The Force, It’s Got a Lot of Power

Willa:  Last week, Joie and I treated ourselves to a really fun look back at Off the Wall. So of course I had to listen to “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough” over and over again – strictly for research purposes only, I promise! It had nothing whatsoever to do with that amazing low voice that interjects in the middle of the line throughout the first and second verses….

Joie:  Yeah, whatever you need to tell yourself, my friend.

Willa:  Well, you know, just trying to make us look professional – keeping up appearances and all that. Which isn’t easy to do with my brain full of hot lyrics from one of his steamiest songs ever, as you so kindly quoted last week: “I’m melting (I’m melting now) like hot candle wax.” Yi yi yi.

So anyway, I was listening to “Don’t Stop” over and over again for professional reasons, and also listened to the demo version he recorded at home with Randy and Janet. And it’s truly amazing – you can hear how fully developed that song was before he even brought it in to Quincy Jones. All the major elements are already there. But there is one very noticeable difference between the original demo and the recorded version. In the demo, he sings this couplet throughout the song:

Keep on with your heart, don’t stop
Don’t stop til you get enough

But by the time the recorded version was released, he’d made a small but notable change:

Keep on with the force, don’t stop
Don’t stop til you get enough

So that started me wondering – what does he mean by “the force”?

Joie:  Willa, that is a really interesting observation. And because I am a little bit of a science fiction geek, I feel compelled to point out the obvious here and say that this album came out in the summer of 1979 and, just two years earlier in ’77, one of the greatest films of all time was released – Star Wars!

Willa:  You know, I was hesitant to make that leap, but I was kind of thinking the same thing. What do you make of that?

Joie:  Well, Star Wars was an immediate classic. People were so obsessed with this film that even the technical crew who worked on it were routinely asked for their autographs. I can remember going to see this movie for the first time. I was about eight years old and I went to the movie with my best friend Deron and his dad.

Willa:  You were eight? I was in high school. I keep forgetting how young you are.

Joie:  Aww, you say the sweetest things! But honestly though, when I look back on it, it really seems like I was older than that but, I started doing the math and yeah … I was only eight – about to turn nine! Which makes sense because I was 11 when Off the Wall came out.

But anyway, when we pulled into the theater parking lot, there was literally a line of people wrapped around the building. And they were all there to see Star Wars! It was unreal. That was the first time I had ever seen anything like that.

Star Wars was a real cultural phenomenon. It broke all box office records at the time and it remains one of the most successful films ever. I mean, it was huge! So, after its release you had people all over the country – probably all over the world – quoting lines from the movie, saying things like, “help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope,” and “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” and – oh, and this is the big one – “may The Force be with you.” People everywhere were suddenly talking about “The Force.” And if you ask someone – anyone – who was alive when the original Star Wars movie came out about “The Force,” they would know exactly what you meant.

So … I’m just going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe “the force” that Michael is talking about in “Don’t Stop” has something to do, at least in the abstract, with “The Force” that George Lucas envisioned in the Star Wars saga. In the movie, Jedi master, Ben ‘Obi-Wan’ Kenobi describes The Force in this way:

“Well, The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.”

This idea that The Force is an energy field created by all living things, and binding us all together as one, is a concept that I can see Michael embracing. It’s sort of an extension of the message that he had already been singing about for years. If you think about it, it’s the same message from Can You Feel It, where he points out that we are all the same; we are all connected. “Yes the blood inside of me is inside of you.”

Willa:  Joie, I love the direction you took this, and I agree, when you look at it this way there are so many connections to Michael Jackson. He’s not talking about grabbing a light saber and fighting the Empire, of course. But if we look at it “in the abstract,” as you say, there do seem to be a lot of parallels between George Lucas’ ideas of the Force as “an energy field created by all living things” that “binds the galaxy together,” and Michael Jackson’s ideas about an “eternal dance of creation.”

In fact, this idea of an “eternal dance” that connects us to each other, to all living things, and to the cosmos is one of the central themes of Michael Jackson’s 1992 book of poetry and essays, Dancing the Dream, as he writes in the preface:

Consciousness expresses itself through creation. This world we live in is the dance of the creator. Dancers come and go in the twinkling of an eye but the dance lives on. On many an occasion when I’m dancing, I’ve felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I’ve felt my spirit soar and become one with everything that exists. I become the stars and the moon. I become the lover and the beloved. I become the victor and the vanquished. I become the master and the slave. I become the singer and the song. I become the knower and the known. I keep on dancing and then, it is the eternal dance of creation. The creator and creation merge into one wholeness of joy.

