Michael Jackson performed to hundreds of millions of people during his life. Every crowd he played to was comprised of an adoring ocean of people, in which each individual had fallen as a nuanced raindrop, forming a harmonious sea of love: a form that was fluid, yet entire – like the dancer and the dance that had summoned them all to be together. And Michael gleefully received this love. More than that: he was energised by it. Arms outstretched, awash in the pulsing warmth of the love of a hundred-thousand people, he absorbed the adoration the way a butterfly imbues heat – in order to generate enough strength to fly.
Michael would scream to the sound engineers, “Hurt me!” in a request for them to increase the volume and intensity of the music. And indeed there was a sense of the masochist in his work ethic. The global events that were Michael Jackson World Tours caused renewed suffering from his various medical conditions. The poor state of his lungs – likely a consequence of the merciless schedule thrust upon him that involved nightly singing in the smoky venues the Jackson 5 played (oh the irony of that word!) as child – remained a secret until it was revealed in his autopsy. The clues were there though, what with his increased reliance on lip-synching, yet Michael never let us know the true extent of the damage. The reason Michael grew fatigued of touring was because of the sleeping pills and pain medication he knew he would have to come to rely on to fulfil his mission.
With this borne in mind, then, the efforts exerted in his planetary crisscrossing, as courageous as they would be even for someone in their physical prime, become viewed as being nothing short of superhuman. As his health deteriorated, there became a converse increase in the intensification of his efforts to relay, promote and safeguard his message of peace.
People are extra-performative with those they trust. With their children, especially. Michael had voluntarily adopted the mantle as the father of all the world’s children – both those of a young chronological age, and those adults – the “lost” ones – who are so often the people that remain devoted to his mission. The ones in front of whom he could perform without prejudice. The ones he surrounded himself with. Michael understood that children innately amplify experiences – of fear; of rage; of a Michael Jackson concert; of love. And he lived and breathed this knowledge, along with the responsibility of it as he delivered his message.
Michael’s efforts to maintain his natural character were under perpetual bombardment from those who simply did not possess either the intellectual or emotional capacity to understand him. These attacks – like a storm battering a rock – inevitably, as they would anyone, weathered him. The spray that spat from the media tempest inflicted pain like water torture. Yet regardless, he strived to preserve and express that congenital core of purity.
And this ‘weathering’ is not merely a metaphor – the attacks physically shaped him. It was this bullying that initially motivated the plastic surgery Michael Jackson would ultimately become a poster boy for. Ironically – though very much in keeping with the idea of the entity Michael Jackson being a microcosm of the entirety of humanity – plastic surgery has now become an accepted daily feature of our postmodern world. As the man himself said, “plastic surgery wasn’t invented for Michael Jackson” – and the sheer hypocrisy of, not only his peers in that Mecca of perceived self-rectification known as Hollywood, but also of any single person that endeavours to artificially alter their appearance to assuage their insecurities: be that breast implantation, teeth-whitening or photoshopped pictures – proves him absolutely right.
Children are oblivious to such superficiality. It is no wonder Michael chose to be around them. Yet, with the befriending of children came a different sadness. The vast majority of these friendships were doomed from the outset to be fleeting. The lyrics detailing the tragedy of the protagonist of the song Puff The Magic Dragon remind me a great deal of Michael – a figure of legend entrapped eternally in a world where friends come and go, as their finite time in the kingdom of childhood comes to an end:
“Dragons live forever but not so little boys,
Painted wings and giant strings make way for other toys…
Without his lifelong friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.”
As fans, it is our responsibility to ensure that the sadness he was forced to endure makes sense in the end. That it meant something. Let us not allow the phenomenon that was Michael Jackson be a missed opportunity for an ambassador; an emblem; a paradigm of peace. Who knows when – or if – the world will ever know again anyone so universally recognised, whose sole intention was to help humanity evolve from its ubiquitous acts of bestial violence, and towards universally practiced ideals of peace? Michael encouraged the people of planet Earth to adopt his unprecedented fame and utilise it as a chance for global unity: as a catalyst for the positive progression of the human race. His life was one of self-sacrifice for our entertainment – it being the inimitable tragedy of Shakespearean proportions that it was.
Surely, the fulfilment of Michael Jackson’s wish of him being a totem for love and understanding is not merely one he earnestly deserved, but one the world should be emphatically embracing? Or at least be grateful that he granted us the chance? People underestimate the fact that Michael Jackson was the most famous person on planet Earth. A heavy fact with unimaginable repercussions for the man. One day, people will envy our privilege as having been upon the same planet as a living Michael Jackson: a man that tried to teach that life itself is legacy; a man who endorsed the idea that each human being needs to care deeply about what happens to the next generation, and that this crucial wisdom for humanity’s future must be instilled in people as children. As the little girl’s voice used in Heal The World states, “Think about the generations… they want to make the world a better place – for our children, and our children’s children.”
Prior to Neverland and Michael’s attempt at creating a safe haven for innocence; prior to the Pepsi promo burning incident (occurring on the exact middle day of his life) that introduced him to the ephemeral relief of prescription painkillers; prior to the mass media opprobrium; prior to the child molestation allegations, Michael Jackson was interviewed candidly in the gardens of the Encino family home. The interview was later commercially released, much to his dismay. In said video, dubbed ‘Unauthorised’, Michael is seen crooning at the night sky – astonished, inspired and bewildered by the the beauty of it all. High on nature and his unique connection to its elements, he feels he can fly, and dances as if he’s a bird taking flight. Or, perhaps – a butterfly.
Michael Jackson’s lifelong martyrdom ensured that he earned those wings.