Yesterday, Today, & FOREVER The King of Pop

The Man and the Mirror

(16-12-2009) After watching Michael Jackson’s ‘This Is It’
award winning writer Barbara Kaufmann posted her thoughts about the
film on her online blog. This was seen by an editor for Nature’s
Pathways magazine, who contacted Kaufmann and asked her to write a
follow up guest column in their December 2009 issue.  The full text of
Barbara Kaufmann’s article The Man and the Mirror: A Tribute to Michael
Jackson and ‘This Is It’ can be read below:

Michael
Jackson was a world messenger with a spiritual message — make a change;
make the world a better place. This Is It, the film about his planned
comeback concert, features Michael living his mission not only in what
he is saying, but in who he is being. It features a man whose artistry
and talent was too forceful for him to contain and too big to hide,
someone who was ahead of his time and anything but understood. The film
is a kind of event horizon — the place where the creative process
leaves the creator’s mind, meets imagination and emerges in birth. The
world’s biggest mega-star, lost in the act of creation, artfully wields
his incredible talent in the spirit of politicians spending political
capital. It is clear Michael Jackson was called; his work was a
calling. There is no turning away from a calling for it will hound and
haunt until expressed. This Is It was stirring and inspiring and begged
the answer to what compelled him to step up and into a life mission
that was anything but easy?


While I liked Michael Jackson, I
can’t say that I ever met the definition of fan. I didn’t pay close
attention to his career; maybe I should have. Much of my own work as an
artist, messenger and writer has been about embracing the spiritual —
with empathic impulse, evocative emotion to change the world and make
it a better place with words. I recognize that impulse of calling. With
Michael it was more than impulse — it was Force. It is there to see for
anyone watching Michael in his last performance.


I left the
theater a believer; there is more to this man called Michael. The movie
dashed any of my doubts about his character, personality or creative
process. The filming was intended for Michael’s private library, and
that made me a voyeur, disturbing because he is gone now. But I am
richer for that stealth and for the process bequeathed me now by
Michael. I revisited accusations, slurs; the vitriolic tabloid insults
that impaled Michael Jackson for years and, despite being proven not
guilty, impale him still, even beyond death. Was he a master at
commanding attention? Yes. Was he capable of what some accused him of?
If you want an answer, ask silently in your heart and go see the movie.


I
met the Michael in the music more than the music in Michael. I watched
a master of transcendentalism building a meditation in magic. I saw
Michael in the role of artist, leader, teacher, master and guru. I saw
his infinite patience and I didn’t miss his kindness in dealing with
his musicians, dancers, singers and crew, his long breaths of tolerance
toward solicitous blather designed to impress. Stunned by his
allegiance to the brutal taskmaster of message, I even glimpsed his
vision. I admired his translation, his explosive embodiment of the
music in motion, emotion, majesty and metaphor. I know the man’s soul.


What
drove Michael? What kept him loyal to his message through some of the
most laser focused unkindness, betrayal and ridicule I have ever
witnessed in the world? What sustained him? What did he tap into? The
film reveals his source when Michael, knowing he is rehearsing, holds
back from performing full out, and you get a feel for the tide he is
stemming. Watching his body move because it can’t NOT move, the light
dawns. Whatever it was, it didn’t come from Michael; it came through
him.


His talent painted feelings, conveyed sensation, became a
portal for the vision of what is possible if we all just recognize what
drives us, breathes us, what gives us life and being.


Michael
was obviously an empath. When Michael felt, it was acutely,
exquisitely. He may have been synesthesic as well processing through
more than one sensory neural channel at a time: “and the pain is
thunder.” Maybe Michael Jackson was following light that we couldn’t
see, music that we couldn’t hear, and feelings that we couldn’t access
and perhaps simultaneously. Michael’s lyrics are prayer.


Synesthesia
may even explain his grounding of the music in his body in the lower
chakras (energy centers), as that is where the seat of emotion lives.