To me, this idea that he can “become one with everything that exists” is very similar to Ben Kenobi’s description of the Force as something that “surrounds us and penetrates us,” as you quoted above. And it’s very important, I think, that he achieves this state through dance. It’s “when I’m dancing” that he joins “the eternal dance of creation,” and that’s when, he says, “The creator and creation merge into one wholeness of joy.”  

Joie:  I agree with you, Willa, it is one of the central themes of Dancing the Dream, this notion that we are all connected. And he mentions that eternal “Dance of Creation” several times in the book. In “Heaven is Here,” one of the poems from that book, he says:

Come, let us dance
The Dance of Creation
Let us celebrate
The Joy of Life  

This idea that we are all connected was obviously very important to him as he writes about it over and over again. Later in that same poem, he goes on to say:

You are the Sun
You are the Moon
You are the wildflower in bloom
You are the Life-throb
That pulsates, dances
From a speck of dust
To the most distant star
 
And you and I
Were never separate
It’s an illusion
Wrought by the magical lens of
Perception
 

So, he’s telling us that everything – all life, all living creatures, the plants, the dust even – everything is connected.

Willa:  I’m so glad you quoted this poem, Joie, because it’s one of my favorites from Dancing the Dream, and it really highlights the connections between us all. And as we see in the last stanza you quoted, it also connects this with the faulty nature of perception, which is another central belief for both Michael Jackson and George Lucas.

There’s a wonderful scene in Star Wars where Luke is first learning to use The Force. He’s trying out the light saber Ben gave him but he’s having trouble so, ironically, Ben blocks his vision. Ben then tells him,

“I suggest you try it again, Luke. But this time let go of your conscious self and act on instinct.”

Luke protests, “But … I can’t even see. How am I supposed to fight?”

Ben replies, “Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them. Stretch out with your feelings.”

We see this idea that “Your eyes can deceive you” repeated throughout Michael Jackson’s work as well, from videos like Who Is It  to the passages you quoted from “Heaven is Here.” In this poem, he tells us that the belief that we are separate is wrong, a misperception – or as he says, “an illusion / Wrought by the magical lens of / Perception.” If we follow Ben’s advice to “let go of your conscious self” and “stretch out with your feelings,” we realize that “you and I / Were never separate / It’s an illusion,” as Michael Jackson tells us.

Joie:  We are all one with each other and the universe. And interestingly, this is an idea that we tend to think of as a tenet of Buddhism or Hinduism or some other eastern religion. It sounds sort of “new agey” or “metaphysical” but, it actually has really sound principles behind it. It’s a prevailing notion in the realm of faith healing and also in the world of science as this video from Symphony of Science points out:

As Neil deGrasse Tyson says in the video,

We are all connected
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe, atomically

Willa:  My son and I love Neil deGrasse Tyson! He has a PhD in astrophysics from Columbia University, but he combines that strong background in science with a poetic sensibility, so he can explain the chemistry of the cosmos in both clear scientific and beautifully poetic ways. As Tyson tells us in his Origins series, our bodies are composed of chemical elements like carbon, oxygen, and iron, and as he explains, those elements were forged in the fiery interior of stars. So literally, “We are all stardust,” as Tyson tells us, with “carbon in our bodies, iron in our blood, calcium in our bones. Every last atom was formed in a star.”

This really connects with Michael Jackson’s ideas that you quoted earlier, Joie, from “Heaven is Here”:

You are the Life-throb
That pulsates, dances
From a speck of dust
To the most distant star

And importantly, as this poem emphasizes, for Michael Jackson this is a dynamic process that encompasses our movement as well as our substance. So not only are we formed of “stardust,” as Neil deGrasse Tyson says, but we are part of a “Dance of Creation” that connects our actions with the rhythms of the universe.

We see this in his ideas about songwriting as well. As Joe Vogel emphasizes in Man in the Music, Michael Jackson believed you had to “let the music create itself.” And when Joe talked with us last fall,  he linked that to how the Romantics described artistic inspiration:

“A common metaphor in Romantic poetry is the Aeolian harp: When the wind blows, the music comes. You don’t force it. You wait for it. …

Michael believed strongly in that principle. … Another metaphor he liked to use to illustrate his creative process is Michelangelo’s philosophy that inside every piece of marble or stone is a “sleeping form.” His job as an artist, then, was to chip away, sculpt, polish, until he “freed” what was latent. So it requires a great deal of work. You might have a vision of what it should look like, but you have to be in tune throughout the process and you have to work hard to realize it.”

