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Archive for September, 2010

Monarch

Butterflies
Of black and orange
Circle over my head
The colors you favored
Black pants with shirts
Of orange red

Monarchs
In their finest hues
Winging their busy ways
Migrating
Before the winter
Little time to waste

Yet, they pause for a moment
After circling once or twice
To get my attention
Light on a branch
Before continuing their flight
To another dimension

Monarchs, Kings
A common sight
Gossamer wings
Of stained glass tissue paper
Carry them untold miles
To return to the very tree
Where they morphed
From a chrysalis
Just to make me smile

In so many ways
They remind me of you
In their metamorphosis,
Their headlong flight,
Their name,
Even their hue

In their strength
Their endurance
Their stamina
Belied by their tiny size
They float on the currents
Of the wind
In this they are wise

The soul of a loved one
Returning to visit
To remind, to inspire
To amuse, to inquire
To tickle a sense of playfulness
They glide lightly on the breeze
A breath of soulfulness
They hint, they tease

Monarch, King
Of my soul
And my heart
You promised to always
Be here
Never to part

At times
It is so hard to feel
Your presence
But in the butterflies
I can see
Know your essence

Monarch butterflies
Of black and orange
Keep circling over my head
The colors you favored
Black pants and shirts
Of orange red

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I found this wonderful line in a poem by an Internet colleague by the name of Gerri Stone whose book of poems Freeing the Heart was published in June, 2010 and is currently available on Amazon.com. She used the line as part of a poem that listed the things she had learned from Michael Jackson. When I read it, it wormed its way under my skin and made me think of how wonderfully Michael Jackson used his voice – not just his individual, physical voice, but his voice in a much larger context. It inspired me and made me itch to examine the voice – and the uses to which it can be put – further.

In some very ancient, prehistoric cultures, there is evidence that mankind’s ability to speak – to use language – was considered the only differentiation between it and the rest of the animal kingdom. It was not the heart or the brain or the unseen soul which animates and informs the voice that stood man apart from the animals prehistoric man hunted for food or clothing in these hunter -gatherer societies of prehistoric Africa and Europe. It was the voice.

In these societies, what they perceived as the location of the larynx – generally, the pulse point at the base of the throat in the hollow minimally above the V-shaped indentation that marks the joining of the clavicles or collarbones – was considered the seat of wisdom or the most sacred organ of the human body because the voice could be seen there when used – it was where the voice lived – its home.

Later cultures attributed mankind’s uniqueness – and therefore, rightful dominance over – the rest of its world to the soul (called the ka in ancient Egypt) or the heart (which was weighed at death to determine the truth contained therein), removing the emphasis from the voice center as the major sacred organ of the human body. But, even so, a vestige – an echo – of these prehistoric beliefs exalting the voice – or the throat chakra – remains even today a pivotal energy conduit which, when fully activated, contributes its share to the flow of chi (energy) in the human body. The throat chakra is the seat of communication, not surprisingly.

In Buddhist and Hindu philosophy, when one of these seven energy centers or chakras is blocked or undeveloped, the flow of chi is disrupted causing disease or discomfort in the corresponding area of the body. The ancient Chinese art of acupuncture is aimed at freeing such blockages and restoring the free flow of energy. The Hindu meditative practice of Kundalini yoga is a method whereby the energy (chi) pooled at the base of the spine (visualized as a snake) uncoils and rises up the channel of the spine to enliven the chakras. In the Buddhist Tantric Tradition, sexual energy of unimaginable intensity is utilized to awaken and activate the chakras. Ever heard of the Kama Sutra? It is a textbook on awakening the chakras through non-orgiastic, repeated sexual, meditative practice.

It is a shame that we have forgotten reverence for the voice in our modern times. Never before has the common man had such autonomy in the use of its voice. The advent of the Internet has opened the world to communication – to the voice. At the same time, never before has the human species had less reverence for it or its effects.

We choose to use our voices in a variety of ways, precious few of which are uplifting or edifying. We use it regularly to criticize instead of encourage; to belittle and degrade rather than lifting up; to tear down as opposed to building. We use it profanely and scatologically on a regular basis. We use it to propagate hatred and prejudice and judgment, to promote violence against women, neighbors, children. We use it to sell garbage that no one needs. We use it to lie and cheat, misrepresent and mislead. We can just as easily choose to use our voice for more healing, loving, compassionate purposes.

One of the things that always impressed me about Michael Jackson was the reverence and gratitude with which he held the voice he was given at birth. He used that voice well as he used all the gifts with which he was endowed. He developed it with years of honing to a razor edge with a vocal coach. He pampered it with lollipops and suckers (his sweet tooth was notorious) and HOT Ricola tea to coat his throat with soothing, healing comfort when he needed to make the extraordinary demands on it his profession required. He trained it allowing it to stretch to accomplish the feats he required of it at a comfortable pace, exercised it to keep it limber and flexible. He rested and protected it by speaking in soft, almost whisper-quiet tones. He didn’t waste his voice on profanity or blasphemy or scatology or gossip. He used it courteously and respectfully when addressing others in his sphere of influence. He unleashed that incredible voice –sometimes at crescendo pitch – for the betterment of his human family, to make his audiences happy, to bring moments of escape from the everyday stresses and abuses of our modern society, to encourage thought and action and to inspire. He poured his love for music and for us through it, totally engaging with the music during performance. He used it to uplift, never to belittle; to encourage, never to criticize; to build, never to tear down. ‎“When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.” Eph 4:29 (NCV)

Michael Jackson absolutely refused to swear or curse or use profanity. Co-workers from Quincy Jones to Teddy Riley to Akon to Slash all commented on Michael’s adamant refusal to bow to convention and use curse words as punctuation marks or parentheses, adverbs or adjectives. Ours is a world where we excuse the use of swearing by elementary school children with a shrug and “it’s only a word.” We refuse to acknowledge that words have power to harm … and to heal. They contain energy, unseen but ever-present spiritual energy. Because they are intangible we deny them reality. They float on the ether. And we make up idioms that excuse our use of voice as immaterial like, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Wrong! Words can beat a spirit down … just as they can be used as the wind beneath the wings of our spirits which provide the buoyancy to lift them above the clouds.

