Category Archives: Humanitarian

The Child as "Father Of The Man": A Look At Michael And Wordsworth-Pt 1

 

 My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began,
So is it now I am a man,
So be it when I shall grow old
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man:
And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety.-William Wordsworth

Buckle down, guys! We’re heading back to class again for today’s entry.

In the past, I’ve managed to draw several parallels between the life and works of Michael Jackson and the life and works of many prominent literary figures. Today I’m going to examine some interesting parallels between the poetic philosophies of William Wordsworth-one of the major Romantic poets-and Michael Jackson. An odd combination, you think? Well, think again!

First of all, let me just say I am a firm believer that things don’t happen purely by coincidence. Just a couple of weeks ago I did an article rebutting Joanna Schaffhausen’s 2003 hit piece, ‘Is Michael Jackson Stuck In Childhood?”

http://www.allforloveblog.com/?p=5731

At about the same time, I was also prepping a lecture on William Wordsworth’s poetry that I would be giving in a few days to my current British Lit II class. This is the first semester in a few years that I’ve been assigned to teach British Lit II; in fact, the last time I had taught this course was back in 2007, long before Michael died and long before I had begun my serious scholarly study into his life and work. In the interim, I hadn’t thought much about the connection between Wordsworth’s and Michael’s views on childhood, but as I reread the works of Wordsworth for this course (as I always do, since it’s imperative that I come to any writer’s work with fresh eyes after five years) I was startled by how closely Wordsworth’s views on the necessity of holding onto childlike inocence echoed exactly what Michael Jackson was trying to tell us almost two hundred years later!

Youthful Portrait of William Wordsworth

It’s interesting to think that, while the words of William Wordsworth on this subject are still being anthologized even today as works worthy of serious academic scholarship, Michael was scorned and ridiculed by the masses for espousing nothing more than the exact, same views!

Too often, the public and the media has done a grave disservice to Michael Jackson by trying to simplify his views on the connection between artistry and innocence into an either/or. This was the whole point of my previous article. Cynics have been trying to prove for decades that Michael’s apparent desire-not to hang onto childhood per se, but to hang onto childlike innocence-had to be the result of either some form of mental regression (i.e, an illness or defect) or else something more sinister. Few seemed to consider that this was an aesthetic CHOICE-the conscious choice of an adult in full control of his faculties, who had discovered that the true key to creativity was in holding onto not only the innocence, but also the reverence, awe, and wonder of childhood.

The above poem by Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold” is one that continues to inspire debate among critics and students alike. Most puzzling to many is the line, “The Child is Father of the Man.” But really, it’s not that hard of a concept to interpret. The entire poem is written from the viewpoint of a man in middle age who is recalling how he viewed the wonders of  nature as a child, and is thankful that he has been able to maintain that sense of innocent wonder into his adult years. He implores passionately, “So was it when my life began” (I had the child’s ability to marvel at the beauty of Nature)/”So is it now I am a man” (Miraculously, despite the jadedness and cynicism that comes with adulthood, he has been able to hang onto his reverence and innocent awe)/”So be it when I shall grow old/Or let me die!’ (If there should come a time he should ever lose this innocence, he would rather die first).

That impassioned line is exactly the same sentiment Michael was expressing when he told Martin Bashir that if there were no more children left, he would jump off a bridge. “I’m done.” To some, that statement may have seemed extreme; even a bit bizarre. But it was really just another way of saying what Wordsworth is saying in his poem. If we lose our innocence, we might as well be dead! For Michael, children were the embodiment of that innocence. Without them, we are nothing-nothing but a world of jaded and cynical adults. From the beginning of time, poets, artists, philosophers and great thinkers have urged us to look at the world “through the eyes of a child.” There is good reason for that. Who really wants to look at the world through the eyes of an adult? Knowing all the filth, smut, and greed that would be looking back at us? It’s the child in us that helps us to mainatin some sense of purity; some sense of hope; some sense of magic.

While a lot of critics have their own spin on the line ‘The Child is Father of the Man” the line itself really isn’t that hard to interpret. Religious interpretations aside (and even those are not invalid to my purpose here) it is simply saying that the child we are/were determines the adult we become. Human life is cyclical-the child begats the man (or woman); the adult is simply that same child in a bigger body. We do not serve our purpose, either to Nature or to God, when we allow ourselves as adults to become a separate entity from our childhood selves. In this regard, Wordsworth had more in common with later Transcendentalists like Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman than to his contemporary Romantics, and was even a bit of an anamoly among them.