This reminds me again of that scene in Star Wars where Luke is first learning to use The Force by trying out his light saber with his eyes covered. Ben tells him:

“Remember, a Jedi can feel The Force flowing through him.”

“You mean, it controls your actions?” Luke asks.

“Partially, but it also obeys your commands,” Ben says.

So Michael Jackson felt you should let creativity flow through you unimpeded, just as Ben says that “a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.” But still, an artist isn’t passive in the creative process – not at all. As Joe says, “You might have a vision of what it should look like, but you have to be in tune throughout the process and you have to work hard to realize it.” Or as Luke and Ben say in their conversation about the Force, it both “controls your actions” as well as “obeys your commands.”

Joie:  You know, Willa, what you just said here makes me think of all the times we heard Michael talk about writing music. How many times did we hear him say things like, “don’t write the song, let the song write itself,” or “I just step into it.” I love that essay from Dancing the Dream called “How I Make Music” where he says,

People ask me how  I make music. I tell them I just step into it. It’s like stepping into a river and joining the flow. Every moment in the river has its song. So I stay in the moment and listen…. When you join the flow, the music is inside and outside, and both are the same. As long as I can listen to the moment, I’ll always have music.

This is very similar to the Jedi master’s instruction to “feel The Force flowing through him.”

Willa:  I agree, and that is such a beautiful image of “stepping into” the music. But you know, the more we talk about this, the more I see some very real differences between George Lucas’ ideas and Michael Jackson’s. For one thing, the Jedi experience The Force primarily as a spiritual feeling, but with Michael Jackson, it’s much more than that. It’s very physical also. He feels most connected to it when he’s dancing – it is literally “a Dance of Creation” – and in “Don’t Stop til You Get Enough,” he suggests it’s tied in with sexual energy as well.

And this brings us back to that line you quoted last week, Joie: “I melting (I’m melting now) like hot candle wax.” As you know, that line has been getting me hot and bothered for 30 years now, and I’ve really been thinking about that a lot the past couple of weeks and trying to figure out why.

One thing that strikes me is that it’s radically different from how guys usually talk about sex. Women might melt, but guys don’t. I’ve heard guys use a lot of different metaphors when singing about sex, and no matter what genre you listen to – rock or hip hop or blues or even folk songs – there’s no melting. Definitely no melting. It seems like they’re all trying to be Sir Lancelot.

Joie:  You know, my brother is a very macho sort of guy – I’m talking 6’1″, 200 lbs. of pure muscle. And he lifts weights and works out a lot so, he’s quite imposing. However, he’s also very sensitive, kind of like Michael. And he’s also a Virgo, astrologically speaking – also like Michael. And when he’s in love, he can be very mushy. I have heard him talk about melting, believe it or not. So I think maybe men do melt. It’s just that the majority of them don’t want to advertise that fact because it’s not usually thought of as a macho thing to do.

Willa:  I’m so glad you mentioned that, Joie, because I know there are compassionate, sensitive, gentle men in the world. I know that’s true from my own household. But I’m talking about something very specific:  the way male sexuality is represented – and misrepresented – in popular music. Female sexuality is misrepresented as well. Based on popular music, you’d think all women were either completely passive to the point of invisibility or take-charge vixens in mini skirts. There’s no middle ground, and I know that’s not true. And male sexuality tends to be represented in song in pretty rigid, even aggressive ways.

And then in the midst of all this hard, unyielding hyper-masculinity, here’s Michael Jackson “melting like hot candle wax,” and it’s so erotic I still catch my breath every time I hear it. It’s such a different way of expressing male sexuality. But it also feels so natural. The mood of “Don’t Stop” is playful and joyous and exuberant, as well as wonderfully sexy and relaxed – just a natural expression of his personality.

I have to say, this image of him melting with passion is incredibly evocative to me. It’s like his autonomous self is melting and he’s merging with the one he loves:  physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. That’s just so beautiful to me, and it ties in very strongly with his ideas about “the Dance of Creation.” His sexuality isn’t compartmentalized to something that only happens behind closed doors. It’s an essential part of who he is, and so his sexuality naturally manifests itself through his music and dance and everything he does. So I think that, for him, this “Dance of Creation” is both spiritual – a philosophical belief and a powerful creative force – as well as very physical.