The Voices Education Project (www.voiceseducation.org) curriculum entitled Words and Violence clearly shows the effects our voices have on our children, our leaders, our students, our idols and ourselves through the case studies, in-depth reflective readings, poems it encompasses. Voices is using its voice to educate and to bring about change by teaching our children that words have power and that, once released, they cannot be taken back nor can the injury we do with them be rescinded. With this knowledge, children then can make informed, conscious, effective, humane choices in using their voices to reshape the world they inhabit when we are gone. I am proud to have contributed a small part of that curriculum and pray that it contributes to a much more humane, sane world.

In a larger context, the voice can also be considered how we live our lives, what contribution we make to our society, what impression we leave behind us, how we represent ourselves in the world in which we live. One of my favorite lines from the movie The Da Vinci Code is, “We are what we stand for, what we believe in.” This, too, could be considered our voice in the larger, more universal context.

Even in this larger context, Michael used his voice, his fame, his music and his example to encourage and exalt virtuous living, to instill values of love and peace, to provoke thought, to point to societal and environmental apathy, to encourage the world to be one family, to alleviate suffering on a global basis, to end war and to promote brotherhood. He spoke from a platform that would be very difficult to duplicate as the most famous human being on the planet and his messages were always motivated by L.O.V.E.

In this larger context, he stood for healing. Thousands of hospital-bound children were treated to his beatific smile when he visited them, bringing toys and gifts, spending time talking with them and playing little games like peak-a-boo with the youngest of them. Those who didn’t survive their illnesses left this world with the vision of his love-filled eyes and his gentle kiss to carry with them into eternity. Those who did will always remember that once-upon-a-time, the most famous human being on the planet took the time to spend a few minutes making their lives happier. Hundreds of abandoned and forgotten children crowded around him when he visited orphanages, trying to touch him or watching his little hand-puppet shows intended to make them laugh and forget their hopelessness. Often he left a check to improve the conditions in which they lived after his departure, but they wouldn’t have been aware of how those crisp linen sheets or warm blankets arrived to cover their beds. Thousands of inner city children who had never seen an amusement park or a mountain or a llama spent an afternoon being treated to snow cones and rides, popcorn and rope bridges in a magical oasis constructed for their amusement.

These were what Michael Jackson stood for, the impression he left behind, what he believed in. Leaving aside the media’s myopic view, these are the impressions he leaves behind in hundreds of thousands of lives all over the world. That media view doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell, regardless of how powerful it may seem at times! Those hundreds of thousands of children who he impacted will grow and give voice to their view of the Michael Jackson they knew briefly. Hundreds of thousands of voices will not only sing his words in the songs that echo in their hearts but will tell of the day a man in black whooshed into the hospital room and left them feeling better although still sporting intravenous tubing and bald heads! Hundreds of thousands! Worldwide! I wonder which view will win its place in history.

Much of the world cheapens the miracle of the voice by using it to destroy, to assassinate, to belittle, to gossip, to dehumanize, to control thought and to perpetuate the lowest common denominator in the human species.  We don’t value it; we take it for granted. It is not a treasure to us, it is an entitlement.

Conversely, Michael valued his voice and he often thanked God for it. Michael treasured, cherished, his voice as priceless – as a gift from his Creator – and inflated it with respect, courtesy, humanity, freedom of thought and spirit.  He was intent on moving humanity into a higher state of consciousness than we currently inhabit rather than holding it back, on pushing each one of us past the boundaries of our comfort zones in a very real, personal way. Through the use of his voice, he introduced many of us to the most miraculous of beings … ourselves … and endowed us with purpose and the means to become more than we ever thought we could be. He freed rather than hindered; he built rather than destroyed. The fame he garnered through the use of that gift spread that voice to every corner of the earth. The impression he left behind in his wake was one of light breaking through darkness – as the flame of one candle illumines the darkness and dispels the fear and shadow it hides – in hundreds of millions of hearts across the globe. May you continue to “travel in the light” always, Michael!

His was one voice that provoked and inspired millions of other voices, alerted others to injustice, encouraged others to make that change and, in so doing, left this world a better place than he found it in the macrocosm as well as the microcosm – locally as well as globally – personally as well as universally. He illustrates and personifies the beautiful line from the poem with which this post began: Treat the voice as the treasure it is.

Jan

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A Song is a Mantra

“I’m not one to sit back and say, ‘Oh, I feel bad for what happened to them.’ I want the whole world to sing What More Can I Give to bring us together as a world, because a song is a mantra, something you repeat over and over. And we need peace, we need giving, we need love, we need unity.

I believe in my heart that the music community will come together as one and rally to the aid of thousands of innocent victims. There is a tremendous need for relief dollars right now and through this effort each one of us can play an immediate role in helping comfort so many people.”

Michael Jackson

I read the above quote on one of the websites I frequent the other day and copied it into my “Ideas” folder to work on later. I was struck by the profound wisdom of one of the lines, and specifically the first five words: “A song is a mantra, something you repeat over and over.” I had never thought of music in just this way before, but in the moment I read the quote I was bowled over, staggered by the simplicity – and complexity – and truth – of the thought. It’s just five words, but they are so brimming over with meaning and significance and depth. This is a miracle of brevity at its finest! This is conciseness, succinctness carried to a fine art! The above five words are so loaded with impact that it would take a dissertation to unravel the threads of import woven into them, to break them down into palatable pieces for consumption and digestion. These are five words that summarize and encapsulate a lifetime of legendary global outreach, lobbying for change and astronomical achievement.

Let’s begin by defining the terms. A mantra is defined by Merriam Webster as a Sanskrit derivative meaning a mystical formula of invocation or incantation. In Hindu and Buddhist philosophy a mantra is an aid to meditation whose intention is to bring the practitioner closer to divine awareness. It is a chant, a syllable or series of syllables, sometimes of which we have no idea of the meaning, upon which we place our awareness or we focus our attention to the exclusion of all other distractions. In one of my favorite philosophical theories, the very act of focusing awareness or attention facilitates changing our reality. If such is the case, it behooves us to use care in the thoughts we shape into songs. Those proponents of violence and degradation of the human species, including women and certain ethnic groups, are proselytizing for those thoughts to become the reality we all experience. Conversely, those who fill their songs with uplifting messages of healing, unity, peace and celebrating human brilliance while encouraging change manifest their “the sky’s the limit” thoughts into the reality they experience. I know which I would want to promulgate.

