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23 Jun 2010

Understanding Michael

GIFs Pictures, Michael Jackson, Understanding Michael 58 Comments

In the wake of the anniversary of Michael’s passing, I’ve read a number of articles reflecting on his life.  Invariably they start out the same.  We remark on the boy genius and then the young man, with his angelic voice and flawless dancing, who took the world by storm.  There is much to do about the amazing, timeless music he’s produced and how it became the soundtrack of our lives.  Inevitably, the author goes into the tragic circumstances surrounding the child abuse allegations and the ensuing trial.  Off we go into the world of plastic surgery, as some remark not too kindly about his changing face and what self-loathing must have prompted it and then, of course,  we  travel down the sordid road of  Michael’s drug addiction.

The author always sums up his piece much like a cautionary tale of how not to live, what choices not to make and how one might end up — if they’re not careful.  And I’m always left with a longing, an unfulfilled, desperate wish:  I wish people would try to understand Michael.

I have a nephew.  He actually reminds me a little of Michael.  He’s tall, extremely thin, with long bony arms.  He’s wearing his hair in a curly afro now and he has a nicely shaped, if a bit wide, African American nose.   He can dance extremely well, loves to draw,  has a lovely voice and oh my God  he’s so funny.  He’s so funny, we all badger him to tell us stories and act out skits.  He actually loves to do it, too, and I’m so amazed sometimes by his talent.  I often think he should have been a child star himself but then I think of Michael and I correct my thinking.

One day while I was with him, his sister begged him to act out the story of Niko — a character he created, a little mischievous boy who was always getting into trouble.  My nephew sighed and said, ” I don’t feel like it”.

She asked again and my kids even got in on it but he said, “Nope, not right now.” See, as much as he loved telling jokes and entertaining us, he wasn’t in the mood.

Imagine not being able to say NO?

Imagine feeling obligated, from a very young age, to meet the needs of others while at the same time you are asked to deny your own needs, sacrifice your own wishes, ignore your own feelings and desires.  Michael was asked to do this not only by a domineering father who never once stopped to think about the extremely sensitive child he had been gifted with and what would make him happy, but then as he grew as an artist, by an ever increasing, insatiable audience.  We loved Michael.  We loved him so much we couldn’t get enough of him.  We wanted more and more and more.

The amazing part of it is that Michael gave us all and then some.  What artist in the history of music has ever been more attuned to his fans?  He never failed to acknowledged their undying love for him and to tell them how much he appreciated them for it.  He even served them food as they chanted for him outside of his window.    He loved us MORE.    For the This Is It tour, Michael asked his fans to tell him the songs they wanted him to perform.  He made a list of all the songs his fans wanted to hear and agonized over his own list because it didn’t encompass all their choices.  He didn’t want to disappoint us.   He gave of his time, going to orphanages, hospitals, touching the lives of the sick and the dying.  He gave his money, millions of dollars to charitable groups and schools and those in need.

But still, somehow, it was not enough.   People who he invited into his home, to whom he extended his kindness felt in some strange way that he owed them more.  And when he dared step back and say, through his actions, I think that’s enough, they became hell bent on extracting some kind of sick revenge, in effect sending the message to him:  You don’t get to tell us no.

Did anyone ever stop to think that Michael needed SPACE?  Did any of his loyal, loving fans who followed him from city to city and camped out in front of his hotels ever think that Michael needed TIME, PRIVACY, and life of his own, separate and apart from them?

When I look at Michael’s life, I see the life of a child prodigy gone terribly wrong.  He was a man who was never given space to be himself — what space he had, he created through his musical genius but always, always, he had vultures waiting at the gates, encroaching on his boundaries, employees, family, fans and wanna-be’s with their hand out stating:  WE WANT MORE.  Eventually, they invaded his home and robbed him of his serenity.  They took the beautiful haven he built for himself and filled it with memories of a shameful investigation based on lies.

I think that Michael’s life is a lesson to us all of what we, the public,  can do to the ones we claim we love; what can happen to a person when all they have to give  IS NOT ENOUGH.  When I look at the issues that Michael had, the way he tried to medicate his pain and fashion his face into someone he could recognize and live with, I totally understand.

As we grow from a child into an adult, we learn about who we are, what we like, what we don’t like, what we can tolerate, what we won’t stand for; we learn WHO WE ARE — Michael was never given — forget the chance but the space to do this.  When I look back at Michael’s life I  see a man struggling to be himself in a world that was constantly telling him who he was.