Joie:  Wow. Ok, Willa, all this talk about how erotic that “melting” line is … is really … distracting. Hey, is it just me or have we both been … distracted … a lot lately?

Willa:  No, I think you’re right. Maybe it’s spring fever.

Joie:  Maybe it’s Michael fever. Anyway, I agree with you that in “Don’t Stop” he is suggesting that The Force is tied in with sexual energy, but I also think he’s suggesting more than that as well. Twice in the song he says this:

So let love (oh, let love)
Take us through the hours
I won’t be complainin’
‘Cause this is love power

That ‘love power’ as he calls it, is actually the very thing that the Jedi master is describing to his student. It is that energy “that binds the galaxy together,” that “something sacred” that Michael feels touched by when he’s dancing. The ‘love power’ is The Force! So, while it is a very physical phenomenon for Michael, I believe it is first and foremost very spiritual for him. As Michael himself once told us about songwriting,

“It’s the most spiritual thing in the world. When it comes, it comes with all the accompaniments – the strings, the bass, the drums, the lyrics. And you’re just the medium through which it comes, the channel. Sometimes I feel guilty putting my name on songs, ‘written by MJ,’ because it’s as if the heavens have done it already.”

And he echoes this spiritual component to songwriting in another of his essays from Dancing the Dream called simply, “God.”

“For me the form God takes is not the most important thing. What’s most important is the essence. My songs and dances are outlines for Him to come in and fill. I hold out the form, She puts in the sweetness.”

And in this same essay, he also repeats that central theme of everything being connected, and the creator and the creation merging “into one wholeness of joy” as he says,

“But for me the sweetest contact with God has no form. I close my eyes, look within, and enter a deep soft silence. The infinity of God’s creation embraces me. We are one.”

Again, we are one. We are all connected. “The creator and creation merge into one wholeness of joy.” With that statement, he could be referring to himself as the creator, and the creation is the song, or the dance, or the performance, etc. And I’m sure he probably did feel that way. But I also get the sense that he was definitely referring to God as the creator, and the creation is the earth, and the heavens, and humankind – all those living things that are connected and bound together by the force. “This world we live in is the dance of the creator.”

Willa:  Joie, that’s beautiful, and it wonderfully expresses that idea that Michael Jackson shared with us so often, through music and dance, through poetry and spoken words, through his actions and beliefs, through his very being. As you say, “We are one. We are all connected.” We are all part of the Dance of Creation. What a simple yet powerful message.

So something really fun is happening next week:  Joe Vogel and Charles Thomson are joining us for a roundtable discussion about Michael Jackson as a songwriter. Joie and I are really looking forward to it, so be sure to check back again next week. We’ve also added a few things to the Reading Room including those wonderful videos from the MJ Academia Project, several really insightful articles by Charles about media coverage of Michael Jackson, and a wonderful new article by Joe, “The Misunderstood Power of Michael Jackson’s Music,” so you may want to go visit and browse around a bit.

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About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on February 9, 2012, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. I can just imagine some musicologist 100 years from now finding out about the Star Wars trilogy and feeling very intellectually superior after decoding what “the force” means! To those of us who lived in Michael’s time and place it seems perfectly obvious what he meant by it. I think Paris tweeted recently to someone explaining a Star Wars plot to her, something like, dude, I know my Star Wars history!

    I love the double entendre of implying sexual desire while leaving it vague enough to allow for a metaphysical interpretation, the force, something bigger than ourselves that we all are a part of. The rhythmic and harmonic structure of the song reinforce these ideas. Michael’s voice is sexy and intimate but the rhythm and harmony allow us to experience the deeper meanings that are consistent with African music. The percussion instruments sound simple individually, but together they create complex, spatial patterns that symbolize the importance of every individual contribution to the whole of society, our interdependence and interconnectedness. The song has two chords moving back and forth with almost no harmonic function at all (except for the instrumental section in the middle). This circular harmony suggests a state of being rather than becoming, of engaging with the present, connected to “the force”, rather than striving towards an imaginary future goal. (More musical analysis is available if anyone is interested: http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol3no7/3.7MJ-Semiosis-6.pdf)

    And oh how I love Symphony of Science! Even before I got to your youtube video I was already thinking of this one! I can’t think better proof of the force than a good study of quantum theory, see what you think. I’ll bet you’ve already seen this:

    • Wow, Ultravioletrae – I can really tell you’re a professional musician when you say things like this:

      The song has two chords moving back and forth with almost no harmonic function at all (except for the instrumental section in the middle). This circular harmony suggests a state of being rather than becoming, of engaging with the present, connected to “the force”, rather than striving towards an imaginary future goal.

