousting of Frank Dileo; Allen Grubman, one of Geffen’s lawyers,  replacing John Branca as his attorney; his accountants being replaced by  Geffen associates, and David Geffen whispering in Michael’s ear against CBS in an effort to “turn his most prized asset, Michael Jackson, against him [Yetnikoff} by making Michael want to leave the label.” Geffen was successful in his attempt to oust Walter Yetnikoff. Yetnikoff was fired in September 1990; he was replaced by Tommy Mottola.

This is just one example of Michael Jackson’s trust being manipulated by people for their own agendas rather than in his best interests. Throughout the following decade, there would be a number of associates ousted from Michael’s management and advising team. At the end of the day, however, the romance with Mottola, too, would sour when the Sony president tried to exert control over Michael Jackson’s creative freedom during the Invincible campaign. Joe Vogel states, “His representation had become a revolving door. Increasingly, he didn’t know who to trust.”

 

 

 

 

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