In Transcendental Meditation, the mantra is assigned to the mendicant and is repeated over and over to assist in clearing the mind and stopping the constant flow of “chatter” with which our brains are bombarded endlessly, allowing him to experience the silence at the center of thought. As Michael says, “I am the thinker, the thinking, the thought. I am the seeker, the seeking, the sought.” It is to this point of union which is expressed so well in this quote that the mantra leads. It is the goal of Transcendental Meditation to introduce us to the ‘thinker,’ the ‘seeker’ at the inception of thought, to strip away the meaningless clutter with which most of us fill our minds to arrive at the realization of who we really are. The practice has additional mental, emotional and physical benefits permitting one to quiet the mind, calm the heart rate and pulse, lower the blood pressure and alleviate stress (all proven by medical experiments.) So, leaving aside the religious or spiritual connotations, the mantra assists the practitioner in navigating the perils of our stress-filled, multi-tasking societal expectations and responsibilities by providing a blank slate for a few minutes allowing the mendicant to re-enter the world more rested, more alert and more ready to take up those expectations and responsibilities.

But the above definition begs a couple of others. For example, an invocation is defined by the same authority as the process of petitioning for help, a prayer. So much for leaving aside the spiritual connotations! One can’t separate Michael and the Spirit; it’s like trying to unscramble an egg. Can’t be done! The two are so interwoven that they have become wed, bonded, interchangeable. Michael was a very spiritually-aligned human being and he was extremely vocal about that spiritual alignment in his art, his interviews, his public speeches at award presentations and any other platform from which he was given the opportunity to speak. He used such occasions and the power of his celebrity to bring children’s issues to the attention of his audiences, to point to social and political problems that require our creative solutions. (“The child with AIDS in the ghetto is waiting for you along with the starving people in Africa and everyone else who needs healing. Make this world a better place by sharing with me the wonderful feeling you get when your soul is lifted up to become pure L.O.V.E.”- Michael Jackson, Soul Train Music Awards 1993 and there are a plethora of other examples.) So, it’s not surprising that there is an underlying spiritual tone to the term he used to describe a song.

Further, an incantation is defined as the use of spells or verbal charms spoken or sung as part of a ritual of magic. Aha! Now, we’re getting to it. Magic! Sorcery (but only in the very best possible interpretation thereof)! Historically, an incantation was used in much the same way as an invocation and magic was just another expression of religious thought. In ancient Egypt, sorcerers and soothsayers and astrologists were attached to the temples and performed their ‘experiments’ at the behest of the high priests or the Pharaoh, himself. It has gotten a lot of bad press over the centuries instigated mainly by organized religions. Their need to control the populations in their jurisdictions led to controlling thought and compelled the assignation of Black Magic or Satanic connotations to the word, but that is not its original intent. Magic and sorcery had their roots in alchemy which I have examined in considerable depth in another post on this website – the philosophy of chemistry, if you will. To the uneducated of the Middle Ages, the magical transformations that occur with considerable regularity in chemical experiments are magic! The fact that one thing changes form or color and becomes quite another is shape shifting or sorcery! There is nothing inherently evil in either the word or the discipline it represents.

But we still have one more term to define. Mystical is defined as 1) having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence or 2) of, relating to, or resulting from an individual’s direct communion with God or ultimate reality. Whoa! Both definitions pack a power-punch of significance. Right-brain thought, anyone? (Please see the post entitled Scared of the Moon on this website for a more in-depth look at this term.) By applying the second definition above (of, relating to or resulting from an individual’s direct communion with God or ultimate reality) to the definition of incantation we arrive at MIRACLE instead of MAGIC, for what else is magic performed by God, the ultimate Sorcerer/Magician/Creator if not a miracle?

There is evidence that Michael Jackson witnessed many miracles in his life. At least one young cancer victim experienced what his doctors termed a “miraculous recovery” after Michael “coated him with love,” prayed for his recovery, and provided a happy, safe, protected environment where he could be constantly encouraged to regain his strength and empowered to facilitate his own natural healing, with a little help from God, no doubt, at Neverland Valley Ranch. That youngster and his family then turned on their benefactor with a vengeance! When asked in an interview if he thought he could heal, Michael replied that he’d seen it happen with lots of children that he’d visited or allowed to visit him. The subject was then dropped like a hot potato! If pursued, it would have elicited the response that Michael was not responsible for the healing; all he had done was provide the atmosphere and, therefore, the mindset for the healing to take place. Then, he let go … and let God! The fact that he cared enough to provide that safe, loving, happy environment where he ‘coated’ the children with love and encouragement, that he loved children enough to pray for their recovery and call them from his trips around the world to teach them to visualize Pac Man eating up all those nasty cancer cells is what makes Michael different from other philanthropists – the personal touch!

All of the above from just one word! One word! That word was chosen with great care for the specific connotations and associations it carried with it, have no doubt! It was not an accident. The man who spoke it did not have accidents with words. He chose his words with the utmost care for the effect they would have on his listeners. Even his criticisms or corrections during rehearsals were voiced with tolerance, concern and respect for the autonomy of the individuals addressed to avoid bruising egos.

“A song is a mantra.” Michael Jackson lived his life by those five words. He placed his dreams and goals for us – as a people – into his music. Then, he allowed those words, which were specifically chosen to uplift and inspire, to encourage action and lobby for change, to inform his actions and his charitable giving. Those mantras are then repeated over and over – not only by Michael – but by all of us who listen to his music and watch his short films and performances. We, too, repeat the mantra over and over while driving to and from work or relaxing at home. Focusing our attention and intention upon them, we allow those healing, uplifting thoughts to echo within our minds and become springboards for our actions as Michael allowed them to inform his. By doing so, we spread that mantra across the globe and approach a state of creation whereby the healing and unity and love and peace that Michael envisioned within the song manifests, at least within our innermost universe. With a little more practice and a little more repetition, perhaps, the world in which no war disturbs the experience of a normal, healthy childhood, in which no hunger threatens innocent lives, in which no untruth is allowed to triumph over human achievement and in which the radiance of our true nature shines forth from our souls as it did from Michael Jackson’s can be ex-pressed (as in pushed out) into our reality and we can actually make that change!

