The eye of the beholder is an important concept and an important distinction when interacting with works of art. Michael Jackson’s Ghosts is no different than any other of Mr. Jackson’s body of work. It comes at you in sections. On many levels. Michael’s genius is in his use of parable and the layering of parable, semiotics and subliminals to evoke dissonance at a deep level while entertaining on the surface.
Did Michael Jackson know what he was doing or was it inspired work? Yes. Michael Jackson wrote Ghosts with Stephen King and he released it himself at the Cannes Film Festival. What happens in the creative process of great minds? Did George Lucas know what he was doing and saying with Star Wars? Was it inspired work? Did Steven Spielberg know what he was doing with Close Encounters of the Third Kind? With ET? Did James Cameron know what he was saying with Avatar? Did he say something out loud without saying it? Was their work inspired? When did they know? Does the knowing evolve? And then does the work evolve? And what about the eye of the beholder? Any evolution there? Do we know what we know? Are we the knower, the knowledge and the known?
My experience in researching Michael Jackson reveals a methodical and deep thinker. Someone who was well read, a scholar of literature, art and life with all its manifestations and complexities. My discoveries and consistent findings of his intensity and tendency toward perfectionism lead me to believe Michael never did anything without thinking it through. The man knew exactly what he was doing. He was someone who discovered his role, embraced it and took it seriously. Michael had many masks and many disguises. So who is this enigma? Who is this man? Know his work, know the man. Was it inspired work? Oh yes. Did he know? Yes. How did he know? He just did. An open channel, once the origin of the signal is known, no longer questions the frequency or the broadcast.
I have said that Michael Jackson not only was the man in the mirror, he was the mirror. And the world’s mirror. He knew about the mirror and that he was both a mirror and the mirror. What you see the world as… colors that world. This is the concept of the mirror—the mirror of consciousness. The mirror only reflects what is presented it.
What one sees as or sees from is based on one’s experience. If I grow up in a third world isolated country where daily survival is an issue—whether from an out of control dictator, ethnic cleansing, political manipulation, oppressive religious beliefs, racial intolerance, plague from unsanitary conditions, potential starvation or a host of other ongoing threats, I am going to view the world as an unfriendly place. All my interactions with reality are going to be based on trepidation, survival and fear. I will see as one who is fearful. In Ghosts, take another look at the Amos ‘n Andy character who stutters and says “Th..th..that’s not a good sign!”
If I grow up in an aristocratic family where there is more than enough of everything in my life, I live in a green and pristine countryside estate, and have the best education money can buy, I am going to view the world from a place of abundance and contentment. So my world will be a world of plenty. Look for the characters who represent privilege in Ghosts.
If I grow up somewhere in between, I am going to know the place of “sometimes.” Sometimes the world is a friendly place and sometimes it is not. I will know both poles; I will understand opposites and contradictions or inconsistencies. Are there characters in Ghosts who can comfortably hold opposite poles or who can comfortably swing from one to another?
With each of these me(s) there will be an existential philosophy that forms and determines my view of the world and my world view. The world will be colored according to the lens I am looking through. Is the world friendly or unfriendly? Do I feel secure or am I perpetually hypervigilant because my world is a world of constant threat and danger? And what are my expectations of the world in any of these viewpoints? Would you say I am likely to expect more of the same? If strife is all I know… If fear is all I know… If war is all I know… how am I acclimated to this world, this life?
And furthermore, do I emit a vibe while living from that place in my mind? What if I am relatively happy, satisfied with my circumstances, secure in my abilities? What vibe will I be radiating then? And if I am one of the have-nots, how will I feel about those who live opulent and privileged lifestyles? What if I am spiritually oriented and I see everything as part of a magnificent creation—whether it is labeled “good” or “bad” by human emotions or standards? What if I know myself to be a child of God, a piece of that magnificent creator and this magnificent creation? What if I am perpetually in gratitude for my god given gifts, for the inherent beauty in the world, the love of family and friends, and even for the education life gives me in the lessons learned whether painful or not? What kind of vibe is created by an attitude of gratitude? Look for the grateful non-judgmental one in Ghosts; is that individual scary?
What I do with my life and where I choose to spend my mind also determines how I look at the world and how the world responds to me. If I am a homicide detective and I do that long hours and enough, do you suppose it would affect my mind-set? Would I live in a world where suspicion lives? How much time would I spend there? If I am an artist and concert pianist with a national orchestra, how might I view the world? If I am a Wall Street broker, is my world colored by money? If I am a homeless person do I live in a world filled with hope? If I am a parole officer, prison guard, criminal attorney, bounty hunter, how would I feel generally, about people? If I am a dictator and have to keep my population in line and obedient, how will I behave on the world stage? Are there little controlling dictators with little coercive domains?
Does what we do with our lives, our time and our minds color our reality? And if so, what vibe lives in us then and what vibe do we project to the world?
Some spiritual teachers suggest that the world, people and interactions can be distilled into two positions: Love or Fear. We either come from a place of love or we come from a place of fear. When one comes from love as a premise, the world looks abundant, friendly, has inherent beauty and everything is something beautiful in becoming. When one comes from an orientation of fear or lack of love, the world is threatening, people are dangerous, the resources are scarce leaving not enough for me and I am not adequate enough to create my own abundance or my own brilliance. That makes me feel impotent. I must then compete with others, feel inferior, fight for what I want or take what I believe I am entitled to or need, need to intimidate others to keep my illusion of power-over, need to find those inferior to me in order to elevate myself in my own eyes, judge people as good or bad, define an enemy in order to feel superior, and live in the baser emotions like hatred, jealousy, envy. Then what vibe will I radiate?
A mirror can only reflect what is there. So who is the evil one? Who is the saint? Who is the sinner? Who is the angel? Who is the savior? Who is the Good Samaritan? Who is the devil? Who is the humanitarian? Who is the war monger? Who is the genius? Who is the child of God (whatever you perceive God to be?) Who is the bastard? Who is the damned? Who is the brilliant one? Who is the knower?
Where are they? How do you find them? Or do they find you? How do you know who is what?
And if contradictions and inconsistencies are part of everyone’s life how do you get them to stand still enough to label them?
How do you nail that Jell-O to the wall?
“Will the sun ever shine in the blind man’s eyes when he cries?”
(c) B. Kaufmann 2010
Stay tuned for Part III on Ghosts and what Michael said in Ghosts through lyrics and presentation.
- Comments on this entry will be edited. Only comments in the form of questions will be accepted. No “answers” allowed. (Yes, I know; that’s irritating. So simmer.)