There are those rare visionaries who come along, maybe a few every millennia: the Bodhisattvas of the world. They are usually empaths who begin in childhood to literally feel the pain of the world and make vows to the cosmos early in life to change or improve it. They go about spreading awareness and mobilizing forces for change in order to make the world a better place. Counted among them are: Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, John Lennon, Lady Diana Spencer, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Mattie Stepanek, Nelson Mandela and a little Moonwalker.
The most famous man on earth literally stopped the world and the Internet when he became immortal on June 25, 2009. Michael Jackson was such a one— a cheerleader for humanity and a force for coalescing compassion and mobilizing global forces for change, philanthropy and social reform. A global messenger, Michael’s rise to stardom afforded him visibility and a worldwide platform from which to broadcast his message. His boldness and artistry garnered attention and Michael knew how to get attention. When he pulled enough people in and had everybody’s attention—he emphatically delivered the message. It was cloaked in a form that everyone could understand—the universal language of music.
As a child, he acutely felt the pain of the world and especially the world’s children. Michael’s words in his book Dancing the Dream reveal a thread of spirituality and mysticism rare for one so young. His body of work is filled with myth, metaphor and musical and visual story that encodes a stunning spiritual message for the human race. One has to look closely and deeper for the real message: his Ghost short film holds a jaw dropping message about humanity, mirror and shadow.
His Man in the Mirror song written by Siedah Garrett, became a Gandhi-esque anthem for a generation. He donated 100% of the proceeds of that song to charity as he did with many of his concerts including the Victory Tour with his brothers. Man in the Mirror encourages self reflection and mastery and being the change you wish to see in the world: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror; I’m asking him to change his ways; no message could have been any clearer; if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”
Michael also produced They Don’t Care about Us and other songs to address police brutality and mistreatment by authority. His song and video Black or White changed minds and advanced racial equality and multicultural diversity. His We are the World composition with Lionel Richie and accompanying video gathered 39 of the most visible faces on earth to raise millions to save lives in Africa. Heal the World was sung by children around the globe and at the 1993 Super Bowl halftime show where the whole stadium became a collage of earth’s children of all races and ethnic origins. Michael was the impetus behind Live Aid, Band Aid and he is responsible for starting the trend for musicians and celebrities to engage in fundraising and philanthropy.
His environmental anthem and epic music video Earth Song, was a prominent feature of his planned comeback concert This Is It. Earth Song carries the message that we must become not only custodians but stewards of the planet or risk destroying or losing it. His spiritual messages in the form of self-reflection, commitment and action boldly took on: racism, inequality, war, poverty, gangs, illicit drugs, apathy, the misuse of power, evil, at risk youth, education, family bonds and a host of contemporary social issues. Videos of Earth Song Live can be found on You Tube stunningly raw in their emotion and stark in their message.
Michael’s Don’t Stop till You get Enough is about the Force featured in Star Wars by George Lucas; he was a fan of both Lucas and Spielberg and he understood the concept of The Force, an intuitive conscious energy that permeates creation. He often said it was that intuitive energy, Force, or God who wrote his lyrics, performed and worked through him. He denied his own genius saying that his creativity and power didn’t come from him but through him. He writes about it Dancing the Dream. The last album Michael produced, Invincible included Cry, a song about us—meaning humanity the collective, being the chosen one and needing some kind of sign that we are: ‘on it’… the mission to change the world and create a better version of the human.
Michael’s international concerts featured a military tank screaming onto stage and a soldier who lays down his weapon for a child who extends an offering of peace. He organized concerts at the world’s troubled spots like the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea asking his promoters to send him where he was needed. He teamed up with Pavarotti in benefits for the Warchild organization to help children in Kosovo and Guatemala. He organized a series of benefit concerts in Germany and Korea. He recruited Slash, The Scorpions, Boyz II Men, Luther Vandross, Mariah Carey, A. R. Rahman, Prabhu Deva Sundaram, Shobana Chandrakumar, Andrea Bocelli and Luciano Pavarotti for the Michael Jackson and Friends concerts. The proceeds were donated to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, the Red Cross and UNESCO.