Jan

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Scared of the Moon

Alone she lays waiting
Surrounded by gloom
Invaded by shadows
Painting the room
The light from the window
Cuts through the air
And pins the child lying there
Scared of the moon

She pulls up the covers
And shivers in fright
She hides from the color
That rides on the night
The light through the window
That lights up the sky
And causes her mournful cry
Scared of the moon

There’s nothing wrong
Don’t be bothered they said
It’s just childish fantasies turning your head
No need to worry
It’s really too soon
But there she lies shivering
Scared of the moon

Scared of the moon
Scared of the moon
Scared of the moon
Scared of the moon

The years go by swiftly
And soon childhood ends
But life is still fearful
When evening descends
The fear of the child
Still intrudes the night
Returning on beams of light
Scared of the moon

The feeling of terror
She felt as a youth
Has turned from a fantasy
Into a truth
The moon is the enemy
Twisting her soul
And taking its fearful toll
Scared of the moon

But now there are others who sit in their room
And wait for the sunlight to brighten their gloom
Together they gather
Their lunacy shared
Not knowing just why they’re scared
Scared of the moon

Scared of the moon
Scared of the moon
Scared of the moon
Scared of the moon

Michael Jackson recorded this song during the Thriller era (1984) but it wasn’t released until The Ultimate Collection in 2004 on which it was listed as an unreleased demo. The liner notes refer to a book by the same title, but I haven’t been able to find that. For those Michael Jackson fans who have not treated themselves to The Ultimate Collection, may I recommend that you do so? It is a treasure trove of beautiful songs, including many of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits spanning his entire career as well as about ten songs that are shown as demos, which in this humble fan’s opinion are just as good as anything he ever released. Scared of the Moon is one of them.

Michael sings this song with deep emotion (one can hear the tears in his voice and in his nasal passages as he sings the fourth verse). After hearing it for the first time I wondered if it referred to something in his life – or in one of his family member’s lives – about which he felt very strongly.

Today, as I was driving home from work, I listened to it again. I have an MP3 player upon which I have placed two hundred and forty-five songs ranging from Michael’s first hits as an effervescent, joyous member of the Jackson 5 through his last releases as a solo artist. Most of the time I have the MP3 player set to random play unless I have a particular need to hear a song because of events of the day or my heart just craves uplifting or my granddaughter has a specific request (she doesn’t like the ‘sweet’ songs.) Most of the time random play serves them up in an order that suits me just fine, much of the time throwing in the song that I really needed during my half hour drive to or from work as a surprise, a gift from his heart to mine. I am always grateful for those gifts and throw up a “thanks, beloved!” My husband has long ago decided that I’m like totally nuts!

Tonight, Scared of the Moon was on the agenda. While the song was playing, I had an interesting insight that I thought I would like to explore in more depth. The moon has traditionally been a symbol for the female, intuitive, right-brained side of life. Intuition, artistic creativity, poesy, the divine feminine, empathic sensitivity, imaginative or psychic powers all fall under the aegis or authority of the right brain or moon, in the symbolic sense. This is the passive yang principal in oriental philosophy.

Conversely, the material, logical, analytical side of the brain is considered the left brain. It is responsible for scientific inquiry, logical thinking, analytical, male dominance, patriarchal, I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it kind of thought. This is the active yin principal in oriental philosophy.

Ideally, both hemispheres of the brain work in tandem to help us navigate our lives. When one is damaged, the other partially takes over its duties because the two hemispheres have a channel of communication that flows between them. One of the theories used to explain epilepsy is that the channel of communication between the two hemispheres of the brain becomes disrupted, causing seizures. Most of us have a dominant hemisphere – one that we feel more at home in than the other. In some situations, damage or trauma can cause one hemisphere to become inactive or unable to function, which causes brain pathology of various kinds.

Well, I suppose I won’t get too many disagreements if I state that Michael Jackson was very right-brain oriented or right-brain dominant. He was a dreamer, claiming to suck inspiration out of the ether like a Hoover, imaginative with the ability to live in his imagination most of the time, extremely artistic in many fields, empathic to the suffering of others nearly to the point of his own physical discomfort, sensitive and extremely spiritually oriented. There is a theory being circulated since his demise that he experienced trauma as a youth (perhaps, as a result of one of the ‘spankings’ he received from his father) which made the left side of his brain inactive or unable to function, arresting his development at the eight or nine-year-old level in the left hemisphere while the right developed at the normal rate, creating an actual physical handicap to his normal functioning in the adult world.

While I do not support this theory wholeheartedly, I do believe that Michael was right-brain oriented by choice almost to the exclusion of the left-brain functions that control many of life’s little challenges and, I believe, he was comfortable in that sphere. But I also believe that he was a fully-functioning adult who preferred to see the world through the innocent eyes of a child because the sight was too painful to him any other way.

Now, it has been my experience that left-brain dominant people often have a discomfort bordering on horror of predominantly right-brain thinkers. They abhor illogical, feeling-based, empathic or imaginative thought. They patronize acquaintances of the right-brain persuasion as idealists, dreamers, wearing rose-colored glasses, unable to deal with the world of reality. It’s their way or the highway! We all know people like this. They’re the ones who admonish us to “wake up and smell the coffee, take your head out of the clouds and pay attention, you never listen to a word I say, there really is no Santa Claus or Neverland” and any of the many variations we hear on the same theme. The criticism is not intended to be cruel – after all, we might be disappointed if allowed to count too strongly on our imaginations – it’s for our own good, isn’t it? One can’t be allowed to go around living in his or her imagination. That just wouldn’t be right, at all. And it might result in change, in manifesting our dreams and bringing them into the world of form and matter! Heavens, just think what might happen!