Michael
said dancing brought him in touch with the Divine impulse. That is not
the first time the world has heard of that phenomena – Kundalini,
spiritual energy that ascends the backbone to the brain, originates in
the lower groin area; Sufis and dervishes whirl to create a vortex for
spiritual energy: indigenous cultures use drumbeat and dance.


Michael’s
Man in the Mirror is a Gandhi-esque message to be the change you wish
to see in the world. I “got it” courtesy of Michael: about the mirror;
about shadow; about reflection of self in the world. We see in the
world as who we are being. For some, Michael was their everything, for
others he would never be enough. And still others will see the
reflection of their own darkness. Michael Jackson embodied Light,
Shadow, Bright Shadow, the Divine Feminine, the aggressive masculine
and androgyny.


He was born into a world too far gone from
innocence to embrace it; too distant from naiveté to tolerate it in an
adult; too cynical to believe Michael’s own words; too tainted to
embrace the sensitive Peter Pan man who understood too well the world’s
intolerance to blemish – he wore it in his face. How did he live in a
world where dark minds made him things that he never was and couldn’t
imagine? How did he show up for life … in a world with so much
shadow? When that shadow turned on him? How did Michael never give up
on the world? On us? And how is it that Michael was coming back to try
one last time saying This Is It? Is the irony of that clear enough?


Who
now will be our planetary human cheerleader? Our global humanitarian?
Who among us can amass millions to catch the vision and carry it
forward? Who now in our world is capable of that? This is it? See the
movie and then tune to your inner Michael. Whatever you thought about
Michael Jackson is correct because it is more about who you are being
than it is about Michael because he wasn’t just the man in the mirror,
he was the mirror.


Barbara Kaufmann is an award winning writer,
artist and poet whose passion is “writing to simply change the world.”

Read more of her thoughts about Michael Jackson below…

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Michael’s last rehearsal

Once
again I stand guilty of not appreciating someone enough until they are
gone never to return. And so it is with Michael. I call him by his
first name now because I know him personally—but only so after his
passing and only after seeing his movie “This is It.”

I finally
understand Michael the man, both the human being and the creative
genius, and I see the incredibly wide love for people and the planet…
that came from this singular figure.

One listen to the lyrics of his songs will tell what the man was made of…

“Heal the World
Make it a better place
For you and for me and the entire human race.
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a little space
Make a better place.”

“When they say why, why? Tell ‘em that it’s human nature.
Why, why do you do me this way?”

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

I
sat in the parking lot and cried for most of an hour after leaving the
movie. I didn’t know why. The tears were not voluntary. In the theatre
I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to leak
the magic. I didn’t want him to be gone.

I felt the finality of
that curtain call and realized that I couldn’t have another chance with
him—to rescind my doubt. I wanted forgiveness for ever having it. I
felt immobile with sadness—in betraying him, in overlooking him, in
dismissing him, in questioning him, in doubting him. The tears were
because… there are no do overs. Because the world lost something
un-named and un-namable with his passing. Because it was something
bright. Because Michael held so much love. Because I felt his
loneliness. His vulnerability. But mostly I grieved for the light gone
out in the world. I still do.

I had always wondered if Michael
was guilty of the things people accused him of doing. I had agonized
over my own feelings, my own repulsion if the accusations were true.
Over the what ifs. You see, I grew up with the Jackson 5 and my
children gew up with Michael’s music. I felt if Michael was guilty it
would be a personal betrayal and a betrayal of my children. I rejoiced
when he was finally found “not guilty” but not everyone accepted his
innocence and I confess, in the back of my mind in a little corner, I
always wondered. Accusation does that- creates doubt.

After
seeing “This is It” I now know the truth. Michael Jackson never
deliberately hurt anybody. Ever. I didn’t miss his incredible kindness
to musicians in his band; his “we’ll get it done” assurance to his
musical director who wanted his contribution to be perfect because it
was, after all, Michael Jackson he was trying to please. I saw his
infinite patience with the singers, musicians and dancers as he worked
hands on with them to polish their performances. I heard the
patronizing tones in the voices of people addressing him and his
gracious and patient replies. I heard Michael the leader, teacher and
master who used metaphor to help them feel his intentions. I heard
Michael the guru who urged them to share the spotlight and shine with
their own talent. I saw his hands say what his words could not and I
watched the tender and not so tender genius in those gestures and those
hands.