When this line was put up for analysis on enotes.com, it was interesting to see the diversity of responses it received! Yet what’s even more interesting is that one could easily take any one of these interpretaions-or all of them!-and see how easily they apply to Michael Jackson.  Just glancing at this first page of the discussion, I was able to highlight some interesting parallels (boldfaced emphasis mine):

1

julieashley1

Student

eNotes Newbie

 

In “My Heart Leaps Up,” what does Wordsworth mean when he says, “The Child is Father of the man?”

Posted by julieashley1 on September 6, 2008.

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2

ms-mcgregor

Teacher

High School – 12th Grade

Editor Emeritus, Debater, Dickens, The Bard, Churchill

 

In his famous ode to nature, William Wordsworth says that the child in every person teaches him to appreciate nature beginning with the simple beauty of rainbows and by implication, other natural wonders. What we think as children will help determine how we think as adults. The lines that follow “the child is the father of the man”, suggest, with almost religious zeal, that he hopes to always love nature as he did as a child.

Posted by ms-mcgregor on September 6, 2008.

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3

kwoo1213

Teacher

College – Junior

Editor, Debater, Expert, Educator, Dickens, The Bard

 

In addition to the answer above, this line could also be religious in nature, due to “Child” and “Father” being capitalized.  We can think of this line as the child is Jesus, the father is God, and man is everyone on Earth, in one interpretation.  Also, we can look at it like this: the only way to salvation is through Jesus, according to Christian beliefs, because Jesus was sent to bear all of our sins through his suffering and death.  Jesus, the child of God, was the father of men because he came onto this Earth, preached and shared his beliefs about salvation and about God, and died so that his “children” could be saved, much as a father would do if one of his children was in danger of dying or being killed.

Posted by kwoo1213 on September 7, 2008.

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4

hmashwinkumar

eNotes Newbie

 

In reply to #1: I am little philosophically oriented person. When I read this poem in this light I felt there is a reference to the ETERNAL BLISS. And one would experience this only by aligining and surrendering to NATURE. This line, as well as the whole poem, might be highlighting the ENTERNITY.

Posted by hmashwinkumar on April 5, 2009.

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5

hmashwinkumar

eNotes Newbie

 

In reply to #1: I am little philosophically oriented person. When I read this poem in this light I felt there is a reference to the ETERNAL BLISS. And one would experience this only by aligining and surrendering to NATURE. This line, as well as the whole poem, might be highlighting the ETERNITY.

Posted by hmashwinkumar on April 5, 2009.

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6

jdeegerman

eNotes Newbie

 

I grew up with lots of childhood issues, which I buried until I was in my late 40’s.  These issues dominated much of my adult behavior, especially with my children.  With this background I see Wordsworth’s quote as meaning that things we experienced as children, which are still buried within us, play the role of a controlling father to us as adult men.  Classic example: “I hate the way my father treated me and I don’t want to treat my children that way, but I can’t seem to help it.”

JDG

Posted by jdeegerman on June 25, 2009.

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7

herappleness

Teacher

Graduate School

Editor Emeritus, Debater, Expert, Educator, Scribe, Dickens, The Bard

 

Is so interesting to see how many interpretations we all have about his phrase, which is what makes his poetry so magical and intense as an experience. I feel that, as some have posted, Wordsworth is saying that our heart speaks for our brains, in not such exacting words. If we are children at heart, our inner child will dictate all the great and the wonderful things that we find in life. If we aren’t born with an inner child, our life will lack that, and we might even lose control of it.

Posted by herappleness on June 25, 2009.

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8

michy

Teacher

eNotes Newbie

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9

michy

Teacher

eNotes Newbie

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10

ladynads

eNotes Newbie

Whren in a College English Lit class we explored the meaning behind Wordsworth’s words “The Child Is The Father Of The Man.” We determinedf that he meant that the Child is born all knowing and it is through experiencing life that we lose that knowlege! That our life experiences make us lose those knowings those memories we are born with because The Child Is The Father Of The Man!

Posted by ladynads on April 28, 2010.

http://www.enotes.com/william-wordsworth/discuss/meaning-child-father-man-8559

The response of poster #4 reminded me of Michael’s poem “Are You Listening?” with its refrain “From bliss I came/In bliss I’m sustained/To bliss I return…”

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khnL7KFS-Tw[/tube]

Poster #6 also reminded me very much of what Michael said in his speech at Oxford, when he spoke of how his own childhood experiences had shaped the adult he had become and how he was striving to be a much better father to his own children (or at least, a more loving and affectionate father) than his own father had been to him.

Michael's Goal Was To Be A Better Father To His Own Kids Than He Felt Joseph Had Been To Him; To Break The Cycle Rather Than Perpetuate It

In all of these responses, I could hear the very words Michael had echoed so many times coming back, but no one was listening because…well, this guy is freaky and strange, right? So what does he know?