I’m married to one of these left-brainers who is very dogma-oriented (as in religious) and tells me frequently that I don’t see the world as it is (to which I usually reply, “Look at the world. Would you want to see it as it is?”) I, on the other hand, am a predominantly right-brain thinker. Although not particularly artistically-inclined, I am sympathetic to suffering almost to the empathic level, sensitive to any kind of emotional disturbance, tension or stress, very much a day-dreamer who is just as likely to run into a wall because I am not paying attention as make it through that doorway unscathed, heart-centered and very spiritually  (as opposed to religiously) oriented.

Here is an example of how the difference between our brain dominance affects our lives. My husband’s favorite choice in movie viewing is war films, action films and horror films – the more realistically portrayed the better. After spending 59 days in Viet Nam where he was shot down in a helicopter and lived through it, I would think he would have seen enough of war, but, apparently not. He has to watch it on television and movie theaters, too. He has seen Tora, Tora, Tora every single time they have shown it on the History Channel, loves The Omen, Predator, and Saving Private Ryan. “This is the real world,” I am frequently told, “not some airy fairy world of moonbeams and moonwalks.” (LOL!)

I, on the other hand, won’t willingly watch such things because I believe that what we place and focus our attention on becomes our reality. There are two underlying thoughts which control our universe: Love and Fear. I will not pay good money to go into a darkened theater and immerse myself in fear (represented by war, action, and horror movies) for two hours. My movie viewing is limited to Walt Disney (fortunately I am raising my eight-year-old granddaughter who also loves Walt Disney), love stories, and Michael Jackson. Needless to say, we don’t go to a lot of movies together.

Okay, so we’ve got two hemispheres of the brain, right and left, one of which views the other with horror and disdain often to the point of ridicule (don’t forget, it’s all for our own good, of course.) Michael is right-brain dominant which is represented by the moon, the intuitive, the empathic, the psychic. Left-brain dominance is represented symbolically by the sun, the logical, the realistic, the analytical, and scientific method.

The insight I had on my drive home in the car this evening (remember – that’s how this whole thing started) was Michael Jackson, a young man (early twenties) at the time the above song was recorded, was very intuitive; as a matter of fact,  I would venture to say he was prescient. While his education was often interrupted to allow for travel around the world to perform at concerts and television shows, he was extremely inquisitive (just ask Berry Gordy or Suzanne de Passe), pursued his own line of inquiry (in other words, he followed his own interests) and was far from uneducated. Like all of us, Michael encountered moments when the two hemispheres of his brain were in opposition to each other, when he was being pulled in two directions at the same time, when he argued with himself over the proper course to take. Who hasn’t experienced those impulses urging toward logic while also inexorably drawn to the rampantly, flagrantly illogical? Who hasn’t been forced to choose between heart-based, imaginative engagement and doing what the world expects of us, being responsible, thinking logically? Which of us hasn’t felt frightened by the bottomless pit of the imaginative, illogical – and by our total fascination with it bordering on being irretrievably lost in it – at times? Was it possible that this admittedly intuitive, perceptive young man was commenting on this universally-known phenomenon symbolically within his art? Was this an early example of social commentary which would develop fully later in his life and result in numerous songs ending with Shout in 2008?

In addition, our world and our society are very left-brain attuned. We are a reality-based, materialistic, modernistic, technology-oriented culture. One who flaunts his right-brain proclivities blatantly, successfully, globally – and without apology for going against the ‘norm’ – raises our ire. How dare he fly in the face of convention? We (and I’m speaking collectively, here) feel compelled to bring him back down to earth – for his own good, of course – when he’s flying too high! He could hit his head on a star! We must burst his bubble, for his own sake. We can’t allow him to go on believing that anything is possible, that there really is, indeed, a Santa Claus or a Neverland. Think of his disappointment when the truth becomes all too transparent. We’ve all experienced that moment when our bubble was burst by some well-meaning friend in around the second grade, haven’t we?

Let’s take this thought to the next logical step in its evolution. What if this adamantly right-brain oriented individual who has the audacity to live his dreams in full sight of the entire left-brained culture into which he was thrust at birth should actually create that Neverland, himself? What if he should dare to manifest the world of his imagination within our very real, materialistic, logical world? Why, of course, we must tear it down (both literally and figuratively) – we cannot allow such extravagance and beauty and imagination to exist – an oasis within the wasteland of our reality – and actually benefit children. It’s not possible that that was his original intention. There must be something sinister behind it. After all, who would create such a place, spend millions to maintain it in pristine splendor and invite children to enjoy it without having some ulterior motive, without benefiting from it himself in some way?

Although the scorn and ridicule Michael would eventually face hadn’t started in full earnest at the time the song was recorded – at least, not to the level it eventually became – was he drawing our attention to the fear and abhorrence he would later suffer from the world he inhabited? The child (left-brain dominant) in the song is scared of the moon (right-brain oriented) and fear causes humans to react – sometimes violently knee-jerk reactions – to be somewhat unthinking, unreasonable and downright cruel to the moon. After all, it’s for its own good.

This would not be the only example of Michael Jackson’s prescience. The timing of the release of the Dangerous album and, specifically, the song Will You Be There (with its emotional rap at the end) was another illustration of his premonition of what would eventually happen. Remember, the Dangerous album was released in 1991 but it was recorded between 1989 and 1991. Generally, the schedule for release of songs is set before the album is released. How else was the release of the song Will You Be There so unerringly timed if not by premonition?

Remember, with me, if you will. The official release of the song Will You Be There and the movie Free Willy containing the song along with a modified version of the short film to accompany the song coincided very closely with the news of the first set of allegations against Michael in 1993. While the medialoid was tripping over its own feet in its attempts to beat its competitors to the most salacious headlines, Michael’s song was being played in movie theaters across this country along with the tearful rap at the end of it … “In our darkest hour, in my deepest despair, will you still care, will you be there? In my trials and my tribulations, through our doubts and frustrations, in my violence, in my turbulence, through my fears and my confessions, in my anguish and my pain, through my joy and my sorrow, in the promise of another tomorrow, I’ll never let you part. For you’re always in my heart.” I remember this well; I sat in the movie theater and cried! I hear those left-brainers out there shaking their heads and thinking, “Coincidence!” Well, we all know how I feel about coincidences, don’t we?