Michael
was beloved and adored by millions– fans and friends. That love and a
kind of artist-to-artist admiration beamed from the sparse audience
that made up his cast and crew for the concert tour that was to be
"This is It." Michael was teaching them as well as rehearsing. His
absolute clarity was stunning. His understanding of transcendentalism,
mystery, creative tension and especially using magic and metaphor to
take people to places beyond ordinary awareness and through the tunnel
of emotion– to a place they had never been and never imagined was
genius. All of us have that talent somewhere inside us but convention,
tradition, condition and cultural boundaries can prevent us from going
there. Performance anxiety runs much deeper than stage fright. His
clarity in performance and leadership was humble perfection.

Because
of his early recognition and financial success, very few of the limits
and demands of everyday life that press upon us and drain juice from
our imagination, wonder and creative impulse touched Michael. Michael’s
stardom began very early in life; his childhood was anything but
average. And with his talent, he cultivated unrestricted access to most
of the world and certainly to the creative realm of wonder and
invention. Living most of his life without healthy boundaries brought
great aspirations and ambition but also intense pain, betrayed trust
and the anguish of being constantly misunderstood. Michael pushed the
envelope; he pushed relentlessly and hard. He was showman, businessman
and genius. The grand genius of his works, and especially his concerts
were the transcendental experiences. "Transendental" takes us somewhere
else beyond the personal self, to a place where the self and the world
become something more and we become something more. Michael was loved
for what he showed us was possible. He was the man in the mirror and
the one holding it up for us to look.


I
always loved his dancing but wondered why the sexual “beyond innuendo”
in some of it. Watching him in the act of creation—I now understand
that it comes from the passion of someone who “rocks it” not because he
wanted to or had to but because that was what came through him, through
his body. The driving beat of Michael’s music carries an intensity that
demands the body move, gyrate, leap, growl and grind. The intensity
centers in the groin and solar plexus because it comes from the “seat
of emotion.” Intensely emotional, it is the language of pure passion.
Hindis have a name for that passionate grinding, grounding energy that
rises from the place in the human body where spirit meets matter, where
physicality meets soul. It’s the energy of gestation, birth, genesis,
of force and forceful release—that rises into and becomes creation.
It’s the impulse energy that rushes hot and upward along the backbone
from the groin and solar plexus. It is the place of the Kundalini
force, the juice of life. And it’s explosive. Like orgasm, that
creation energy sends waves of physical earthquakes up the backbone. It
is obvious that Michael felt it in his music; it exploded through the
music, through him and through his body.

“This is It” left me with some questions:

How
do you live with the paradox that millions of people around the world
love you but you cannot leave your home? How do you never push a cart
down the aisle in a grocery store? Never enter a music store where your
recordings are on sale? Never go to a baseball game, a parade, a zoo or
picnic in a park with your children? How do you never be left alone yet
be so very, very alone? How do you write so well of loneliness? And
when you’re with people, how do you sort out if someone is being
authentic with you or playing to your public persona? How do you be so
painfully shy and have such massive talent that it cannot be contained?
How do you never say no when and because the music hounds and haunts
until it comes through you? How do you rehearse for hours to exhaustion
because you can’t NOT share the bigness of your creative genius with
the world? How do you stand up and be a superstar in a world with so
much shadow? How do you keep writing lines that highlight or attack
that shadow? How do you survive when the shadow turns on you? I
understand now it was a calling—the kind that no one could turn their
back on because it possesses them. Oh yes, Michael was called. Look at
his lyrics—most of them are prayer.

