Remembering Michael on the three-year anniversary of his departure from this realm, I begin with a poem:
To The Tender
by Kristen Tracy
Midsummer, and along came a hapless jay —
blue and wobbling — flight feathers nothing more
than pins of white. It arrived at the nest’s edge
unready, which was only half the problem.
Crows perched in the oak across the street, alert,
aware of all the world’s worst secrets. Naturally
I rooted for the jay. Oh, but this was life.
After the blue jay fell from the Scotch pine’s terrible height,
it righted itself in the grass and, like a skin-kneed child
after her first bad spill on a bike, cried out for help.
I set down my rake and shepherded the bird
toward my spindle tree. Hopping from
low branches, it pressed toward the center, tucking itself
into my tree’s sturdy heart. For two days
the parents swooped down to feed it.
Thankfully the crows never came, though
I kept my eye on them. I knew their game.
Pirates. Gangsters. Extortionists. Thieves.
But even if the world is half bad, it remains
half good. While some of us sleep, our hearts
lie open,turned to the tender, dreaming up ways
to thwart the crows. Yes, a hapless jay stumbles
into our lives believing it can fly, and we — knowing
what we know — do what we can to make it so.
— From The Sun magazine’s April 2011 issue.
Something that has settled atop the heap of thoughts in my mind lately is the fact that after Michael’s acquittal in 2005, his fans gave him roses. I read somewhere that a couple of the fans stayed up all night removing the thorns from the roses for him. I thought: “this was similar to how the woman made space for the innocent little blue jay, removing the threats or at least somehow protecting the little jay from them so that he could continue making his way in life unharmed.”
Michael’s fans, each in their own way, have always made space for his innocence — an innocence we all knew he possessed. It wasn’t just because of the utter lack of evidence against him that so many were certain of his innocence. Much of that certainty came from Michael’s personality itself, long before the extortionists ever targeted him. One read of his book ‘Dancing the Dream‘, written long before any of the worst nastiness began, reveals a unique combination of innocence and wisdom that only Michael possessed. That’s the innocence so many millions made space for – in his life, in their lives, and in their hearts. He found, and his fans found in him, a ‘Ally in Innocence‘ so-to-speak.
But this innocence isn’t a naive one. It’s not a gullible one. It’s a wise one. It’s the one that knows a table littered with animosity, grudges, mistrust, suspicion, bitterness, and conscienceless greed cannot be a platform for a sumptuous meal, or the creation of beautiful poetry or breathtaking music or an astounding dance performance — things that connect the physical world with the divinity in all life.
We must free ourselves to be filled by God. Even god cannot fill what is full.
It’s that innocence that sees the whole world with wonder and that knows there is real magic in dreams and that even though the most beautiful choirs and passionate churches sing of it, true Divinity is only found in the silence of the stars nestled in the velvet black and purple sky and the quiet of a flower blooming – those things we hardly notice amidst the jarring jangle of our everyday lives. Some colors exist in dreams that do not exist in the waking world. I have seen these colors in my own dreams and I know they are there.
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon, and the sun, how they move in silence.
Michael’s daughter Paris tweeted something about girls in her class wearing revealing clothes. I tweeted back that if they were trying to attract guys, this is not how a girl gets respect. She ‘favorited‘ that tweet. The girl is her father’s daughter. She knows. Someone else interjected that some young girls wear revealing clothing to somehow persuade the male teacher to give them better grades. But such a lack of self-respect and ill-gotten rewards for unearned accomplishment are costly and short-lived. One cannot build a sturdy future upon them. I’m sure those girls in the revealing clothing might think girls that don’t dress that way are somehow not ‘cool‘, or are inferior. But who wants to be ‘sexy‘ if it means you get less or no respect as a person and that your accomplishments in life really aren’t accomplishments at all, but rather reward gained through manipulation or self-devaluation? This innocence, which to someone in the process of making unwise but temporarily convenient choices in life might seem useless, is the one Michael lived and taught his children.
I believe Michael knew this:
Lack of understanding of the true nature of happiness, it seems to me, is the principal reason why people inflict sufferings on others. They think either that the other’s pain may somehow be a cause of happiness for themselves or that their own happiness is more important, regardless of what pain it may cause. But this is shortsighted. No one truly benefits from causing harm to another sentient being. . . . In the long run causing others misery and infringing their rights to peace and happiness result in anxiety, fear, and suspicion within oneself.
