For Michael Jackson, Sabbath Brought Normalcy


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Today expressions of grief continue to pour in from around the world at the sudden loss of pop superstar Michael Jackson. Jackson's life might be described as anything but normal, but it was Sabbath, he says, that provided sanctuary from the stages of Hollywood and the crowds of concert halls, and offered times of normalcy.

During his brief lifetime, musical stardom saw Jackson move from childhood celebrity to best-selling recording artist, and from battles with tabloids to appearances in court. He will be remembered for carving out new territory in pop music and fashion, and for his highly innovative dance moves. He will also be remembered for eccentricities--his reclusive behavior, allegations of child abuse, his Neverland Ranch in California, and a relationship with a chimp named Bubbles.

Michael Jackson's involvement with Jehovah's Witnesses, who share a historical link with Seventh-day Adventists, has been the subject of numerous reports in the media. His faith provided what he describes as "wonderfully ordinary" and "magical scenes of life" outside of the world of show biz.

In an article from Beliefnet.com, released in December 2000, Michael Jackson writes:

    When people see the television appearances I made when I was a little boy--8 or 9 years old and just starting off my lifelong music career--they see a little boy with a big smile. They assume that this little boy is smiling because he is joyous, that he is singing his heart out because he is happy, and that he is dancing with an energy that never quits because he is carefree.

    But while singing and dancing were, and undoubtedly remain, some of my greatest joys, at that time what I wanted more than anything else were the two things that make childhood the most wondrous years of life, namely, playtime and a feeling of freedom. The public at large has yet to really understand the pressures of childhood celebrity, which, while exciting, always exacts a very heavy price.

    More than anything, I wished to be a normal little boy. I wanted to build tree houses and go to roller-skating parties. But very early on, this became impossible. I had to accept that my childhood would be different than most others. But that's what always made me wonder what an ordinary childhood would be like.

    There was one day a week, however, that I was able to escape the stages of Hollywood and the crowds of the concert hall. That day was the Sabbath. In all religions, the Sabbath is a day that allows and requires the faithful to step away from the everyday and focus on the exceptional. I learned something about the Jewish Sabbath in particular early on from Rose, and my friend Shmuley further clarified for me how, on the Jewish Sabbath, the everyday life tasks of cooking dinner, grocery shopping, and mowing the lawn are forbidden so that humanity may make the ordinary extraordinary and the natural miraculous. Even things like shopping or turning on lights are forbidden. On this day, the Sabbath, everyone in the world gets to stop being ordinary.

    But what I wanted more than anything was to be ordinary. So, in my world, the Sabbath was the day I was able to step away from my unique life and glimpse the everyday.

    [snip]

    When I was young, my whole family attended church together in Indiana. As we grew older, this became difficult, and my remarkable and truly saintly mother would sometimes end up there on her own. When circumstances made it increasingly complex for me to attend, I was comforted by the belief that God exists in my heart, and in music and in beauty, not only in a building. But I still miss the sense of community that I felt there--I miss the friends and the people who treated me like I was simply one of them. Simply human. Sharing a day with God.

    When I became a father, my whole sense of God and the Sabbath was redefined. When I look into the eyes of my son, Prince, and daughter, Paris, I see miracles and I see beauty. Every single day becomes the Sabbath. Having children allows me to enter this magical and holy world every moment of every day. I see God through my children. I speak to God through my children. I am humbled for the blessings He has given me.

    There have been times in my life when I, like everyone, has had to wonder about God's existence. When Prince smiles, when Paris giggles, I have no doubts. Children are God's gift to us. No--they are more than that--they are the very form of God's energy and creativity and love. He is to be found in their innocence, experienced in their playfulness.

Continue reading at Beliefnet.com


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/1717