      That’s so intriguing to me – it’s like you’re hearing a whole other dimension in his work that I don’t hear, at least not consciously, but through your words you’re giving me a glimpse of that other dimension. That’s just fascinating to me, and it makes me wish I knew a lot more.

      I’m about a third of the way through the article you link to from the Journal of Pan African Studies. It hasn’t started analyzing “Don’t Stop” yet – I’ll try to add more after I’ve read that. So far it’s focusing on the genres that gave rise to it, and it says some interesting things about that too. Like, it says this about disco:

      The “disco sucks” movement was anti-black, anti-gay, and anti-feminine. And I would venture to say that it was antagonistic towards the kind of integrated, multi-ethnic, pluralistic, multicultural society represented and extolled by soul music in the ’60s and ’70s. “Disco sucks” was concurrent with the rise of conservative social [ideologies] in the U.S.

      I really believe that’s true. And then there’s this about rock:

      Hard rock and heavy metal express many of the same things: power, desire, and traditional gender relationships. The social values of rock, hard rock, and heavy metal tend to be more conservative than funk and disco. They reinforce, in many cases, the dominant narrative.

      I really believe that’s true too. Rock music presents itself as rebelling against the system, but what are “the social values” represented by rock? Primarily, it’s to make a lot of money, sleep with a lot of women, and be a rugged individualist who isn’t tied down by responsibilities to anyone. And how is that any different from what Donald Trump believes? Rock isn’t rebelling against the system at all, meaning it isn’t trying to change the chessboard; it’s simply trying to move the pieces around on the chessboard so different individuals (namely rock stars rather than executives) have a bigger share. But it’s simply reinforcing the same old values.

      And that’s why Michael Jackson was so radically different: he really did challenge conventional notions of “power, desire, and traditional gender relationships.” He encouraged us to care for those who were powerless, especially children. He emphasized the connections between us all, and between us and the environment. He crossed gender boundaries as well as racial boundaries. He “melted.” And that’s why there was such a strong backlash against him, I believe, both from the police as well as from mainstream rock venues like Rolling Stone magazine, as Joe details in his article. Michael Jackson was deeply threatening to the values of both, so he was attacked and discredited by both.

      Thanks so much for sharing that article. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it.

      • This is interesting about rock vs. disco and yes, you are right. It kind of reminds me of Gene Simmons of the band KISS when he accused Michael of being a pedophile in an interview (in 2010, I think). Charles Thomson wrote about it. He managed to interview Michael’s guitar player, Jennifer Batten who debunked everything Simmons said. But the reason why this reminded me of this story is, I think, because it’s so typical that someone with questionable morals and ethics accuses Michael of wrong doing. Michael never molested anyone, but those rock bands back in the 70s and 80s were famous for sleeping with (sometimes very) young fan girls and take advantage of them. Yet, somehow people like Gene Simmons are considered “cool” to say such things about Michael Jackson and are applauded for it. Hypocritical much?

        In fact, that kind of behavior – the “rock star life style” – is considered macho, manly and cool and no one seems to care if young people might have been hurt in the process. That’s what “real men” do, after all: sleep with as many girls as possible. And if someone is not like that, then that person becomes suspicious. Like Michael Jackson. So they have to find a way to pull him down on their level or on a worse level: and the pedohilia accusations are just perfect for that.

        I have read Joe Vogel’s recent article and I have seen it stirred up things a lot (which is great, IMO). Most agreed with it, but those who disagreed with it made the usual arguments: that Michael Jackson only ever made two good records, Off The Wall and Thriller and never influenced anyone. All of those can be refuted. Many, many artists in all genres (and that’s really amazing!) cite MJ as an influence! Someone who thinks he never influenced anyone must be in a closed bubble of a certain kind of rock music, in my opinion. And they probably never even listened to albums like Dangerous or HIStory or Blood on The Dance Floor. After all Rolling Stone wrote they suck, so why bother, right?