I’ve always thought of Will You Be There as Michael Jackson’s intensely private – while at the same time exuberantly public – Gethsemane, corresponding with Jesus’s night of prayer prior to his trial. Jesus begged his Father to “take this cup from me,” but, he said, “Not my will but Thine be done.” We are told by the author of the Gospel that an angel was sent to comfort him in his fear and anguish at what was to come because his disciples couldn’t seem to stay awake and pray with him. This episode from the Gospels raises interesting parallels with Michael’s song in which he sings, “Hold me like the River Jordan and I will then say to thee you are my friend. Carry me like you were my brother, love me like a mother. Will you be there?” As he gazes out over the audience and the beat builds, once again he puts it all on the line (as Michael so often did), fully ‘engages’ with the music, But they told me a man should be faithful and walk when not able and fight to the end, but I’m only human! Everyone’s taking control of me. Seems that the world has a role for me. I’m so confused will you show to me you’ll be there for me and care enough to bear me.” As he speaks the tear-filled rap at the end of the song, an angel descends from the rafters to comfort him. The song could easily be interpreted as a prayer of supplication to his Higher Power. “I’m only human.” I find the parallels striking, to say the least.

I believe in my heart that Michael had premonitions – or, perhaps, nothing more than educated guesses, as the predominantly left-brained thinker would rationalize them – and placed the evidence of his foreknowledge in his art for all of us to interpret at our leisure after he was gone. Scared of the Moon is, in my opinion, an early example of this prescience. Will You Be There is a later illustration and there are others. Was he explaining to us what was going to happen? Was he answering his own … and our … over-arching question, “Why?”

Jan


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Bright Angel

Why?
What forged this bond?
Did you need me
Or the other way round?

Did you know I was here?
How could I help you?
So far away
How could I reach out
Beg you to stay

We met in the music
Our souls embraced
We danced in the rhythms
never face to face.

The words you had written
entered my heart
Was it my imagination?
Was it just art?

Closer and closer
Becoming so fond
I felt your pain
Heard the sound
Of your anguished cry
From across a world
I wept with you
As their weapons unfurled

Not separate
No space between us
Your pain in my heart
Your tears burning my eyes
Closer than my skin
my heartbeat, my breath
I longed to touch
To hold
When darkness closed in
To comfort
Against the gathering din

Did you need me?
Of what use was I?
Did you give me the words?
Did you hear my cry?

Our lives were joined
From that day to this
Hand in hand
Each following our bliss
You with your music
Your dance, your creating
Me with my stories
My articles berating
The blindness, the iniquity
The hatred, the insanity

I watched in amazement
Your comet blazing ‘cross the skies
Until one day last summer
They said you had died

My heart stopped
How could this be
That you are not
Here with me

Then I remembered
A thing you had taught me
Love never dies
In the place you had sought me
In our souls we are one
And once joined this way
I never have to
Beg you to stay

For we are together
Still hand in hand
‘Tho our feet do not touch
The paths or the sand

In our hearts we have bonded
Never to sever
In our thoughts of healing
We will not waver

You continue to shine
In the sun’s bright beams
We reflect your brilliance
Dimmer, it seems

You told us
We’re just another part of you
In the space where we meet
We learn that it’s true

So, Bright Angel,
Lead on
We follow behind
Help us to be
Loving and kind
by your example
ever present in our minds

Jan

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He Dares to be Recognized

What was it about Michael Jackson that made him so unique? Perhaps, a better, more revealing and informative question would be, “What wasn’t unique about Michael Jackson?” But, it’s too easy to hide behind such an over-simplified answer. Can we trace that uniqueness back to its beginnings? Can we force it to make sense in the context of his life? There are so many opinions regarding his unique qualities that it becomes hard to disentangle the skeins of floss that comprise the tapestry of the one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable life known to the world as the King of Pop. But let’s make an attempt at it.

Frank Dileo opined, “What made him unique was that he worked so hard.” Well, yes, I suppose that’s true in some ways, but is there another way to say that? Let’s examine that concept in a bit more detail. What did he mean?

Well, it has come to light recently that when preparing for a tour Michael would train with a personal trainer to increase his stamina, endurance, and strength and build the muscle tone required in order to deliver the best performance he could possibly give to us, his fans. For months prior to embarking upon a tour, personal training sessions lasting approximately two hours were a daily occurrence, six days a week. His personal trainer for his last, stillborn concert tour – This Is It – was Lou Ferigno of Incredible Hulk fame, who Michael trusted to put the King of Pop through his paces with a vengeance.

Like a marathon runner, he couldn’t just decide to run, put on his shoes and run eighteen miles one weekend; he had to train. A marathon runner starts out running a mile or two several months prior to the date of the marathon, gradually increasing to five miles and then eight miles and then ten miles, stretching his endurance and breath as well as the musculature needed to perform the feat and letting his body become accustomed to the hard work to avoid serious injury before increasing his distance a little more. Michael Jackson’s performances could easily be compared to a marathon in the amount of strength, breath, endurance and stamina required.

In addition to the two-hour session of stretching, strength and endurance training, let’s add another two hours daily of vocalization with his vocal coach of thirty-plus-years, Seth Riggs. Most of us would think that Michael wouldn’t require any training for flexibility and power in this area. We would tend to think that forty years in the music industry would have warmed up and stretched those muscles adequately, but Michael would have disagreed with us. He was a perfectionist, by his own admission. His was an attention to detail that was extraordinary in a star of his magnitude – bordering on obsessive. Often, Mr. Riggs accompanied him on his tour campaigns, vocalizing him three times a day – once for two hours early in the day – once for forty-five minutes to an hour mid-day – and just before Michael hit the stage, a half hour session to limber up those priceless vocal chords (I wonder if they were insured?) and get him ready for the performance.