-The Dalai Lama
And, I believe that many of today’s problems in the world are the result of this lack of understanding. Most people in the business or political world might see an unwillingness to do others harm in order to profit or succeed as naive or pollyanna-ish. But it’s not. Such reluctance to harm others (or one’s self) in order to succeed or profit may appear as childish innocence or naïveté to others, but it is actually a deeper wisdom than most people understand – or care about – because they are too driven to profit at any cost, particularly to others. We saw the ugliness of that in Michael’s own life and we see it every day all around ourselves.
Michael understood that a certain innocence is necessary for creativity, as well. It makes sense that as children grow up, they become less creative. And most adults discourage it as we get older – telling their children to be a lawyer or accountant, or computer programmer rather than pursuing any type of artistic or creative endeavor, thus instilling in them a disbelief in their own artistic ability and a distrust in their own ability to become a success by being creative. Yet the refusal to be creative – in whatever way a person has an aptitude for -could be counter to what God(dess) intended. If, as Michael and many others including myself believe – God communicates spiritually with the physical world via art and creativity – and we refuse this, we are refusing to be a conduit for him/her to speak to the physical world through us. Many people believe too, that this can be the source of addiction ie: that the person has an emptiness within themselves, in their soul or psyche, that they are trying to fulfill or numb the pain of. I call it ‘The God Hole‘ and so does at least one other person who has written about this. Michael certainly understood the value of a childlike mind as a necessity for creativity – one that does not perceive any limit to what is possible.
Some people and entities seeking to advance themselves monetarily and otherwise portrayed Michael’s penchant for innocence as “strange“, and “bizarre” and portrayed him as a “pedophile” because he preferred the company of children than scheming, backstabbing adults who always wanted something from him for themselves – seeking to profit by hurting him or others. It seems to be a requirement that anytime a media outlet mentions him, the word “bizarre” must be inserted in the piece somewhere, just to keep the meme going. And, it seems that anytime a pedophilia case makes the news, such as the recent Sandusky case, comparisons must be made to Michael who was the polar opposite of a child molester – and who was acquitted because even after decades of efforts to frame him, was found innocent due to sheer lack of evidence.
Who is really “bizarre“? Someone who refused to hurt other people in order to succeed in this world – and in fact worked at his craft all his life primarily so that he could help others — or those who daily make a living by hurting others, including Michael, in order to profit and build careers via manipulation and dishonesty? I’d say the latter are the ones who are not only bizarre, but deeply immoral.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.
He tried to keep empty so that he could give us beauty. What do I mean by that? Though it was impossible with all persecution he endured, it was clear to me that Michael would rather write positive, inspirational and hopeful songs than hurting ones — though his hurting angry ones were always what I call ‘teaching‘ songs, such as ‘Why You Wanna Trip On Me‘, which decried all the ignorant greedy obsession the media pundits and government had with Michael’s appearance and with the ridiculous allegations against him, rather than with solving the real problems in the world, such child neglect, war, poverty and lack of education. And it’s a very good question that no one has yet answered. But he did try to keep his psyche clear so that beauty could enter and he could share it in a creative sense without his mind or heart being cluttered with embitterment or anger. And this too, is a certain type of innocence.
What one wishes is to be touched by truth and to be able to interpret that truth so that one may use what one is feeling and experiencing, be it despair or joy, in a way that will add meaning to one’s life and will hopefully touch others as well. This is art in its highest form. Those moments of enlightenment are what I continue to live for.
The most beautiful paintings and sculptures, the greatest poetry, have not always been born from torment or bitterness. Often they have sprung from contemplation, from joy, from an instinct or wonder toward all things. To create from joy, to create from wonder, demands a continual discipline, a great compassion . . . With time and sincerity, you will discover a way to work and write that does not harm you spiritually, that does not tempt you to vanity, that is the deepest expression of your spirituality. You will find a voice that is not your voice only but the voice of Reality itself. . . If you can be empty enough, that voice can speak through you. If you can be humble enough, that voice can inhabit you and use you.
I think that in this way, Michael did embody the voice of Divinity, Beauty, Reality, Truth. So today I remember Michael this way: in the wise innocence that permeated every aspect of his life and with which he obviously raised his children and worked at his craft; an innocence which those who understood him tried to make space for in his life and in their own – by removing the thorns from the roses so they could be held without harm – the same way those who love Michael will always hold him within their hearts.
He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
-Clarence Budington Kelland
©2012 Seven Bowie