        Also one of the critics under Joe’s article wrote that MJ’s music was “commercial, slick, glossy, shallow”. This was the same person who wrote he only had two good albums. I bet he hasn’t even listened to more. And when he listened he didn’t pay much attention, if he thinks his music is like that. There’s nothing shallow, glossy or commercial about a song like “Who is it” or “Is It Scary” (and I could name dozens of songs here).

        Funny, how classical musicians get him more than rock&roll “purists”:

        Interviewer: Do you think you can equate some of the great classical composers with some of the great pop or rock composers.

        LANG LANG: “It’s not so easy but I really think its possible when you have the right fit and I would say Michael Jackson for example, is promptly — is equally as genius as Mozart [was] two or 300 years ago and I’m sure when they met or when they meet somewhere actually they will be a great synergy.”

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-15213957

        • Michael was so influencial that he changed the whole entire music industry, and sadly paid a heavy price for that from the industry itself and the media. Michael is the one who set the standard for selling. Michael set the standard for music video’s (again no longer relevent because Michael is no longer making them). He set the standard for royalty rate. He set the standard for production budgets. Everything that Michael did left the industry chasing HIM to compete. I do think Michael was commercial, but he was commercial before commercial was commercial – if you know what I mean. Michael was a true artist, but he also was a marketing master AND again, the industry tries to match that, but they can’t.

          I remember in the days after Michael passed and his memorial, Donny Duetch (sp?) was on MSNBC and said “I feel sorry for his children, but what did this guy really do? He was just a singer and dancer”. Now Donny is the head of some big time advertising agency. My comment to Donny is “Michael did naturally what you ad people could only dream of. He brought all people together, no matter the age, race or religion, all in the name of love. You sit in your office everyday trying to figure out how to ‘sell’ that. Have you not figured out it can’t be sold?”

  2. Really looking forward to your discussion with Joe and Charles. Wonderful article.

    • Hi Lauren. Joe’s article is wonderful. I’m so glad that magazines like The Atlantic are starting to publish articles like this that take a more nuanced look at Michael Jackson’s music and the contradictory reception it received from critics – as well as the complicated reasons behind that response.

  3. Ever since the European Enlightenment, which Kant defined as “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity”, the Romantics had been complaining about that domination of modern culture by the analytic understanding, dividing the whole of nature, and the loss of an unifying and enchanting myth. But their longing for myth was not a retreat from modernity. As Schlegel put it, a new mythology has to arise artificially, “from the innermost depths of the spirit; it must be the most artificial of all works of art, for it is to encompass all others” as “the hieroglyphic expression of surrounding nature in this transfigured form of imagination and love”. That truly reminds me of Michaels art and, as you said, Willa, of the “idea that Michael Jackson shared with us so often, through music and dance, through poetry and spoken words, through his actions and beliefs, through his very being. […] We are all part of the Dance of Creation. What a simple yet powerful message.”

    BTW, for sure James Cameron’s 2009 movie Avatar, showing the humanoid Na’vi living “all one” and connected with their entire planet, did not just accidentally become the most successful movie of all time.

    I’m so excited about your blog post next week and your discussion with Joe Vogel and Charles Thomson!!! “Joe’s article is wonderful. I’m so glad that magazines like The Atlantic are starting to publish articles like this” – me too, it’s such a relief and enrichment…!

  4. hi, guys–This is the BEST post–LOVE IT!! There is so much to be said here and you basically said it all. MJ was working with Deepak Chopra around the time of Dancing the Dream–he called him to ask him to teach him how to meditate–and the book is dedicated to Deepak, so I think MJ absorbed a lot of ideas from Deepak about Hinduism, the Vedas, and Shiva –the dancing god of the Hindus, who danced the world into creation (the Shiva Nataraj)–a beautiful symbol. This is not to say that these ideas were not already present in his thinking but that they got more definition or emphasis. I have read in a couple different places–including Joe’s book–that MJ’s favorite author was the American Trnscendentalist poet and essayist Ralph W. Emerson–this is why I think that MJ was an intellectual. If you have ever tried to read Emerson, you will know what I mean. This is heavy stuff influenced by German Romanticism and by oriental texts that were just then translated into English. (Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, etc). Emerson writes–in nature ‘I become a transparent eyeball–I see all–the universal currents circulate through me–I become part and parcel of God.’ This resonates so well with what you have written and quoted about MJ’s thought. I also think the Hindu idea of PLAY (lila) is important here–creation is god’s play or the play of the shakti (the life force or energy of god revealed in the material, physical world).