So, we’ve already committed four hours of the day – six days per week — and he hasn’t sung a note or slid across the stage in rehearsal! Add to that a couple of hours committed to fine tuning his dancers and, perhaps, another couple of hours coaching the band and backup singers in achieving the sound he wanted and another ten hours running through the progression of the show and you might have an idea of what Frank meant. That’s a total of eighteen hours he’s devoted to achieving his ideal of “100% perfect execution” – a vision that only Michael Jackson, himself, could see – and at which others could only marvel . And, please note, he still hasn’t slept or played with his kids or written any new music or spent any time in his recording studio – or channeled any ideas for his stage production!

It’s no wonder the man couldn’t sleep. It’s no wonder he was so thin. It’s no wonder that he said that he didn’t think he could tour again after the HIStory campaign was concluded. That kind of schedule over a period of months would kill a much younger, stronger man! It did kill him! Okay, I can see Frank’s point – he worked hard!

Michael Cotton contributed the opinion that what made Michael Jackson unique was that “he was so unashamedly bold … he just wanted to break every barrier” and do everything new. I have to agree with Mr. Cotton. Michael was absolutely fearless when it came to doing new and untried – and, yes indeed, impossible – things in his music, stage productions, lighting, dance, film productions. He knew no limits, no restrictions. He wanted to blaze the trail, innovate, pioneer and he did just that in so many of his endeavors, whether albums or short films or concert productions. The man was decades ahead of his time. In his rehearsals for This Is It, we see that Michael was planning on bringing 3D to the concert stage in a big, big way – with LCD lighting bright enough to be seen even in the glare of concert and stage lighting, Thriller would have been the concert experience of the millenium!

Those who witnessed the blazing comet of Michael Jackson’s career as it lit our skies for four decades, trailing a glittering tail of number one hits and groundbreaking performances and innovative short films would aver that he was uniquely talented. I don’t think there is a soul on this earth that would dare to argue this point. The human race will never see such talent again. As the Commodores sang in their tribute song on the occasion of the first anniversary of his death, “Michael, he was a friend of mine. For more than forty years, no brighter star did shine!” He was the ultimate entertainer. He had it all! He could sing, dance, write, compose, perform, direct, create and whatever he put his hand to turned to magic in those elegant appendages.

Many who knew him would have attributed his uniqueness to his open, honest, childlike nature that never changed. That innocence was commented upon by numerous of his colleagues and friends from Elizabeth Taylor (“he’s not really of this world … he is E.T.”) to Steven Spielberg (“if E.T. hadn’t come to Elliott, he would have come to Michael Jackson”) to Kenny Ortega (“he was just the loveliest soul”)

To be a major part of a fickle, jaded, two-faced industry with an attention span of five minutes for four decades – to top the charts in each one of those four decades – to dominate the entire ten years with unprecedented achievements in one of those decades and come pretty darn close in another – and still retain that innocent, childlike wonder at it all that was always so evident in his breathless voice is a major achievement attained by so few others in his profession. For this trait alone, Michael Jackson should be remembered forever. For proving to the world that there is another way to handle success, fame and fortune – that the well-traveled path of dissolution and rapacious greed is not the only way to live a life of outstanding artistic accomplishment – would more than cement his place in the annals of the entertainment business. I agree that this characteristic definitely added another dimension to his uniqueness.

Still others would argue that it was his FAITH that comprised the individuality of this extraordinary human being. His faith in his ability coupled with hard work produced much of the body of work which he left intact for posterity to study and glean inspiration from. Although frequently assailed by the battering rams of the doubts of those around him, he never allowed those doubts to turn him from his goals. As a result of that faith, we have countless performances of an impossible lean that defied the laws of physics and gravity, a short film that has never been surpassed (though often imitated) in the more than twenty-five years since its release and countless other contributions that would have remained unrealized without it.

From another angle, that faith which was so much a part of Michael Jackson, extended to his faith in God, his faith in humanity and its ability to overcome its prevalent apathy and lethargy to encompass serious healing for our world (which he expounded from every platform), and his faith that the world would eventually come to appreciate the true meaning of his life here among us. (May that faith be rewarded a hundredfold! And let it begin with me!)

Perhaps, another major contributor to Michael Jackson’s uniqueness was his fearlessness. He dared to be who he was – an individual in a world of conformists; he dared to be nonconformist. “He dared to be recognized. The fire’s deep in his eyes. No force of nature can break his will to self-motivate.” He dared to stand for truth and unity and peace and healing and was a major proponent for bringing love back into a world that bends its knee in silent submission to a patriarchal, hierarchical, macho, war-worshipping culture. Against the most appalling and public peer pressure imaginable, he stood firm in that individuality. He made no apology for it; he made no concessions to it. Perhaps, he would still be alive today if he had been a little less adamant on this particular score, but, then, he wouldn’t have been Michael Jackson.

Last, but never by any means, least, Michael’s uncommon commitment to humanitarian goals and ideals contributed in large part to his uniqueness. Never before has so much been given by so few to alleviate disease and suffering on a global scale. Never before has one man impacted so many lives with his monetary donations, emotional support, and compassionate giving. One of the most heartwarming stories in the Official Michael Jackson Opus (2009) is told by a young woman who was the recipient of Michael’s largesse when blankets, toys and medical supplies were air-lifted into war-torn Sarajevo (not once, but twice) by his Heal the World Foundation. She speaks very movingly of the impact those supplies and toys had on her life and of her love for Michael Jackson as a result.

While I agree that many of the aforementioned characteristics made major contributions to the uniqueness of Michael Jackson, I have my own theory on this subject. In my opinion, the characteristic that made Michael so unique was his ability to forge an invisible, unbreakable, personal, spiritual, relationship with hundreds of millions of people on this planet. The proof of those connections can be found by entering the words, “Michael Jackson” into any search engine and following some of the resulting links. You will find blogs and websites devoted to him. You will find merchants selling books and DVD’s of numerous performances from around the world. You will find video tributes compiled by people from every walk of life. The “hits” you will find number in the millions.