Wordsworth’s poem was actually part of a larger collection entitled “Ode: Intimations Of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood.”  Wordswoth stated in a letter from 1814: ‘The poem (“Intimations”) rests entirely on two recollections of childhood, one that of a spendour in the objects of sense which is passed away, and the other an indisposition to bend to the law of death as applying to our particular case. A Reader who has not a vivid recollection of these feelings having existed in his mind cannot understand that Poem.” (Damrosch and Dettmar, Masters of British Literature, Vol. B, 272).

Much of Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of Early Childhood” is steeped in a single, simplistic view: When we lose touch with childhood, we have not only disconnected from our innocence, but also our own immortality (for we are never as far removed from the notion of death as we are in childhood).

In the letter quoted above, Wordsworth drew on another one of his own verses to further illustrate the concept of “Ode”,” a poem entitled “We Are Seven”:

————–A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?-William Wordsworth

 Most of us can still recall what a traumatic experience it was a s a child to first learn the concept of death. However that realization may have come about-perhaps the death of a beloved pet, or a close relative, or even, God forbid, a fellow playmate our own age-it’s often for many the first, jarring initiation into the world of adulthood. A world where we realize that nothing is permanent; nothing guaranteed-except death. A world where we begin to lose touch with bliss.

Using his own, earlier poem “The Child is Father of the Man” almost as a kind of echo from a tale long past, the narrator in “Ode” writes almost wearily:

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46LCLZXz5Pk[/tube]

Let’s return to that last line: “The things which I have seen I can now see no more.” This is what lies in store for us once we have lost touch with our inner child; this is what the loss of bliss entails!

You can also read a very excellent analysis of Wordsworth’s poem here in Robin Bates’s “Coping With The Loss of Childhood”:

http://www.betterlivingthroughbeowulf.com/?p=608

Michael And Ryan White

Which brings us back to Michael. Was he, in a sense, not only trying to hang onto bliss, but also to immortality? This is going-out-on-a-limb stuff, but perhaps not as far fetched as it sounds. When we look at all of the humanitarian work he did for terminally ill children (Ryan White comes to mind as I was reading Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven”) we realize this is someone who’s heart was literally bleeding for all of the world’s children who were losing their innocence to the greatest thief of all.

Generally speaking, “Man In The Mirror” (the VH-1 TV movie, not the song) was an abomination-a movie so horribly bad that even Michael himself broke his usual reticence to publicly condemn it. However, there is one scene that always haunted me, in which the fictional Michael reacts to the death of a terminally ill child who has visited Neverland (I suspect the boy in the film may have been a fictionalized representation of Ryan White).  Just look over the bad acting and horrifically corny dialog; the power is in the visual of the scene, which perfectly captures the horrific juxtaposition of childhood joy and innocence with death and is probably the only scene in the whole movie that actually worked (and to save you the nausea of watching the whole clip, I’ll just tell you that the scene in question begins at 2:34):

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trNDHkWN9Dw&feature=related[/tube]

Now let’s have a look at the real Michael, saving the life of a dying child in Budapest (I know this will be familiar to most fans, but I’m posting this for the benefit of anyone who isn’t familiar with the story of Bela Farkas):

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZ8il9KAf1g[/tube]

But the stories of Michael’s legendary generosity and humanitarian efforts to help dying children don’t stop there. There are far too many stories to even begin to post them all here. Although equating Michael with Peter Pan was, I think, largely a media exaggeration, there’s no denying that he was attracted to the idea of Neverland-a magical place where innocence is never lost, where no on grows old, but more importantly, perhaps, where no one ever has to die.

Michael wasn’t naive enough to believe he could actually create such a reality. But I think that he was definitely attuned to Wordsworth’s belief that we have to remain as a child in order to be “Father of the Man” and to maintain our Eternal Bliss.

In Part Two of this series, I will take a closer look at the parallels between Wordsworth and Michael as fathers themselves, and will also examine another Wordsworth poem aptly entitled…”Michael!”  

When Michael Addressed "That One In The Mirror"

How Did Michael REALLY Feel About The Man In The Mirror? His Own Words Reveal Some Interesting Insights

Of all Michael’s “message” songs, “Man In The Mirror” remains the most commercially succesful and in many ways, most enduring. There is good reason for that. Unlike the overly saccaharine  “Heal The World” or more darkly angry political songs such as “Earth Song” and “They Don’t Care About Us,”  “Man In The Mirror” derives its popularity due to a very simplistic yet universal message: That change has to start within. We can’t change the world until we have changed the reflection that is looking back at us.

Michael didn’t write “Man In The Mirror,” but along with “Human Nature” and “Thriller” it’s become one of those iconic songs so indelibly identified as “his” that it’s almost hard to believe that he had no hand in its creation.

