I swore I wasn’t going to watch the Michael Jackson memorial on television today. Firstly because I very rarely watch television at all and usually shun the general media circus surrounding pop culture. Secondly because while I was a Michael Jackson fan growing up, I never really gave his music much thought for the last decade or two. Yet, since his death last week I did indulge briefly in watching some of the video retrospectives and found myself intrigued by this larger than life figure who clearly held the weight of the world’s worst judgment and extreme adoration. So, I turned the memorial on in the background of my office and found myself surprisingly moved by the whole affair. What could’ve just been more excess and nonsense in the already comical media coverage (I mean it has been laid on a little thick, don’t you think? Doesn’t anyone have their own lives to live?)… was in fact a touching tribute.
So, whether you loved him, hated him, or fell somewhere in between, there is always a lesson to be learned in each person’s passing. Here’s what I see as the top 7 things we can learn from Michael Jackson’s death.
1) Love the People You Love While They are Here
This lesson pretty much sums up any person’s funeral. Yet in this case what stands out to me is how much outpouring of love and kind words there were for this very unique person standing in stark contrast to most of what had been the focus of the last decade or more of his life. All I can remember from way back are all the negative media, judgments, accusations, and drama surrounding him. Today there was none of that, only a celebration of the unique gifts and talents he brought to the world. Imagine what would be possible if you just loved the people you loved for who they are right here, right now? It’s worth the effort because as we all know (but like to not think about), our time here on the earth is short.
2) Look for What is Right, Not What is Wrong
Building on what I’ve already said, imagine what could have been different for Michael Jackson’s life if the focus and intense media scrutiny over the years was on what was right and not on all the negative stuff? I’m not saying to live life by sweeping what things under the rug or turning a blind eye if/when someone does something wrong or inappropriate, but it doesn’t have to be all-consuming and then become the veil through which we view someone. People are more than they appear to be. Most people, unless they are pathological have such divine, unique, and wonderful gifts to offer the world. Why can’t we shine the light on that and allow it to expand?
3) You Can Never Really Know What Another Person is Experiencing
Of course I don’t know Michael Jackson one bit, yet people seem so quick to project what they think onto someone else. No one except for a few close friends can ever really know what this musical and dancing genius with a big heart went through. From what little I watched or heard it seems like he lived a very deeply troubled and painful inner life. He also had a child-like wonder, sometimes too immature for his own good in part because he never had the opportunity to have a childhood. Whether famous or the friend next door, never assume that you can truly ever know what someone else’s experience is like. Treat them with compassion anyway.
4) Embrace Diversity
There is no denying that Michael Jackson was eccentric, most one-of-a-kind people are in their own way. He welcomed other people and their differences with open arms. He knew there was more to the world than just the United States because he traveled and lived beyond our borders. As a country we often forget that the world does not revolve around us (no matter what George W. may have said). Celebrate the diversity within yourself and others. Lissa at Owning Pink had a great post on “Letting Your Freak Flag Fly” and I added to that conversation via a Twitter discussion. The message? Be your authentic self and allow others to do the same.
5) Allow Spirit to Move You
Music powerfully stirs the soul. When you allow spirit to move through you the world is a better place and Jackson did just that. In fact Aricia at Dynamic Family Coaching Solutions wrote more about Spirit and how Jackson’s ability to allow spirit to work through him bestowed such gifts on the world. Allow spirit to inform your actions and allow beauty and people around you to move you. You will not only find that it better aligns who you really are with how you show up in the world but it is guaranteed to exponentially increase the meaning in your life.
6) Walk with Compassion in Your Heart
No doubt we all go through turbulent and difficult times. It is part of the human experience. It seems that for Michael Jackson the intense highs were coupled with very low, lows in his life. Yet he always seemed to walk with compassion in his heart and publicly spoke of the good in other people even as detractor’s threw stones his way. He reached out to those in need (perhaps to the point of a lack of self-regard given his financial predicament). He empathized with others in pain. His legacy transcends music which was clearly evident as he was honored as a humanitarian figure during his service.
7) Enjoy Today with Childlike Wonder
Tomorrow is promised to no one. Unfortunately we all seem to lose the ability to tap into the childlike wonder within us because of the day-to-day grind and responsibilities of adulthood. While Jackson clearly displayed sgns of a person whose childhood and emotional development were halted, the essence of the joy and wonder he exuded does hold a lesson for all of us. It really does pay to adopt a beginner’s mind and allow the child within you to come out to play once and a while. Fun and lightness are part of the journey, don’t shut them out in favor of more “important” stuff.
Like everything else the hoopla and hype surrounding Michael Jackson’s life and death will die down sooner or later but his music and legacy will live on. Yet, if we could all pause in silence for just a moment and breathe in some of these lessons, we can start to live richer lives of our own right here, right now.