My mention of Michael Jackson on my Facebook status startled many, especially as I invited them to pray for him. Within minutes dozens of friends were commenting on my status, most of them were fans. More personal messages were dropped in my mailbox or emailed directly, and these were messages from my annoyed friends: “What have you got to do with Michael Jackson, a child molester, blah, blah, blah?”
This is a very big question, a huge question, since it can be rephrased in innumerable ways. What have I got to do with you? What have I got to do with the publisher of this paper? What have I got to do with President Obama?
Or, what have I, or you, got to do with this world? Perhaps the best answer is: “Because I live in this world.” This is the point. The fact that you and I live in this world connects us to all other citizens in the world.
I remember the great Sufi mystic poet Saadi: “Human beings are members of a whole, In creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain. If you have no sympathy for human pain, The name of human you cannot retain.”
But human pain and suffering cannot connect me with my fellow human beings, if I do not have some kind of “feelings” for them. I have an emotional tie with my family members, so I can easily feel their pain. But, I may not have such a tie with you, and therefore I may not feel the same way about you, your pain and your suffering.
Not so with Michael Jackson, he could feel the pain of a suffering humanity. He raised and donated millions of dollars for humanitarian causes. He was not compelled to do what he did. Indeed, there are people much richer than him that did not do anything to alleviate suffering.
Michael Jackson differs from them because of his “feelings”. We can still hear the echo of his compassion through his songs and writings, such as this passage from his album “Dangerous”:
“Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in is the dance of the creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye but the dance lives on.
“On many an occasion, when I am dancing, I have felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I felt my spirit soar and become one with everything that exists.
“I become the stars and the moon. I become the lover and the beloved. I become the victor and the vanquished. I become the master and the slave. I become the singer and the song. I become the knower and the known.
“I keep on dancing and then, it is the eternal dance of creation. The creator and the creation merge into one wholeness of joy. I keep on dancing…until there is only…the dance.”
Such feelings are indeed very “dangerous”, for then you can no longer shut your eyes to what is happening around you. Michael was in a very vulnerable condition, even before penning such thoughts, he was already singing: “We are the world…the world must come together as one.. It’s time to lend a hand to life.”
He felt connected with the world not just physically, but also spiritually. He did not stop at recognizing and acknowledging the pain and suffering of people; he wanted to make a change.
In “Man in the Mirror”, he actually saw the reflection of his soul and sang with an added fervor: “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.” It was an advice given not to you or to me, but to himself: “I’m gonna make a change, for once in my life it’s gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference, gonna make it right…”
His realization that he had “been a victim of a selfish kind of love” made him all the more obsessed with the idea of spreading the right kind of love to heal himself and “Heal the World” to “make it a better place for you and for me”. He dreamt of a world where “Black or White” either did not matter at all, or mattered equally.
In “The Earth Song” he wept together with Mother Earth: “What have we done to the world, look what we’ve done.” Frustrated with all the happenings around him, he continued: “I used to dream, I used to glance beyond the stars; now I don’t know where we are, although I know we’ve drifted far.”
Back in the late 1970s, I had the rare chance of meeting philosopher J. Krishnamurti (1895-1986). He suffered from a similar frustration too. Later, in a documentary made on his life, those who were close to him during his last days discussed his frustration.
Both, philosopher J. Krishnamurti and artist Michael Jackson spoke of change, of the ultimate freedom from bondage, from the old-rotten old paradigms. And, as rightly put by Mahatma Gandhi, both realized the necessity of “being the change” that they wanted to see in the world. Yet, both of them died frustrated, as did the Mahatma. Gandhi who could not accept the idea of India’s division based on religion.
J. Krishnamurti let out his frustrations through his writings and discussions with people around him. Gandhi let out his frustrations by withdrawing from political life and going back to his commune in Gujarat. Michael Jackson, the star, let out his frustrations by experimenting with his body. He turned his body into a laboratory.
From a strict diet to several plastic surgery operations and his involvement in unpopular “ventures”, his love and sex lives – can all be seen as manifestations of his innermost desire to change. Change was both, his dream and his obsession. When he “felt” that he failed to bring about change, or at least it was not the kind of change he desired, he withdrew and shut himself away from the outer world. This was a grave mistake. By doing so, he closed all the outlets to let go of his frustrations. And, he died a lonely man.
Yet, a man, a star like Michael Jackson is too big to die. Indeed, he is too bright a star to fall. He shall shine for many, many years. His legacy of songs, his unfulfilled dream of the world to come, and his obsession to change shall be remembered by generations to come. Michael’s dream shall remain alive, for his dream is not a loner’s dream, his dream is the dream of all those who are capable of dreaming something big.
Jackson, we share your frustration and we will turn this into a source of energy to realize your dream, to “make a better world for you and for me”. I shall not bid you good-bye my friend, for in your dream our meeting continues..