Now as the anniversary of his death approaches, there’s a race to produce programs that attempt to tell us who Michael was.  I listen to Michael’s music, I stop and pay attention to his lyrics,  I read his words in interviews and in his books and I hear Michael.  He told us who he was.  And that is enough for me.

This piece continues in Will the Real Michael Jackson Stand Up

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58 Responses to “Understanding Michael”

  1. SweeneyTodd says:

    Thanks so much Silvie! :thankyou:

    It means a lot to me that people understand this piece. I wrote it sincerely from my heart :heart:

  2. SweeneyTodd says:

    :bye: Hi Silvie!

    Thanks so much!

    It means a lot to me that people understand this piece.

  3. jasminewhite says:

    Sweet and gentle words, Sabine. So many things up here I've thought about myself for so long, especially in the last few chapters. Whenever people ask me why it is I can't get over Michael Jackson, other important people have died that you're not mourning over. I always say to them that unlike Michael those people were allowed to rest in peace. People like Martin Luther King and Ghandi are remembered for the contributions they made to this world as a whole; it is rare (and not many people know about it) that people talk about Ghandi's things with women or Martin Luther's affair(s). With Michael it's always brought to the subject of the allegations and it lingers over his legacy like a festering wound that refuses to close.

    In answer to those people I can only say that when Michael is given justice maybe I'll be able to move on, but always love and go back to him. I tell them that even more than that it IS that Michael's true tragedy is in the way he was treaty by human beings, what we as human beings can do to a person who's given us nothing but love and joy back. That's the true tragedy in who Michael Jackson was, not his face, or his skin, and most certainly not an unfounded gaggle of bullshit allegations.

    Thank you again, Sabine.

  4. SweeneyTodd says:

    You're so welcome. I think being unable to understand and appalled by the way Michael was treated on this planet is a sign of humanity. You'd have to be like that to truly understand that kind of negative, hate. I count myself fortunate that I don't. I don't want that inside of me in any way, shape or form

    :thankyou: for sharing your thoughts with me.

  5. jasminewhite says:

    SweeneyTodd:
    You're so welcome.I think being unable to understand and appalled by the way Michael was treated on this planet is a sign of humanity.You'd have to be like that to truly understand that kind of negative, hate.I count myself fortunate that I don't.I don't want that inside of me in any way, shape or form

    for sharing your thoughts with me.

    Mhm, Michael's taught me so much. I wouldn't have called myself judgmental in the past but like most youngsters I did crack jokes with family about funny-looking folks on the street and what not. Michael taught me to be more conscious about things like that, and the way he was treated especially...It just makes you want to think twice before you do the same to someone else lest they suffer the same Michael did...being judged.

    Gosh, just the thought makes me real sad now...

  6. Sabine says:

    I was saying on the other thread, that I 've learned, and I think Michael did, too, the awful lesson of how inhuman mankind can be to the most loving and beautiful of us. It is cruel -- when I step outside of my bubble and encounter people who don't like Michael or think he's a pedophile, or whatever, when I see how insistent they are in shoving their opinion down other's throats, and how other people stand by and watch this as if that kind of behavior is okay -- it's one thing to have opinions, another thing to want to shout them from the roof tops, especially when they are negative and about a person that you really don't know.

    It's like running after a person and telling them how disgusting potato salad is, after they've told you that they its their favorite food. I mean there's a mean spiritedness behind that type of behavior that is just downright abusive.

    To me that human beings are capable of doing that is heartbreaking. :cwy:

  7. ameloushamonee says:

    I totally agree with you, Sabine! Thank you for writing this post about him.
    I can absolutely understand what you are saying and am now, after studying Michael for almost three years now, seeing things different from before. I grew as an individual and became somewhat wiser.
    Unfortunately when most people are younger, they don´t think about a lot of things the way they do in later life. But that is what life is about. Growing and becoming wiser :) When I see those videos where Michael is chased and crowded by fans and papparazzi I only feel bad for him. And some years ago I have never even thought about how celebrities might feel about something like that. Sadly, this is what many fans didn´t think about either. Maybe because they were too young or too selfish and simply too excited to see him in person.
    He wasn´t always treated with respect, not even from his fans. Which is very sad. But I don´t want to really judge them either. It is really hard. Now, that I am older, Iit is easy for me to say, I would never do this or that. Maybe I would have, earlier. But I can only imagine how awful it must have been for him. His whole life through, he couldn´t go anywhere not beeing mobbed. And what you said about your nephew, that is a very good example to explain his situation in smaller and simple terms. People don´t think about that. That is exactly what Michael always wanted to tell the world! Of course he maybe made some mistakes in not setting things straight once in a while, which I think would have been necessary here and there. But the media did a really good job in portraying Michael totally wrong and implanted this totally crazy imagination of him in most people´s minds. So he probably wouldn´t have been taken seriously anyway.
    After all I heard, read and saw from him and about him, I can absolutely understand everything he did and had to struggle with. The usual human being can simply not be compared to HIM. This was a really extraordinary life, he was leading and no one should judge that without knowing more about him, than what was told in the media!!! I learned so much just from listening to him, it is incredible. So many more people should try to understand him and learn from him. Not only about what he wanted to say, but also about what he had to endure and how things can be portrayed so totally false. They would start to see the world with different eyes, I think. That´ s at least what I´ve experienced in many ways.