But hold on…not so fast. According to those who attended last year’s Columbia Chicago Symposium, “Man In The Mirror” songwriter Siedah Garrett revealed that Michael actually had quite a significant hand in shaping the song’s final outcome. According to Garrett, Michael initially refused the song because he felt the bridge was too weak. He then collaborated with Garrett to build the song’s bridge, making suggestions and giving creative ideas, until finally “Man In The Mirror” took shape into the powerhouse gospel arrangement that eventually made it onto the “Bad” album and the top of the charts.

But how did Michael himself really feel about the man who stared back at him from his own mirror? The answer may be best revealed by something Michael did undisputably write-a piece that made it into his book Dancing the Dream, Michael’s 1992 collection of poems and reflections.

In a piece entitled “That One In The Mirror” Michael reveals something interesting-and very honest-about  his own feelings of disconnect from his public image/persona as opposed to the person he really felt himself to be. Looking at this piece, it’s easy to see how and why Michael identified so powerfully with the speaker in “Man In The Mirror.”

But first, let’s look at the familiar lyrics from the song. I’ve boldfaced those lyrics that will be especially pertinent to this discussion:

 

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. . .As I, Turn Up The Collar On My
Favourite Winter Coat
This Wind Is Blowin’ My Mind
I See The Kids In The Street,
With Not Enough To Eat
Who Am I, To Be Blind?
Pretending Not To See
Their Needs
A Summer’s Disregard,
A Broken Bottle Top
And A One Man’s Soul
They Follow Each Other On
The Wind Ya’ Know
‘Cause They Got Nowhere
To Go
That’s Why I Want You To
KnowI’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
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change)
(Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Na Na,
Na Nah)I’ve Been A Victim Of A Selfish
Kind Of Love
It’s Time That I Realize
That There Are Some With No
Home, Not A Nickel To Loan
Could It Be Really Me,
Pretending That They’re Not
Alone?A Willow Deeply Scarred,
Somebody’s Broken Heart
And A Washed-Out Dream
(Washed-Out Dream)
They Follow The Pattern Of
The Wind, Ya’ See
Cause They Got No Place
To Be
That’s Why I’m Starting With
Me
(Starting With Me!)I’m Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
(Ooh!)
I’m Asking Him To Change
His Ways
(Ooh!)
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
(If You Wanna Make The
World A Better Place)
Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change
(Take A Look At Yourself And
Then Make A Change)-Man In The Mirror, Lyrics By Siedah Garrett, Performed By Michael Jackson
Now let’s look at what Michael wrote about himself and the man in his own mirror. The boldfaced passages are my own emphasis:
 
“I wanted to change the world, so I got up one morning and looked in the mirror. That one looking back said, ‘There is not much time left. The earth is wracked with pain. Children are starving. Nations remain divided by mistrust and hatred. Everywhere the air and water have been fouled almost beyond help. Do something!’
 
That one in the mirror felt very angry and desperate. Everything looked like a mess, a tragedy, a disaster. I decided he must be right. Didn’t I feel terrible about these things too, just like him? The planet was being used up and thrown away. Imagining earthly life just one generation from now made me feel panicky.
It was not hard to find the good people who wanted to solve the earth’s problems. As I listened to their solutions, I thought, ‘There is so much good will here, so much concern.’ At night before going to bed, that one in the mirror looked back at me seriously. ‘Now we’ll get somewhere,’ he declared. ‘If everybody does their part.’
 
But everybody didn’t do their part. Some did, but were they stopping the tide? Were pain, starvation, hatred, and pollution about to be solved? Wishing wouldn’t make it so-I knew that. When I woke up the next morning, that one in the mirror looked confused. ‘Maybe it’s hopeless,’ he whispered. Then a sly look came into his eyes, and he shrugged. ‘But you and I will survive. At least we are doing all right.’

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

The next time I looked in the mirror, that one looking back had started to fade. It was only an image after all. It showed me a solitary person enclosed in a neat package of skin and bones. ‘Did I once think you were me?’ I began to wonder. I am not so separate and afraid. The pain of life touches me, but the joy of life is so much stronger. And it alone will heal. Life is the healer of life, and the most I can do for the earth is to be its loving child.

That one in the mirror winced and squirmed. He hadn’t thought so much about love. Seeing ‘problems’ was much easier, because love means complete self-honesty. Ouch! 

 ‘Oh, friend,’ I whispered to him, ‘do you think anything can solve problems without love?’ That one in the mirror wasn’t sure. Being alone for so long, not trusting others and being trusted by others, it tended to detach itself from the reality of life. ‘Is love more real than pain?’ he asked.