After the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City, Michael Jackson helped organize the United We Stand: What More Can I Give benefit concert at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., which aired on October 21, 2001 and included dozens of major artists. His song What More Can I Give was written for the benefit and he donated it to the 9/11 families. He founded the Michael Jackson Burn Center at Culver City Memorial Hospital in California. Attending President Clinton’s inauguration, he asked for more funding for AIDS research after Ryan White, another child he had befriended, died from the disease. Michael Jackson is listed in the Guinness World Book of Records as supporting the most charities of any entertainer—thirty nine of them. He met with heads of state and marched with armies round the world. The arm band he wore every day on his sleeve was homage to children and he vowed to wear it until there were no more wars on the planet and no more hungry children. His taped fingers were to remind him and us that there were still injured and suffering children in the world.
Michael, while on tour, would visit orphanages and hospitals in the countries where he played to concert audiences. He often met with leaders and if he found deplorable conditions during his visits, he would threaten to cancel a concert unless the conditions improved within 24 hours. No one ever ignored his demands for it would likely have caused citizen revolts. There are also hundreds of stories from people who were personally contacted by Michael Jackson. After a sniper opened fire at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California, Michael called the local sheriff to request an escort from the airport to the school to visit the children; Dave Dave was a child who was badly burned when his father doused him with kerosene and lit him on fire and Michael, upon hearing the story, insisted on meeting and befriending him; Bela Farcas needed a liver transplant when Michael met him at Bethesda Hospital in Budapest so Michael paid for his new liver; he funded burials for children whose families couldn’t afford them and in one case, he sent his sequined jacket and a glove for the child to be buried in; he donated clothing and belongings for fundraisers and was the recipient of humanitarian awards too many to mention during his life and more since the recognition of his contributions since his death.
For decades, his Neverland Valley Ranch hosted monthly guest vacations, whether he was there or traveling, for children who were: gravely ill, inner city, handicapped, poor, at risk youth, gang affiliated, disenfranchised and disillusioned. The video for his famous Beat It featured real gang members Michael recruited—the Crips and the Bloods who collaborated to film it; the two groups had never before cooperated on anything except violence. His work with children was legion and very dear to his heart. Twice during his career, his celebrity, wealth and deep pockets brought accusers and accusations into his life—of improprieties with children. The accusations hurt him deeply and were later proven false and attempts to extort money from him. Although found innocent, the ordeal of his 2005 trial had harmed his reputation and was deeply wounding causing him to never host children at his fantasy ranch, nor live there again. He left his home feeling it had been sullied irreversibly by unscrupulous accusers and underhanded law enforcement personnel. He would never again sleep in his bedroom, in fact sleeping at all became rare; his sleep problems escalated and eventually led to his untimely and eerie death.
Most of Jackson’s work asks us to be emissaries of change and the evolution of human consciousness. The man leaves in his wake, an unparalleled humanitarian legacy, planetary midwifery and the alchemical power of the Bodhisattva used to enhance humanity and the planet. Using voice, magic, majesty, artistry, dance, mystery, sensuality, musical genius, enchantment and colossal talent to get their attention, pull people in, and marshal forces to deliver his message Michael trumpeted the message: Heal the world, make it a better place; make that change and change the world.”
If one digs underneath the hype, sensationalism and medialoid portrayal of Jackson, one finds a visionary and true humanitarian. If one looks beyond the label of “crazed” attributed to his fans, one finds mostly intelligent, thoughtful people who quite possibly are the greatest legacy he left this world. As the world’s most famous and visible global humanitarian and cheerleader, he leaves behind a worldwide family of 250 million admirers who are taking his teachings seriously. Michael always said his fans were his legacy. Many in the media have given them a cursory dismissal because of the “fan” label. But they got the message and they mean to be the change they want to see in the world and make it a better place. They are an army of humanitarians who are being the change. They mobilize themselves and resources for causes like the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile and others. They got Michael’s message and are weaving it into their lives.
Perhaps it’s time Michael Jackson is recognized for who he really was and not for the media frenzied and tabloid portrayal that pandered to a sophomoric public drunk and fixated on the cult of celebrity. His genius is there for anyone who wants to take a closer look, who wants the truth and not the tabloid caricature version. If he were recognized for his real accomplishments we would see an unappreciated visionary and genius, a spiritual teacher among us who was hiding in plain sight and masquerading as a Moonwalking Maker of Magic. If you feel impelled at all to take a closer look you may find your mouth agape and your surprise staggering. And you might even come to understand the Force that was Michael Jackson; then the real legend continues.
(c) B. Kaufmann One Wordsmith