And how do you live so naked
in public light knowing that for some, you are everything and for
others, you will never be enough? How do you remain steadfast in the
the beacon called “public scrutiny” allowing yourself to be a larger
than life target for opportunists? How do you bear continuing
vilification perpetuated by unscrupulous exploiters when the
unthinkable accusation doesn’t even live in your consciousness, your
world? How do you come to show up for court another day to listen to
them excoriate you, shred your very personhood, destroy who you are
being? How do you get out of bed? Out of your pajamas? How do you
reconcile being accused alone even if found “not guilty” of unspeakable
acts to children when you have always loved children because of their
wonder, their innocence? How do you trust ever again after someone
gained your confidence and left the best part of you on the cutting
room floor and called the remainder tabloid film a documentary of your
life? How do you survive a mad dog mentality in the legal system bent
on destroying you? The very system that is supposed to protect you? How
then do you gather up the carelessly flung about pieces of your life?
And in the midst of it, or in its aftermath, how do you even show up
for life?

Maybe you become a recluse and look for something
to dull the pain and make the brutality and exhaustion go away. Maybe
to make the world go away for awhile. Maybe you even find a doctor or
two who will give a little something that helps to ease your
woundedness while you try to heal yourself. Can the missing chunks of
flesh chewed by those who wanted a pound, be patched? How deep is the
wound? Weary soul deep or just weary bone deep?

How do you bear a
lifetime of insults, slurs and lies too many to address and too
tormenting to allow inside because it would paralyze you? How do you
not let it harden your heart? How do you bear comments about your face?
My god, your face! The only thing you can be in, express to the world,
telegraph your emotions with. How do you live with Lupus, a disease
that wants to consume your body and Vitiligo, a disease that mars your
face? The face that presents you to the world, the face you make a
living with? How do you live under umbrellas because the sun makes the
blotching of your skin that much worse? When you do the best you can
with the treatments that are necessary but that bleach your skin
whiter, how do you navigate being the butt of thousands of jokes and
unkind remarks that impale you? How do you survive without one single
day in the sun romping at the beach? I wish "we" could have loved and
accepted you just the way you were. I wish we could have cradled you
and your face with our minds. But the world is not kind to blemish and
imperfection. But you knew that didn’t you Michael? Being the
perfectionist and artist you were, you kept changing your face. You
always empathized with the dowtrodden, disabled and disfigured– you
were closer to them than any of us knew. You hid it from us so well.

How
do you explain to a world that is too far gone and will never be
innocent enough again to understand that boys loved to hang out with
you because you are a legend? A bigger than life greatness that gives
them hope in the descending despair of childhood and adolescence, a
someone who gives them something undefined to aspire to? That, yes,
they see the Peter Pan in you, love you because of it, and want to be
close to you because you embody that unabashed joy and wonder that they
feel slipping from them. The thing that the world-in-becoming-grown up
lost when it lost the innocence of simple “believing?” How do you
explain that boys are hanging out to hang onto something so gossamer
that it can’t be defined? But you too, know what it is and want them to
have it just a little longer. How do you explain that they are
beginning to discover that if they let go of you, (more what you
represent) they will have to confront the despairing reality that they
don’t care much for this world the way it is either.

Are we all so far out from childhood that we don’t remember?

How
do you pay for children’s’ artificial limbs and transplants in an
unknown act in an unknown hospital in an unknown country meanwhile
bearing an accusation of deliberately causing harm to children? How do
you navigate the vitriolic damnation of some who haven’t heard you were
found not guilty? Or couldn’t hear it because of their own shadow? When
it would never occur to you to hurt a little boy because you, yourself
conspire to always embody the magic and wonder for the "boy" in all of
them and for the sake of all of them? We all have to bear sometime that
one searing and rending wound, the loss of innocence. Was your
innocence so great that it took that to destroy it? Did it require that
much shadow to cover the light that you were? How do you ever return to
Neverland? I guess you don’t.


Oh,
yes you were eccentric, Michael. And sheltered. Creative geniuses
usually are. Yes, you marched to your own drummer. Only because you
didn’t like the beat or the vibe of this planet, the one you landed on
at birth. Yes, you were Peter Pan in the flesh but only because the
world was not a place where you could live, where your fragile spirit
could be nourished or thrive. Peter Pan held more sanity than the real
world. Yet up until the very end, you were still trying to make it a
better place! It would have been so much easier to turn your back on a
world that didn’t understand you. It would have been understandable.
Even expected. But then you always were a master of the unexpected. How
is it, Michael that you could or would continue to care?