‘I can’t promise that it is. But it might be. Let’s discover,’ I said. I touched the mirror with a grin. ‘Let’s not be alone again. Will you be my partner? I hear a dance starting up. Come.’ That one in the mirror smiled shyly. He was realizing that we could be best friends. We could be more peaceful, more loving, more honest with each other every day.

Would that change the world? I think it will, because Mother Earth wants us to be happy and to love her as we tend her needs. She needs fearless people on her side, whose courage comes from being part of her, like a baby who is brave enough to walk because Mother is holding out her arms to catch him. When that one in the mirror is full of love for me and for him, there is no room for fear. When we were afraid and panicky, we stopped loving this life of ours and this earth. We disconnected. Yet how can anybody rush to help the earth if they feel disconnected? Perhaps the earth is telling us what she wants, and by not listening, we fall back on our own fear and panic.

One thing I know: I never feel alone when I am earth’s child. I do not have to cling to my personal survival as long as I realize, day by day, that all of life is in me. The children and their pain; the children and their joy. The ocean swelling under the sun; the ocean weeping with black oil. The animals hunted in fear; the animals bursting with the sheer joy of being alive.

This sense of ‘the world in me’ is how I always want to feel. That one in the mirror has his doubts sometimes. So I am tender with him. Every morning I touch the mirror and whisper, ‘Oh, friend, I hear a dance. Will you be my partner? Come.'”-Michael Jackson, “That One In The Mirror.”

Something I find very interesting about this piece is how he speaks of the disconnect and separateness between himself and his mirror image. The mirror image is the outside self, the flesh and blood shell that the world sees. I think that here, he is referencing the image he sees in the mirror as his public, outward self. The “man in the mirror” is aware of the earth’s problems, and makes a great show of standing up for these causes and uniting people all over the world to fight them. But when push comes to shove, he is only giving lip service to the idea of change. Inwardly, he feels afraid and powerless.

Did Michael feel afraid and powerless, even as he strove to tell us to “make that change” and to unite and “heal the world?” Did he have his moments of doubt and selfish weakness?

In this piece, he is very candidly giving us those answers. His outer self tells him, “It doesn’t really matter what happens to the world. You and I-(here the image is pointing outward, as if to say, “You and I, Michael”)-will be all right.” What did Michael Jackson, world famous celebrity and mega rich entertainer, have to be worried about? His position in life was secure. In fact, this was someone who had wanted for very little in the way of material riches since childhood. His “outer image” tells him that no matter what happens to the world or to the people and animals in it, his own life isn’t going to be affected. How many times have we seen stories of war and destruction in the news, or the commercials of starving children in Africa, only to turn away in numb indifference? Because the petty concerns of our own lives are so much more urgent, and pressing? In this piece, as Michael honestly looks upon his own reflection, his “friend” in the mirror, he makes a disturbing discovery-he realizes he doesn’t really know this person at all! The outer man he sees has become smug, complacent; numb and unfeeling-a hypocrite, even.

But the inner man knows better. He becomes somewhat repulsed by the selfish image in the mirror. Is this the person he has allowed himself to become-selfish, indifferent; someone who gives lip service to the suffering of the world only because it’s the “fashionable” thing to do? Or who gives up too easily just because the fight seems so hopeless?

He comes to dislike the man in the mirror. But the realization only serves to intensify his sense of helplessness.

"A faint suspicion came to me, one that had never dawned so clearly before. What if that one in the mirror isn't me? He feels separate..." Michael Jackson

As long as there is disconnect within the self, there can be no true happiness and no true inner peace. Here Michael seems to be taking a very deep and honest look at his self-reflection and coming to the realization that this is not someone who can heal the world-not yet. Because he can’t even heal himself.  And that is both a scary and disconcerting realization. “A faint suspicion came to me, one that had never dawned so clearly before. What if that one in the mirror isn’t me? He feels separate. He ‘sees’ problems out there to be solved. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t. He’ll get along. But I don’t feel that way-those problems aren’t ‘out there,’ not really. I feel them inside me.”

In this very candid self-realization, he admits that it’s much easier to “see problems” than to actually give love, especially if one has no love to give! And what would keep one from being able to give love selflessly? “He hadn’t thought so much about love…because love means complete self-honesty. Ouch!”

The interjection of the word “ouch” here is very telling. He’s admitting that it hurts to really look at one’s self; the self-honesty of reflection is a painful process, forcing us to face not only the truths we keep hidden from the world, but even from our own selves. If most of us really took the time to look at our own reflections, we probably wouldn’t like what we see! But forcing ourselves to look is the first painful, crucial step to embracing ourselves fully. We can’t begin to love others until we can love ourselves.

