When someone looks at a task as art rather than industry, the outplay of that simple change shifts the outcome. The translation then enlists the language of elegance. It makes a significant difference when something is an aesthetic rather than mechanical. Art implies and invokes a grace that is not inherent in ordinary tasks or undertakings.
Art incorporates beauty, love, perfection and grace and it comes from the spiritual world, not the material. It is a gift given for the ennoblement of humanity—for the sake of humanity and for humanity’s sake and stake in evolution.
The artist’s job is to somehow reveal us to ourselves. The artist siphons some essence from the chaos of the Universe and makes order from that organic mess with myth and magic. The artist cannot keep her soul out of the equation—the soul comes along deliberately or perhaps by default. It does necessarily “bind the soul to the art” as Michael Jackson said. Art can’t help it and neither can the artist.
When an artist is a channel of great power, he is able to affect the one but at the same time the many—maybe even millions. Art conveys, invokes, evokes, solicits or invites the ideal or the lofty human condition. Art is intended to evoke emotion, to be transcendental—to take us somewhere. Most times this is a place where the artist beckons us. He takes us out of ourselves and guides or sometimes even catapults us into a space we might not have visited or even imagined before. Art is a wellspring and a destination of creativity and genius—a fountain of grace and human originality with a big splash of spirit distilled, rarified, sometimes effusive like mist, but somehow tangible.
Michael Jackson was one such artist who was a channel of great power. We were able to catch a glimpse of this artist at his craft in the film “This Is It.” We watch as our minds grope to understand from where comes such talent, such inspiration, such elegance, such ethos? From where begins the vision, the inspiration? And we wonder how does he know?
Yes, how does he know? How does the artist know the precise thing—stroke, tone, color, note, angle, expression, movement, flourish—that will move the work forward into revealing not just the human but the Divine. Particularly in art, the Divine is at home; it is the mystical union, the sacred marriage—the alchemical god-infused human endeavor and portrayal.
Music especially, is the fastest vehicle to elsewhere. In the arts, it is music that inspires, brings tears, makes us want to move, dance, sends the heart soaring. Music is transcendental, transporting us consciously or unconsciously to other realms, to emotions, to action and provoking movement. Music doesn’t require thought—it is a right-brained thing. It processes differently than the intellect. Music marks our moods, our feelings, our loves, our milestones, benchmarks and our lives. Music leaks into every celebration of human achievement, milestone or recognition. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, funerals, parades, graduations, inaugurations, presentations—almost every human endeavor and memory is marked and accompanied by music.
Think music for a moment—a power and universal language that speaks to every race, tribe, ethnicity, culture, region, country and land on Earth and all those peoples and their meanings and meanderings. It is both personal and universal, individual and collective, thematic and inspiring. It has a signature feel, color, rhythm, patterns, mass in the sense of heaviness or airiness, and lightness or dark. It can soothe, rankle or lift up the human spirit. Michael was a singer-songwriter, musician, dancer, vocal shaman, performer, choreographer, entertainer, author, filmmaker and more. But above all, Michael was Le Artiste`. Michael was also a genius.
As an artist, he tapped the wellspring of creativity. As a genius, the fire of creation burned in him. His mind, body, work and life was the canvas. Every aspect of Michael Jackson was art and genius. Michael Jackson saw things that were never seen before, heard things not yet heard, and he created them into being.
Geniuses are intense. They often puzzle, confound, frustrate and even infuriate those who try to understand them. They are creating at the behest of something unseen, higher, and from a place where we do not live and is beyond our understanding. In that space, things that we do not comprehend are obvious to them. It has always been humanity’s fate to struggle to catch up to and comprehend those truths visited ahead of us by geniuses. The genius is often unrecognized and unappreciated and certainly un-embraced and un-nurtured. They are most often viewed and labeled as unconventional, eccentric and even abnormal. Society has been indifferent to geniuses, has seen them as odd or different, treated them with disdain and even open hostility.
Genius is innate and available to everyone because everyone has that thread of genius—a capacity for extraordinary insight in a particular arena of human expression. Our culture does not recognize it, does not cultivate it and in fact often discourages it. It may be judged as arrogance or a lack of modesty. ‘Who are you to be so brilliant?’ is asked even if it goes unspoken. Actually who are you not to be? Hiding your light, playing small and not developing the dedication that your life mission requires, cheats the world of the unique contribution only you can make. The idea of playing small and safe while keeping your unique genius under wraps is neither desirable nor authentic; it is an indoctrination from a culture that is mistaken about genius.
