Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Collector of Souls - Jan Carlson

My journey with Michael Jackson began in 1992 at the age of forty-two years old. At the time, I and everyone around me thought I had flipped my wig, gone off the deep end, thrown a gasket. Who ever heard of a forty-two-year-old matron falling ass over appetite in love with a rock star. That was behavior that was confined to pre- and post-pubescent, nubile young women. By the age of forty-two – a mother of two girls aged ten and eight – a wife of thirteen years – living in a small rural community in America’s corn belt and surrounded by country music enthusiasts (bleah!), a woman should have matured past the point of mindless infatuation with a rock and roll musical genius.
Sure, I had heard his voice and had even sung along on occasion as I drove in my car. One would have had to be living under a rock on Jupiter to have been totally unaware of Michael Jackson in the early 1980’s! I’d seen him and his brothers performing on some of my favorite variety shows and watched his hyper-kinetic dance moves and his effervescent, bubbly personality oozing out of my television screen, but I hadn’t paid much attention to the beautiful child in the fringed vest and pink hat.
As he grew, I would accidentally run across him singing one of his vast repertoires of hit records on a radio station. I remember my kid brother (eleven years younger than me, God bless him!) trying to teach me how to disco to Michael’s Off the Wallalbum in about 1979 or 1980 as my future husband looked on and shook his head in despair of me ever having that kind of rhythm. One of my strongest memories of his voice influencing my moods was during my daughters’ pre-kindergarten days when I was a stay-at-home mom, dancing around the kitchen while preparing their lunch or supper with the boom box blaring Lionel Ritchie’s Dancin’ on the Ceilingfollowed by Michael Jackson’s and Lionel Ritchie’s We Are The World. I ran to get a blank cassette tape because my boom box allowed me to tape from a radio broadcast so that I could preserve the moment for posterity!  My husband often complained that I was corrupting my girls with my love of rock and roll music and that I played ‘that noise’ much too loud and would ruin their hearing. He makes much the same comment today, except now that I have totally corrupted by daughters, I’ve started on my granddaughter.  Of course, Billie Jean got my attention and I had to rush out and buy the Thriller album. Lady in My Life melted me the first time I heard it and continues to do so to this day.
My encounters with Michael pre-1992 were hit-or-miss, brief, coincidental – perhaps synchronistic. That changed one lovely October evening when my husband was away from home on a church retreat. I had seen ads announcing Michael JacksonLive from Bucharest, Romania to be televised on HBO and had determined that I would watch, telling my girls, “Oh, goodie! We get to see the BEST!” My excitement and anticipation grew until, finally, I kissed my husband goodbye and he drove off in his car. My daughters and I ran into the house, popped a huge bowl of popcorn, got some sodas, got in position and got ready to watch the show.
Two hours later, we were all spellbound, speechless, breathless with what we had witnessed through our television screen that evening. I scurried my girls off to bed because it was past their bedtime and ran downstairs to watch again, because, of course, I had videotaped the performance. I needed to be alone with the experience I had just witnessed, for some reason. It was at that moment that I began my walk hand-in-hand with Michael Jackson.
As I rewound the videotape, I tried to pinpoint just what it was – exactly – that had so touched me about his performance. Was it the raw emotion he embodied in She’s Out of My Life and Will You Be There, the joy he communicated in the Jackson 5 Medley, the heartfelt plea for all of us to Heal the World!? I really didn’t know much about Michael Jackson; I had no real ‘back story’ to draw on. I stayed up all night that night watching him pour himself out onto that stage half a world away and wondered how he found the determination and energy to keep going, how he performed some of those dance sequences (that LEAN in Smooth Criminal, for example), where he drew such incredible strength and stamina from. I had never seen a performance or concert like it.