The next paragraph is perhaps one of the most revealing and honest glimpses into his soul that Michael has ever allowed us. This is coming straight from the heart of that little boy who had to learn a very hard lesson far too early in life: You can’t trust anyone.  “Being alone for so long, not trusting others and being trusted by others, it tended to detach itself from the reality of life. ‘Is love more real than pain?’ he asked.”

That the image who speaks to Michael from the mirror even has to ask this question is very telling. He speaks of his mirror image as being something “detached” from “the reality of life.” Yet, coming from within himself, he knows this is not the real man. He realizes there is a disconnect between what he is capable of feeling-the love he is capable of giving-and that empty, lonely man in the mirror. But how to bridge them? He seems to arrive at his own answer.

“The pain of life touches me, but the joy of life is so much stronger. And it alone will heal. Life is the healer of life, and the most I can do for the earth is to be its loving child.”

Part of becoming “that loving child” is reaching out to that pained, lonely, and fearful man in the mirror, making him realize the true power that comes from the abilility to love. This is Michael looking at himself-the scarred and abused child; the megastar who had learned craftily how to hide his true emotions; even the philanthropist who was telling us “We Are The World.” This is all of that completely stripped away, and what is left? Nothing but a naked man and frightened child, too scared to love; too indifferent to care.  “When that one in the mirror is full of love for me and for him, there is no room for fear. When we were afraid and panicky, we stopped loving this life of ours and this earth. We disconnected. Yet how can anybody rush to help the earth if they feel disconnected? Perhaps the earth is telling us what she wants, and by not listening, we fall back on our own fear and panic.”

"That one in the mirror has his doubts sometimes. So I am tender with him..."-Michael Jackson

But the next paragraph is very telling. He says that the “man in the mirror” is just an image-and one that is ‘starting to fade.” Perhaps this is a double play on the word “image,” meaning in the one sense, his literal mirror reflection, and in the other sense, “image” as when we speak of a celebrity’s public persona and how we perceive them. He says it was “only an image, after all,” a solitary person ‘enclosed in a neat package of skin and bones.” The self-serving image, along with all of its fears, doubts, and shallow insecurities, fades as he learns to fully embrace and love himself. “That one in the mirror smiled shyly. He was realizing that we could be best friends. We could be more peaceful, more loving, more honest with each other every day.”

The word “honest” is key here. Michael is attempting, finally, to bridge his inner and outer self in order to achieve true peace and happiness. He is finally learning how to love himself so that he can be a good steward in the way that God and Mother Earth intends. Or at the very least, he is arriving at the self realization of this need, which is the crucial first step to healing and becoming whole. In doing so, he can even give himself permission to stumble; to be weak; to embrace his imperfections as part of the human dance. I do not have to cling to my personal survival as long as I realize, day by day, that all of life is in me…

Life is a force much bigger than ourselves; we are but a part of the dance. This was a theme that Michael’s work returns to over and over again. But as children of God and of Mother Earth, we cannot partake fully in life  if we remain divided from our own self-or if we insist on loathing the man or woman in the mirror. After all, that image is only ourself as we are, encased in “a neat package of skin and bones.”

The last paragraph seems to reflect a newfound inner peace and self-acceptance,and perhaps we can take this as indicative of the place Michael finally arrived at, at least for a little while.

This sense of ‘the world in me’ is how I always want to feel. That one in the mirror has his doubts sometimes. So I am tender with him…”

In this piece, Michael seems to be telling us that he has come to an important crossroads; an important realization. This “man in the mirror” isn’t perfect. This “man in the mirror” is no Pollyanna. He knows the world is a dark, scary and sometimes lonely place. He knows it’s a dirty, screwed up world and humanity in general sucks. He knows it because he sees it in himself.

But he also sees something else. He sees love and the eternal hope that keeps us all hanging on, in hopes of a brighter day tomorrow. He sees the light within himself. He sees the possibilities.

He’s not afraid to ask for change; to demand it even. Not from the world, and not from us, but from where it matters most. From deep within the heart of that man staring back in the mirror.  

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-cMrlh5SXc&feature=fvst[/tube]

Does This Look Like The Face Of Dysfunction?

While The Media Sold us The Idea Of “Wacko Jacko,” Michael Jackson In Reality Was Embarking On The Most Politically Active Era Of His Career

I’m dipping a bit into the vault today. This was a piece that I originally wrote back during the trial, but since Allforloveblog was still offline at the time, I didn’t have a means to widely distribute it. I decided it was a topic still worthy of examination, so I’ve dusted it off and made a few tweaks. The article originally came about in response to a comment made one night on HLN by the ever brilliant and scholarly Dr. Drew (I am being sarcastic, of course!). For the record, I don’t classify Dr. Drew among the MJ haters. Throughout the trial, his position came across to me as one that was mostly sympthaetic towards Michael as the victim in the case-but nevertheless, his was a position steeped largely in ignorance, as evidenced by many of his comments regarding Michael’s life. Whether ignorance comes cloaked in malicious intent or not, it is still just that-ignorance. And when one is speaking to a potential audience of millions, ignorance is dangerous.