In addition, you will find artistic renderings of Michael Jackson, including one very famous artist and photographer who depicts a dead Jackson lying across the lap of Jesus – with his white glove on the ground by his left hand. Raptly gazing heavenward, the look on Jesus’ face as he tenderly holds Michael’s supine body in the painting clearly says, “Look what they’ve done, Father. Look what they’ve done.” Mr. La Chappelle is quoted as saying,

We persecuted him. Every person who ever bought a tabloid or watched the news, we all contributed to his death by taking in that form of gossip…Michael Jackson was destroyed. Like no other person in our times. You have to remember that Michael Jackson was innocent. He was proved innocent in our courts. If you read the transcripts of the trial it is insanity, it should never have gone to court. We spent tens of millions of dollars to prosecute him when we don’t have money for schools in California. Not because he was a celebrity but because he looked different. He was obsessive about privacy and it made him “other,” it made him different, and he went from being the most famous, most beloved singer to the most reviled, joked about—he couldn’t open a newspaper without reading horror stories about himself.”

I have no doubt that the artist’s rendition is very representative of what actually occurred in the spiritual realm when Michael made his appearance on June 25, 2009. [Mr. La Chappelle’s work goes on display in the month of September in New York. If you are in the area, look it up.]

This website describes one admittedly ordinary person’s personal, spiritual connection with Michael Jackson. There are countless others experiencing the same kind of connection. As a matter of fact, I would venture to postulate that there hasn’t been this kind of revival of interest in spiritual bonds since Jesus impacted his world two thousand years ago. It was a different world back then, but the impact that Jesus had on his contemporaries was similar. He, too, was accused of heinous crimes (at the time, anyway – every one of us would have been crucified for blasphemy if we had lived back then). He, too, was brought to trial for being nothing more than an innocent in a world that couldn’t deal with that innocence. He, too, was persecuted and eventually crucified by a world too steeped in its own darkness to recognize light when it stood before it. He, too, taught his followers in parables.

Jesus, too, spoke to us about love and compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves. He, too, gave away everything he owned to benefit the poor that populated his world. He, too, welcomed children into his life and tried to make them happy. He, too, recommended to His contemporaries a return to the childlike innocence they had all left behind in growing up to enter into the kingdom of heaven. He, too, honored his God and tried to bring his God into the world that He inhabited in everything he did. He, too, counted His major influence on His world from the day of His death, rather than the day of his birth. It was only after His death that his followers began to be curious about his life, to compile the stories of his life, to research what he had done, to recount his miracles, and to worship Him as a God (which I have no doubt would have embarrassed him to death and He would have discouraged with every breath in his body.) As a matter of fact, I find the parallels breathtaking, don’t you?

We have become a world of Pharisees, who, let us remember, sold Jesus’ life for thirty pieces of silver. We’ve made a lot of progress in two thousand years. We use gold now! Our currency has become words and the poisoned pens of our media. [Today marks the launch of the Words and Violence Curriculum at Voices Education Project. The curriculum is dedicated to Michael Jackson and Lady Diana Spencer. The Caricature, one of the case studies contained in the curriculum and linked to the right of this website, details the over two-decade-long witch hunt conducted by the media against Michael Jackson. Please check it out and leave your feedback by clicking on the link at right.]

There were those of us who had the privilege of knowing Michael from afar and were grateful for our somewhat unusual (by some standards) relationships with him. There were others who were known to Michael, who were recognized by him as he strutted his admittedly considerable stuff across the countless stages he graced. These he would recognize in the massive crowds and he would play with them, tease them during his performances, making hand signals and blowing them kisses. I have several friends who fall into this category and have read accounts by still others of their interactions with Michael. Still others had the good fortune or good sense to have formed real friendships with this man that so few knew and so many castigated for his uniqueness. They were the lucky ones, the ones who had the opportunity to comfort his aloneness and solitude with their letters – or their presence – or their bodies. I find it comforting to know that he did have those relationships, too – that he didn’t leave this world without experiencing some of the joys to which all human beings are entitled. But, we who only knew him from afar, too, are fortunate. Even though we were not recognized physically by him as he straddled the world with his undeniable presence, we were always acknowledged by him during his public appearances and within our personal, spiritual relationships – which are as individual as we are.

So, while all of the above factors contributed to the uniquely talented person the world knew as the King of Pop, it was the individual, personal relationships that he formed with each one of us – first through the medium of his music, then through the curiosity we all experienced to research his life and learn about him as a person, and finally through the spiritual kinship we acknowledge and cherish as a result of that research – that made this musical legend so much more than that to those of us who knew him.

This world was exuberantly blessed in the person and life and example of the man as well as in the gifts he left behind in passing.

Jan

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The Voices Education Project curriculum inspired by and dedicated to Michael Jackson and Lady Diana Spencer entitled Words and Violence was officially launched on Thursday, September 9, 2010. This curriculum was spearheaded by Rev. Barbara Kaufmann of OneWordsmith.com and InnerMichael.com and contains case studies by people from all walks of life detailing the violence that words inflicted in their lives.

Included in the curriculum is The Caricature, written by myself  and linked to the right, detailing the more than twenty-five-years of abuse and journalistic bullying endured by Michael Jackson which caused his fall from grace from the most popular musical artist on the planet to the subject of late night talk show monologues and his sudden, inexplicable and heartbreaking death on June 25, 2009.

With this curriculum, the contributors, designers and publishers are sending out “a major love” to our planet and all of humanity. We hope that the curriculum will encourage:

  • All of us to be aware of the harm that we inflict by the use of language and to always couch our conversations with love;
  • Parents to use care in the use of words when correcting their children, realizing that their words can heal or damage;
  • Teachers to encourage uniqueness rather than discourage individuality in their students with the use of healing rather than criticism in their classrooms;
  • Children to think carefully before injuring their peers on the playground with the words they use;
  • Journalists to abstain from the use of character assassination to accumulate profit;
  • Publishers to provide watchdogs to eliminate libel and slander from published works; and
  • The media to realize their true aim is to inform – not denigrate.

It is our prayer that this curriculum become the first step of a long journey to return us to our humanity which was so obviously lacking in the world’s cavalier treatment of both Michael Jackson and Lady Diana Spencer.

Rest in Peace, sweet souls. This one’s for you!

Jan

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