I had been to several concerts in my youth and had watched some of my favorites perform concerts on television, but I had never seen anything to compare to the raw energy that man emitted on a stage! And I’m not talking just about the energy he expended, although it was considerable. I’m talking about the energy hetransmitted – through a television screen half a world away by live broadcast and later by videotape – through his body movements which made it possible for a viewer to see the music – through his voice – that incredible, versatile, flexible, ethereally-lovely or grindingly-gritty vocal instrument that he played with indefatigable virtuosity! I felt that energy bathe me in my mid-western rural home that October evening and wondered what it must have been like to actually be a member of the audience receiving that transmission firsthand!
From that night in 1992, I was on a crusade to devour, inhale everything I could find by or about Michael Jackson. I spent the greater part of the next decade absorbing him into my DNA, learning about his devotion to his art, watching and taping interviews, reading books, collecting and listening to his musical releases and short films, researching his humanitarian goals and ideals. I always felt that there was something deeply spiritual about Michael Jackson’s influence on me, something wholly-mystical about his presence, something uniquely-metaphysical in his energy exchange with the world around him.
During that decade, I found others who were similarly engaged and began writing my thoughts about this man and contributing articles to major internet fan clubs and fan magazines, defending him against the lies that were constantly being disseminated about him by the media and starting my own little website called Fan In The Mirror so that I would have a safe haven to express my thoughts and feelings about this man who had, without even being aware of it, changed my life and my view on what that life was all about. Things that other people would have dismissed as coincidences I saw through my heightened perception as synchronous happenings placed in my path to encourage forward momentum. I sensed that I was being led throughout this period – led to write, led to send letters to attorneys and publications, led to express the truth as I saw it, led to encourage others to question the daily diet of lies, scandals, innuendos that were published about this man, Michael Jackson.
When the decade was spent, I looked back and had a sense of pride in my accomplishments during that period. I felt that 1992 through 2002 was the most spiritually-fulfilling and productive decade I had ever lived. However, my life had gotten a bit out of control – my girls had grown up and had begun to dabble in things better left alone and I was immersed in a negative vibration that took me over completely – my computer had died and, at the time, I couldn’t replace it – and the relentless intolerance of everyone around me to my obsession with a *gasp* rock ‘n roll idol began to persuade me that it was, indeed, time for me to grow up. My husband viewed the decade as an aberration – something attributable to a hormonal or chemical imbalance that had taken over his wife – similar to being possessed by an evil spirit – while I viewed it as being possessed by positive, healing, spiritually-enlivening energy – inspiration, in a word which comes from a Greek root meaning inhabited by spirit.
I can so totally relate to Michael’s fascination with Peter Pan. I wanted to be the eternal teenager, wanted to cling desperately to the mindset I had inhabited during the 1990’s but was forced by circumstances beyond my control to release that worldview while, at the same time, yearning for it to return with a vengeance. To say I was conflicted would be understatement of the highest order.
I spent several years just surviving day to day, not making any waves, playing the role the world wanted me cast in – wife, mother, grandmother, employee, housewife – keeping busy but just going through the motions without really living them. Whenever I saw Michael’s face on the news, it lifted my spirits. Just knowing he was there – somewhere – brought me solace. But I wasn’t listening to his music or watching his short films or concerts or interviews. I had convinced myself that fifty-plus-year-old women just did not behave in such teeny-bopper ways and that I had a responsibility to my family – and, well, you know the arguments we all use to sabotage our spiritual selves when we are not being soulfully engaged.
My world crashed down around my ears on June 25, 2009. I read on one of the news websites at work that Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital. I was not terribly concerned at the time – this was not an uncommon occurrence in his life, particularly when he was engaged in conceptualizing, producing, rehearsing a new venture. In 1995, I had acquired tickets for several members of my fan club,The Michael Jackson Internet Fan Club, to attend HBO’s One Night Only. Three days before the taping, Michael was hospitalized with acute dehydration and dangerously low blood pressure resulting from a gastro-intestinal viral infection. I drove home complacently berating Michael Jackson in my mind. “Mike, doggone it! You know better. You are not Superman. You need to eat and sleep and drink just like the rest of us! Why do you have to be such a workaholic? Don’t you know that you scare the crap out of us with this stuff?”