I fired this off the night I heard Dr. Drew comment that it was tragic how Michael Jackson’s artistry had been overshadowed by the “dysfunction of his life.”  That one brought me up sharply. It reminded me that for almost two decades the media has been trying to sell us on the idea that Michael Jackson in his last years was a poster boy for the dysfunctional adult, one who was at best mentally regressed; at worst, a very unstable individual. They sold an entire generation on the idea of “Wacko Jacko” to the point that even one of my students-a very smart young man who simply hadn’t had the time or inclination in his short life to delve seriously into the subject of Michael Jackson -asked me, “Do you really think he was very intelligent?”

Oh boy, talk about a palm-slap-to-the-head moment! Where does one even begin to unravel the intricacies of such deeply entrenched and ingrained beliefs?

It’s especially troublesome when we realize that we’re talking about one of the most influential musical geniuses of our time. Of course, most people are aware that there is a difference in the way we quantitatively measure “genius” as opposed to “intelligence.” Throughout history, most geniuses have been considered eccentric and odd by the standards of so called “normal” people. It’s accepted that geniuses simply operate on a different level from most of us. But while most people will agree that Michael was eccentric, somewhere along the way the media began to deconstruct what had been considered his charming and mostly harmless eccentricities into that of an erratic, unstable and (after 1993) even sinister persona.

In The World of Michael Jackson, “Black or White” Is More Than Just About Race. It Also Seems To Define How Everyone Wants To View Him!

Even now, I still see debates where people will ask: Was this man an innocent simpleton, or an evil genius? As if there could be no room for anything in between! As if only the most extreme, polarizing ends of the spectrum could apply!

In truth, Michael was a genius, yes. But evil? Certainly not! An innocent simpleton? Well, only if one is so cyncical as to believe that innocence and being of a simple mind go hand in hand.

But let’s examine who was the real man behind this tabloid myth.

Yes, if we believe all of the tabloid stories, one would wonder how this man even had walking around sense, let alone the ability to raise children, conduct business, and still create music. But the problem is that the idea of a Michael Jackson so “dysfunctional” and strange that he was barely a functioning individual is just that-a tabloid myth. Sadly, I understand all too well how easy it is to become brainwashed by these myths-I was one of those people myself, for a long time. I remember once, several years ago, I was riding in the car when “Wanna Be Starting Something,” came on the radio. I remember gushing enthusiastically as I cranked it up, “Oh boy, Michael Jackson, back before he went crazy!”

Yes, I said that. An ignorant spurt from someone who hadn’t bothered to really learn what was going on in this man’s life, but only believed what I heard on TV and in tabloids. I am here right now to say ignorance is not an excuse. The “real” Michael Jackson is there, if you care to learn who he really was. I did. It took many dedicated hours, days and months-and now years. But I did it. Others can, too. There’s no excuse other than laziness or apathy-and maybe the driving need for a scapegoat, who knows?

For years, Michael Jackson had become such a convenient scapegoat that I think we simply took it for granted that he could always be our punching bag. The media pointed fingers and laughed at what seemed the wreck of a once talented artist’s life in ruins.

But what was Michael’s life REALLY like during his last decade or so? Was it really the definition of dysfunction? Consider this:

Michael Jackson spent his last twelve years as a single parent, raising a family. And not “just” raising a family, but raising three exceptionally mature, well adjusted children, as the world has now seen. We have heard testimony from his own children-as well as everyone who knew him-about what a wonderful father he was. Had he ever, in any way, been an abusive or dysfunctional parent, his kids certainly would not speak up for him now, nor would they be so determined to carry on his legacy. You can tell when his children speak about him that their words and emotions come from the heart. They are truly grieving a wonderful father who gave them unconditional love-but also strict discipline (had he not, they would have turned out as spoiled brats, not the very emotionally mature children they have turned out to be). Could a dysfunctionally operating parent achieve this? I think not.

In The Recording Studio, 2006. Still Working. Still Creating.

In his last decade, Michael Jackson was still working on music-actively writing, recording, and producing. The world is just now catching on to the wealth of material he left behind-and not just from the 80’s and 90’s. In fact, the very day of the raid on Neverland, he was working on the music video for “One More Chance.”  The legal battle of the resulting trial halted many of his artistic projects that were in the works at the time. It wasn’t that he had ever stopped working or recording; it was simply that the financial and personal strain of fighting a drawn out, two year legal battle would put a crimp in anyone’s artistic endeavors. But the truth was that Michael Jackson was a Working Artist right up to the very end-if nothing else, This Is It should have disspelled that myth. Of course,  the success of This is It also brought about its own romantic legacy, of a sort- that Michael Jackson, after years of tragedy, “dysfunction” and scandal, had finally “jumped back into the saddle” and was ready to make this great comeback. Keep dreaming. The truth is that Michael had never left the saddle at all. If some things had to be put on hold to fight the money grubbing Arvizos, so be it.