    About your statement, that you only need to listen to Michael to understand him, I have to say that I agree BUT I also have to admit, that I read many books about him, too. I absolutely love those little stories, that are told about him by people he knew/met/worked with. I can understand, that you say they all came out of their wholes after his death but I am glad about most of the stuff I´ve read so far, because I can´t find any bad or really embarassing stories that were told. Of course you always think, is this really true or not.
    About Frank Cascio´s book e.g. there are many different opinions to find. Many people say, that a real friend wouldn´t tell anything. I can agree. But in Michael´ s case, I can also understand that people who did know him, want to tell their story not only in the first place to make money but also to confirm certain things and show, that the press/tabloids really only told BS.
    What I want to say is, that I read those books, of course always with an awareness, what those people´s aims could be. (La Toya, Jermaine, Frank, Dieter Wiesner etc.) And I enjoy reading them, too. This maybe selfish, because I would like to know as much as possible. :S I know, that´ s selfish. I love him and could read about him all the time. Although it often hurts and disgusts me, too...going through all that allegation-nonsense again and again. Did you read all the familes´ books?

    Anyway. My favourite book of course is Cowboy Mike :thankyou:

  8. Sabine says:

    :bye: Hi again! Well, you know I love that you say your favorite book is Cowboy Mike! You are so sweet!!!!

    Now, I 've never read Frank's book of Jermaine's book, or Latoya's -- maybe some days I will. It's not that I don't like their stories or believe them, it's just that i don't really -- gosh, how can I put this?

    No one is more curious and nosy than me!!!! It's not that I don't want to know, because believe me I love to KNOW! But I have to say, well, first, yes, I don't believe real friends write tell all books. So there's the part of me that just feels it's a betrayal, but I read Schmuley's books, so that would not stop me from reading. I read the book because it contained Michael's words, and his ideas and his pure voice, and i could just ignore Schmuley.

    You see, with Frank's, Jermaine's and LaToya's books, you're getting their view of what and who they felt and thought Michael was; they relay stories from their eyes and point of view, and I just think in a lot of ways, it's biased. Jermaine and Latoya betrayed Michael horribly in life, so I feel in many ways they are hypocrites who were and always are trying to capitalize on Michael's fame. I don't trust them.

    Even with Frank, I think their is a POV that is colored by that person's relationship. Lisa saw Michael one way, Frank another, Quincy, still another way. LaToya, Jermaine and the family in another. Who is speaking of the real, true Michael? How do you separate someone's biased POV from the real, true Michael?

    I think that maybe in some ways some of what they are telling Michael would not want the world to know and I do believe there is something to learn there, how to honor and respect the right of someone you admire to keep their life private and a part of themselves separate from human consumption. People violated Michael in so many ways by "selling" him to the public. So maybe it's my way, even after death, of respecting Michael's right to have some kind of privacy - not purchasing and reading those books.

    I really think a person like Frank and his family, people that Michael chose specifically because they were not in the spot light, because he could be himself and maintain a private relationship, to wait until after his death to come out and speak openly about that private relationship -- no, I can't agree with that. I don't care if Frank says all great wonderful things, how do you honor that relationship by sharing it with the world? What about treasuring and holding something sacred?

    Of course, Michael is no longer here and I'm sure could careless, but there is also his children, who might read that book later on, what will they think?

    These are some of the things I think of. But on the other hand what you say is so true and valid, more people should try and understand Michael, and the very unique person he was and the life he lived.

    So there's many ways to look at it. I think when the kids grow up, if they want to write a book about their father, that is a book I would feel blessed to be able to read -- because I think they are the only ones who really would tell us, in a pure, unbiased way, who Michael was.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts.

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