July 02, 2009

The Shifty Identity of Michael Jackson

Ever since Michael Jackson died last week, I can’t stop thinking about identity and how clinging to one—or several in his case— can bring much suffering. Yes, Michael was mesmerizing. But like the article, A Sequined Glove That Mesmerized the World, in the New York Times said last week, “There is no way to know what was on Michael Jackson’s mind…” And even if we did know what was on his mind, mind is shifty, which is un-reassuring.  The idea of “mind is shifty” led me to this article in Tricycle’s Summer 2007 issue, The Spookiness of Ego-Mind. Of course the whole notion of "mind shifting" is the perfect charnel ground for practicing letting go, which is much harder than it sounds. I know meditation helps. Any other suggestions?

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Peter Clothier's picture

Thanks for these thoughts. Jackson's death does give rise to many thoughts related to Buddhism and the meditation practice.

For anyone who might be interested, here are some of my own thoughts about Michael Jackson's passing.


Adam Barron's picture

When I think of Michael Jackson, and for the record I admired his work and talent as a performer, I am reminded of the pit fall caused by fame. Elvis Presley, Curt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and far too many others died as a result of the stress and strain of being famous. Even though everyone knows your name, oddly you feel more alone then ever. For some crazy reason, out in the west we admire those that have the guts and the determination to follow there dreams, no matter the cost. Ditch the family, run from responsibility, do it any way you can. Just do it, before it's too late. Because being successful in the eyes of others is everything. Thankfully the Buddhist view point encourages and honors those that have the guts and the determination to keep it simple and stay with your family no matter the personal cost to the ego. You don't have to live in the same house, just be available to the needs of the family whenever you can. Letting go comes with development of detached mind. You are the gardner of your mind and every day you must tend to that garden. When you go into meditation, build yourself a beautiful garden. Plant flowers and beautiful bushes. Build it by a pond or a river or lake. Make the images stronger and stronger in color and vibrancy. Put family members there. Make it a place for gathering. Train your mind to go to this place, even when you feel good, but especially when you feel the urge to experience pain caused by jealousy, hatred, and impatience. Eventually, this will be your mental home page, just like on the computer. With practice this garden will be the first thing that comes to mind before you go to bed, and the first that you think about when you wake-up. Make no mistake though, detached mind is not fixed. You must tend to it every day for the rest of your life or slowly but surely the illusions of physical reality will creep back making life painful once again.

J. Heart's picture

It is so interesting how some famous people are idolized in death even after some very unsavory behavior is revealed. Their fans are so quick to admonish; 'don't judge' and justify the conduct of their 'heroes.' These negative behaviors are just swept aside regardless of their behavior. It is alright to admire someone's talent but please, bring with it some discernment. Case in point David Carradine's bizarre death and more recently Michael Jackson's passing. What a price fame can extract! Learn from their mistakes that attachment to fame is a trap and does not provide happiness, they were so out of touch with who they really were. The mind will kill you if you let it.

Greta Gladney's picture

I have spent the last several days listening to Jackson music, viewing photos and videos. I grew up listening to the Jackson 5, watching their cartoons on Saturdays and later their variety show. I know the names of all nine siblings. Hardly obsessed with them, the music is part of the backdrop of my life experience and history. Listening and remembering, has been a pleasant experience of past, present, and future as well as acceptance and celebration of impermanence. I am happy this day to live, to have lived and to embrace my transition. I live a lifetime every day. This where I find peace, and in my acceptance, I 'let go'.