    Re the melting like hot candle wax–a year before OTW, MJ did the Wiz and during that time met Tatum O’Neal. According to what he has said, they met at a restaurant and she put her hand under the table and held his hand–I believe he described his feelings as saying he was ‘melting’–that this was one of the first powerful sexual experiences of his life. It sounds so innocent but this is what moved MJ enormously–he also was pretty innocent at the time–not in terms of knowledge but of his own sexual experience (in my opinion).

    Thanks for a really, really spectacular post–this IS it.

  5. Another great post ladies!!!!!

    @ultravioletrae -great comment and links!

  6. Well, we all know “the force” was the mighty Michael Jackson force of his very large boa constrictor! ( that I mentioned in the previous post that explored Michael’s manly manliness) Ha, ha, ha, ha…. Sorry, I can’t help myself! Michael just brings this out in me!

  7. The connection is perfect.
    Michael’s words before the music starts: “you know, I was wondering,you know, if you keep on,because…the force, it got a lot of power, you make me feel like…uhhhh!” He felt and expressed this force through his art so intensely!
    Very very good post! Thank you! It made me think a lot…
    Looking forward Joe and Charles next week.

  8. In all seriousness, in my family we have always discussed how Michael was the music and the music was Michael. Michael always acknowledged that he was guided and gifted by God, THE life force and how he was a mere instrument of that force. As is apparent in the manifestation of this force as reflected in the perfect execution of his singing and dancing reflecting so aptly the complexity and intricacy of THE force that reveals various layers as we go along in life just as the layers of complexity of Michael’s music reveals itself every time you listen to it. Everytime you listen you discover something new and different that you may not have noticed before. It takes you on a journey – guiding, pushing, pulling you in new and various directions, eliciting various emotional responses, just as in life. It makes sense also that Michael, himself, became, was and is an incredible force in the world.

  9. Wonderful post again. To me the most “spiritual” experience is to look up on a night sky when there are no clouds and you can see the stars. I always get this soothing feeling of being one with the Universe because that’s where we came from (we are star dust indeed) and that’s where we eventually will go back. Perhaps our atoms will become again stars, planets and eventually other forms of living things. To me this is amazing. As well as quantum mechanics and the implications of it which we are just beginning to learn.

  10. I wonder about the power of the force from when Michael’s consciousness was no longer limited by the composition of his body. So many of us, myself included, really, really felt him for perhaps the first time after his passing. At 50 I started to dance as a result of my “communing” with that force of Michael. I always wanted to dance as a girl and then felt it was too late. I had dreams after june of 09 of how to address a crowd and how to have patience because the “pay off” could be so wonderfully full. His work and his life apparently continued through the force he apparently always had played in most consciously. I do feel and have experienced his energy (force) as being still quite distinctive, not really merged which the science of energy seems to indicate from my view point. I have continued to read that many of us attending this blog have had a similar experience too, even, and especially since he transitioned. Ecstatic,rapturous… sensual, L.O.V.E., it is all there. Thanks for continuing the conversation, I look forward to being able to connect with this community, it makes me feel so…… Michael.

  11. I don’t know enough about JW teachings, but does oneness or ‘the force’ present itself at all to Jehovah Witness teachings?

    • I wish I knew the answer to this too, it must be there somewhere in some form. I wrongly assumed that Michael’s exploration into metaphysics started with his 1988 meeting with Deepak Chopra. Then I looked at “Can You Feel it” and other early songs and I see it was there long before Chopra and DTD. Next time a JW knocks on the door let’s invite them in for a discussion!

      • lol… When I wrote the above comment I was thinking “you know, I haven’t had any JW’s come around lately”. How funny! But I did hear in some panel discussion that the Can You Feel It video has many JW symbolisms and that Michael was very instrumental in the development of that video.