If This is The Face Of “Dysfunction” Maybe We Should All Be So Dysfunctional!

In the 2000’s, Michael Jackson was extremely active, involved in many causes. He began the decade by forming the Heal the World foundation; in 2001, he gave a famous speech at Oxford where he advocated for children’s rights and urged us all to love another; in 2001, he released a #1 album (Invincible), performed at Madison Square Garden, and organized a benefit for the victims of 9/11. By 2002, he had become a staunch civil rights activist for Black artists in the recording industry. Listen to his speeches sometime. They are not the words of a raving madman-at least, not the raving madman the media would have had us believe he was. Rather, they are the words of a thoughtful, intelligent, sensitive man who had seen too much, and lived too much-and knew intuitively how the world operated. Most of all, they were the words of someone fighting to make a difference-for the planet, for our children, for music, and for us.

So all in all, it begs the question: Are we talking about the same person here? Is this really the person the media tried to tell us was so weird, so strange, so “dysfunctional?”

The answer is no. Yet the media still persists in trying to sell us the lie of this “dysfunctional” Michael Jackson. The truth is that this so called “dysfunctional” Michael Jackson is a myth that the media itself created, through tabloid stories, lies, and distorted exaggerations of the truth. Through this manipulation of our minds, they managed to create this fictional being whom we then, all too unfortunately, believed was real.

Here, in its entirety, is Michael Jackson’s speech at Oxford in 2001. Consider that this was at the height of when the media was trying to convince us that this man was so weird; so strange; so bizarre.  Well I challenge you to listen and judge for yourself if these sound like the words of someone who was “wacko.” Then ask yourself if you can really in good conscience go on believing the myth that the media has fed you.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzIQlVSH8GU[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zZCOR6H1Bk&feature=related[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-3zuDB0_JY&feature=related[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMCqtNEgZYY&feature=related[/tube]

Have any of you ever seen that show on cable called “Monster Quest?” (I think it comes on The History Channel, or used to).  I have watched that show a few times. It’s somewhat interesting, but after awhile, it gets boring because you catch on to the pattern very quickly. The show always starts off as a kind of teaser, in which we get a story and alleged eyewitness accounts of some mythical monster that is lurking about some specific locale. They then go to great lengths to “track down” this monster-teams will go hiking into the wilderness, set up camp, and have all of this special night vision equipment to try to capture this “thing”-whatever it is. But each episode ends exactly the same. They never actually find a thing. Instead, we are teased for almost an hour with innuendo, false alarms, and photos or something captured on camera that “might” be something, only it’s always conveniently too blurry to tell. Usually there is some tantalizing bit of evidence, but nothing that can ever be proven conclusively. Every show ends on a kind of anti-climactic note because the monster is never found.

the Search For The Mythical, Tabloid Michael Jackson Is A Lot Like The Premise For This Cable TV Show…And Every Bit As Futile!

Trying to find the tabloid  Michael Jackson is a lot like that. One finds as they beging to research that the “monster” the media tried to create simply doesn’t exist. Michael himself sang of this very “Monster Quest” over and over. In songs like Threatened, Is It Scary, and the song entitled Monster he acknowledged that we were a society ever in search of the elusive beast.

Remember how Nancy Grace seemed to almost glorify in constantly reminding viewers that Michael Jackson had died “surrounded by his own urine?” While this seemed like a ploy to garner sympathy for the way he had to die as a victim, there was also a far more sinister undertone-she was also rubbing it in that, after all the fame and the glory and the adulation, this was how Michael’s life had ended. This was what it had all come down to. They still want us to believe the myth of a tragic, washed up, has-been great artist wallowing in the madness of his own dysfunctional life. When one finds that the reality is that of a hard working, still dedicated artist who was even considering going back to school to study art, who was quietly raising his three kids, still honing his craft,  and still actively engaged in charities and the causes he believed in–suddenly, the myth doesn’t seem quite so glamorous or attractive anymore-if one is looking at it from a medialoid standpoint. After all, a washed up, dysfunctional superstar sells a lot more copy than a dedicated, hard working dad.

But I learned something when I began researching the life of Michael Jackson. I learned the difference between sensationalism and truth.

Sensationalism sells. Truth is often boring.

Boring, yes. But also, real.