That
Michael Jackson was truly a contradiction is understated but evident in
his last appearance. His humility, clarity, unassuming and egoless
private persona certainly “contradicts” the moments he “rocks it.” His
shyness contradicts his superstar status. In “This is It,” Michael is
truly being Michael— the contradiction. The glory. What if that Michael
truly never understood the dark energies that come from minds that
cannot comprehend true innocence and genuine naiveté? The creative or
creation impulse? What an incredible gift to the world yet the world
didn’t appreciate him well—both lion and lamb. Yes,the world crucified
yet another of our lambs who was a (oh yes he was!) light unto the
world. And then again, perhaps Michael did understand. He sang, after
all, about “human nature.”

And maybe we never knew him until
now. Until he was gone. Until “This is It.” Were he still here, I would
not have met the real Michael. I would not have known him. I would not
have seen the genius, the creative impulse, the clarity of leadership,
the ownership of the awesome power and responsibility that he knew he
held. I would not have known the Michael in the Music as well as the
music in Michael. I wince when I think about the number of times the
man put himself out there not knowing if what would return would be
revulsion or love. And yet he was staging a comeback—he was willing to
give the world and us another chance. And it would have brought him
back to us and us back to him; of that I am sure. Would the world have
appreciated that magnanimity of the risk, the gift? We will never know.
At least he never gave up on the world. On us.

I
wonder who now will take over his role– not as the "King of Pop" but
as the world’s cheerleader and hummanitarian? What language will she
speak? How will he get the world’s attention? Michael spoke in the
language of music. It was because of the language he spoke that he was
able to reach the masses. Because he was so widely beloved, Michael was
able to mobilize forces, bring people together, and create story in the
most unusual and spectacular ways. He was a man with a mission and
because of who he was, he was able to command audiences of millions. He
used music- a popular and universal language to trumpet his message. He
used it to reach just the right audience- youth. Michael understood
that young people hold the hope for the future and the world. And his
message was about healing the world, caring for children and that "we
are one." He was able to spread it universally to many generations and
peoples around the globe. Who now is capable of that? We know in a
quiet and secret place that there will never be another Michael. We,
the world, didn’t cherish him enough, in fact we didn’t treat him very
well and now he is gone.

Watching the movie, something Michael
never intended for release, made me feel a little like a voyeur
watching a man preparing to expose his soul to judgment. I felt like I
had trespassed into sacred space. But I am grateful for it. I feel like
I now know the soul of this man called Michael. He loved big. Oh, I
always loved his talent, but I didn’t love Michael, the man. It wasn’t
enough.

And my final gift from Michael is the realization that
“Man in the Mirror” which has to be my favorite song, has an even
deeper message than “be the change you wish to see in the world” of
Gandhi. There are some people on this planet who saw his light earlier,
longer and who never doubted because they had to have seen in Michael,
the reflection of their own light. Just like those to whom he reflected
their darkest shadow. I wish it hadn’t taken his death to bring me the
bright light that was Michael Jackson and the mirror of mine. I just
didn’t love him as much as he loved me.

(c) ~ Barbara Kaufmann 2009 and beyond


Goodbye Michael- a tribute

Thank you Rev. Kaufmann!

       

Barbara Kaufmann.  An award winning writer, poet and
artist, Barbara’s work was recognized as “art in the service of
humanity” by Lawrence University International Studies Program. Her
credits include award winning short stories, multiple worldwide network
venues, national magazines, chapbooks, news organizations and
anthologies.  She freelances for a variety of outlets with short
stories, poetry, articles, features and commissioned marketing
materials such as web content, brochures, fliers and newsletters.  Her
work in studio arts and as an Impresario and performer has led her to
places that without the muse, she could have never imagined.  Known as
“One Wordsmith,” www.onewordsmith.com, Rev. Barbara Kaufmann is an ordained Minister and practicing Shaman.

Source: MJFC / Nature’s Pathways / One Wordsmith / Inner Michael

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