  12. Wow! Every time I love this place more and more. Not only because of the amazing post of Joie and Willa, but also because of the great feedback everyone gives.
    Is strange because lately I have being thinking very much about my own connection with Michael. Basically because I being ask why do I love him so much, because many people can’t understand my feelings for him.
    I try to think about this a lot so I can have an honest, yet, logic explanation to this. After a lot of thinking and soul searching I have come to the conclusion that I feel a very strong spiritual connection with him. Since I discover him, or since he discover me, I felt a very strong connection with him and thanks to his music I could feel, not in a logically way since I was a little girl, that everything he said and express with his music was exactly how I felt about the world, the nature and other humans. And as I grow up and understood more his music and message I realize how incredible this connection was.
    I believe the same connection is felt by most of his fans around the world, why? Basically because he is expressing something very essential we as humans feel in a very deep level, we are all one and we are all connected. For me is very difficult to find this kind of message, in such a clear way, in most of commercial music.
    This message is so important for us as humans that his music has break all kinds of barriers, age, race, culture, gender. For me (being religious) Michael was send with this incredible important message and the most of the world recognize this and embrace it.
    Of course this message is not very welcome by the high levels of power agenda, since this idea go against principles that they are very interested of maintaining like war, borders, country rivalry or racial differences.
    I also wanted to share this documentary with you since is about the same. I think the documentary is not brilliant but the idea is very interesting and the interviews are worth watching.
    Thanks again for all the articles and a great post!

  13. About the great posts by Mare and pgapplehead–I agree so much with what you have said. I am attracted to Michael also because I believe he is a very spiritual being whose ‘force’ has gained power as a result of his transition out of his body. Living in a place like Neverland–a huge ranch filled with nature, loving animals the way he did, loving the planet, nature, loving children and loving people, and I think too loving God as he understood that force, he was just an inspiration–such an amazing person. One of Armond White’s great comments is that MJ “solicited call and response from the world, and got it.” The world responded to him massively–just look at some of the concert audience footage, so many so spellbound and captivated and happy to be in his presence. People from all over the world–that is the key. thanks for your great comments–yes, this site is so … Michael!! Michael said in DTD that his deepest desire was ‘to change this world’–I want so much for that to happen–for the world to become the place that Michael wanted it to be.

  14. I have not finishes to read the whole article but my opinion of WHY people are changing their mind about our dear Michael is that people are reading more and listening more, and learning more about him -people are hearing and reading comments and stories about Michael from his close friends and co-workers, I think people has been getting to know the real man, the humanitarian, realizing that he was a real human being like any of us except he was unique and amazing – L.O.V.E

  15. I was just listening to the radio this morning and they were talking about how Star Wars the Force Awakens is still #1 after it’s release on 12/18/2015 and hasn’t been knocked off it’s thrown yet, which made me mad, because I love Luke Skywalker and Star Wars. So I switched to a different radio station and I heard MJ singing: keep on, with “The Force” don’t stop, don’t stop till you get enough, and it just hit me all of a sudden, in the car, Michael’s been talking about Star Wars for over 30 years and I never knew it.
    All this time, I thought he was saying with the FIRST don’t stop. So all day today, I’ve been reading the lyrics and I know he’s talking about God “The Force”. I just can’t believe, I just discovered this today. And I am so glad, I’m not the only one. Every time I hear that song, it inspires me, and gives me energy for some odd reason. Now I know why.

    • Wow, that is quite the detective story! And I never heard before that Michael Jackson was a “gamer.” Interesting to imagine …

      • As far as I know, MJ was a very active gamer, whose ”playing games” was an important part of his creative process:

        MJ: I’ve written so many like that. I’m playing a pinball machine, and I have to run upstairs and get my little tape recorder and start dictating.

        (From his interview with USA Today: http://www.allmichaeljackson.com/interviews/usatodayinterview.html )

        Then again, (IMHO!) fans like to ”shape MJ in their own image”. Geeks happily imagine him as a ”gamer”, romantics like to see him as a ”sensitive poet”, while rockers emphasize his edgier side…

        • “fans like to ‘shape MJ in their own image’. Geeks happily imagine him as a ‘gamer’, romantics like to see him as a ‘sensitive poet’, while rockers emphasize his edgier side…”

          Hi Bjørn. Your comment made me laugh, but I think it’s absolutely true – and I’m afraid I’m one of those fans who does that! So maybe that’s why I never thought of him as a “gamer.” But partly it might be how we define that word. I had read before that he liked playing pinball, and I can imagine that, but I guess I don’t think of that as being a “gamer.” To me, “gamer” refers very specifically to someone who spends hours and hours every day playing video games of a certain type – playing Scrabble online doesn’t count! But maybe I need to rethink what that word means, as well as whether it applies to Michael Jackson …

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