It wasn’t until I arrived home after picking up my granddaughter at her babysitter’s house and had begun to prepare her evening meal that the seriousness of the situation forced its way through the negative fog that seemed to follow me wherever I went. My youngest daughter called me and said, “Mom, are you sitting down? Michael Jackson is dead.”
“Oh, come on, now, Glynnis. That’s just not possible. Is this some kind of sick joke?” I asked.
“Why would I do a thing like that, Mom? I wouldn’t make up something like this. Go turn on your television.”
So, I did turn on my television and the images that invaded my haze opened a floodgate of emotion within me that hasn’t been quelled to this day – over fourteen months later. I saw fans collected outside the UCLA Medical Center. I saw Michael Jackson’s shrouded body being loaded into a helicopter and air-lifted to the coroner’s office. I saw fans congregating outside the Apollo Theater in New York City, Trafalgar Square in London, and various other cities around the world mourning the loss of a magical, mystical, magnetic, charismatic Collector of Souls. A week later, with tears streaming down my face, I saw his ornate, flower-draped coffin being wheeled into the Staples Center by his brothers for his public memorial service.
I am reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples: I will make you fishers of men. And, I believe, He repeated those words to Michael Jackson’s embryo while he was still in stasis in his mother’s womb with one little change. To Michael, He whispered: I will make you a fisher of souls and the soul-in-the-making who would be Michael Jackson had to agree to that assignment because each of us has free will. That was his contract and he fulfilled it with such unbelievable style, grace, zeal, humanity and aplomb.
Of course, the greater the light, the greater the darkness that must surround it to balance it – that is the world of duality in which we live – without cold, heat could not exist – without day, night could not be experienced. That is the yin/yang of our existence. Without that which it is not, that which is cannot be.
I believe with all my heart and soul, that God used Michael Jackson to bring souls home, to show them the way to go, to exemplify for us all how to love without thought to our own comfort, to embody unconditional love, to encourage us to find our own individual bliss and passion and to use our gifts in meaningful ways to make a difference in our own little corners of the world, to personify strength in the face of hardship and ridicule. I believe that God gave him the music in his quiet moments (just as he described on so many occasions), breathed  through him as he transcribed His dictation onto tapes, empowered him as he recorded the music in recording studios, encouraged him as he conceptualized the short films to accompany the music and make it visible, transmitted L.O.V.E. through Michael Jackson’s body, movements, imagination, voice as he performed the music on stages throughout the world and closed the circuit of symbiosis with the souls he collected in his audiences hurling that love energy back to nourish his body and imagination and begin the process again. Do I have proof of any of those statements? No – but then such things are rarely provable. We can only know the truth of such statements in the effects we see in our own lives and the lives of others similarly influenced. “By their fruits shall you know them”
Since his immortalization on June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson has been collecting even more souls than he did when he walked among us. Stories abound of people who knew nothing whatsoever about him prior to that date but who have experienced a sudden, insatiable curiosity about this man after viewing his memorial service or the filmed rehearsals of his last venture. These people report being moved in a similar manner to the way I was moved in 1992 – to find out more, to hear more, to learn about his charitable work, to avail themselves of the opportunity to watch and listen and learn from him, to be inspired (remember that Greek root?) by him and to be bathed in the energy he emitted like a lighthouse guiding shipwrecks to safe harbor.
As a result, they feel changed. They feel the need to be more involved in their world, to give more freely to charities, to donate time and effort to people and circumstances that require their help, to be more soulful, more aware, more conscious. As a result of their research, they have expressed their willingness to continue his work of “healing, pure and simple.” They consider themselves Michael Jackson’s Army of L.O.V.E., recruited by him over a period of years … or only very recently. They represent every nationality, every generation, every denomination, every race, every creed, every ideology.
For what possible purpose could all of these people have been recruited? Michael Jackson answered that question very specifically in Oslo, Norway in 1997: “Because you are my messengers to heal the world … and because I love you.”
May we all leave such a legacy when it is our turn to become immortal!

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