The genius goes unappreciated and unrecognized in their own time because it takes near genius to identify them. Artistry, vision, mission, invention, expression, inspiration, intense drive, and mastery are components of genius that come from creative fire. The fire burns brightly in some. It’s not a voluntary fire. The fire of creation rages in a genius and can burn so brightly that everything else loses its luster next to the blaze of the consuming flame. That realm of genius is unfamiliar to the uninitiated and therefore often goes unrecognized. Sometimes genius is misunderstood because it is missed. It’s not always a product of intellect although people in advanced mathematics and sciences can have a high IQ and display genius. But intellect is not a requirement. Genius is the realm of creativity and inspiration. Geniuses are often driven and the creative gift is the central core of their life sometimes sacrificing all else for the gift. That is not voluntary either; it’s a form of slavery. Creative geniuses are enslaved to the art and for the sake of art.
Genius does not necessarily accompany talent. The talent may be present but it requires allegiance to a vision, hard work, courage, dedication, immense drive, a magnetic attraction to elegance and perfection, integrity, and the impulse to capture the fever and use that heat for creating. It’s the impulse to hone the instrument (sometimes self) to laser-sharpness in service to the calling. It can take the mind, the soul, the body, for the sake of the aesthetic. The Hollywood aesthetic in particular demands beauty from its constituents and Michael was even a slave to that—he was a constant seeker of the right timbre for his voice, the right resonance in his facial structures and chambers and the correct look in his appearance. Genius doesn’t just beckon, it demands. And commands. It would take great determination and superhuman strength for the genius to not respond to an inspiration that lands in their life—because it possesses until expressed or until the genius– the attribute or the person, whichever comes first, is spent.
What if, in judging Michael Jackson we overlooked something really important? What if we completely missed that Michael was first, an artist? That he saw the world through the eyes of an artist? And that much of what he did was artistic? What if we conferred artistic license upon him? What if we didn’t understand that he was a genius? A musical and artistic genius? What if he was a true savant? Did most of us miss it? Some didn’t. Bob Geldof saw it and he said about Michael Jackson when introducing him at the Brit Awards: “When he sings, it is with the voice of angels. When his feet move, you can see God dancing.”
For Michael, the creative fire was like a lightning bolt and the current was hot, intense, insistent and eternal. It took everything from him and he gave it all back to us. His gift is in music and magic, in humanitarian efforts and messages, in a legacy that asked us then and still asks us now to change the world and make it better. We didn’t recognize the gift; we didn’t see the genius; we childishly made fun of it and him; we sophomorically called him odd and bizarre and even whacko. Some used his naive authenticity to betray him, his innocent trust to hoodwink him and his childlike spirit to take advantage of him—for vicarious fame, for money, recognition, for selfish envy and gain. Some cannibalized his star quality to produce cynical and inhumane headlines for sport and to sell publications and amass profit. Some in his orbit gave him bad advice in order to keep him producing in allegiance to the money machine industry that he became. Some abandoned him in his greatest time of need. Some necrophiliacs still feed off the vilification of Michael Jackson or on it. The slurs and slams continue even now in the wake of his passing.
What if it was wrong? What if we were misguided, wrong, mistaken? What if Michael Jackson was a true gift to humanity? What if he was innocent and loved children from that childlike unconditional and sweet place that he spoke of? What if they loved him back from that same place? What if he really was their hero– someone who was a minority, came from nothing, was born in poverty yet overcame huge obstacles and leveraged his talent to become the world’s brightest star? What if the bright star was darkened deliberately? What if he was victimized by extortion and framed by a vigilante crowd just as the trail of legal documents and FBI reports indicate? What if the media circus surrounding all things Michael was a result of learning that making him a lightning rod for controversy could double their sales or viewers? And what if the focus on sensation was deliberate only to fill greedy coffers? What then? What if the orchestrated takedown of Michael Jackson on the worldwide and very public stage was racially, egoically or even financially motivated?
What if Michael was an innocent man with a big heart and an authentic parental love for children—all children of the world? What if he truly saw the world as a global village, a related family called “humanity” (“You are all my brothers”) and the children of the world as dependent members of our family (“Heal the World”) and felt that all adults are essential custodians and surrogate parents for the world’s children? All of them! What if the story his mother told is true: he was barely a child himself when he saw starving children on TV and vowed to do something about it someday? Seems he did with iconic “We Are The World” and U.S.A. for Africa, only the beginning of his worldwide philanthropy. What if that person is the real Michael Jackson and the one that should be remembered? What if his fans do see something in him that the rest have missed? That the cynical have overlooked? And what if they are right? What if Michael Jackson was exactly what he appeared to be—a creative artist and genius savant? What then? What now? And what shall we do with the next one that comes along?