Earth Daychildren three

“Before AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, before AVATAR and WALL-E, before “going green’ became a catchphrase, came MICHAEL JACKSON’S “EARTH SONG,” one of the most unusual, audacious protest songs in popular music history.”path

Joseph Vogel


Inside Michael Jackson’s MAGNUM OPUS

“When you have seen the things I have seen and traveled all over the world, you would not be honest with yourself and the world to look away,”  Michael Jackson

As I lay awake during the early hours of this morning, a hazy kind of sleep, stubbornly weaving threads of unsettling dreams, that caused rest impossible, the word “footprint” kept reappearing.  I had spent a good part of the previous day at the page, writing and reflecting on EARTH DAY.  To be sure, this day has been a highlight on my yearly calendar, since spring brought with it an environmental unit of some dimension.  Each year, the children in my third and fourth grade classrooms and I rolled up our sleeves and got serious about saving the planet.  I firmly believe the best way to learn is by doing.  The children’s culminating event for the unit was an INVENTION CONVENTION.  Thisfeet project had many facets, but the bottom line was that each child invented a simple machine that would  help to save the environment….something practical that could really be used.  The invention had to be made from recycled materials…it had  to be tested…and, each child then demonstrated their masterpiece at the INVENTION CONVENTION.  Families and other classrooms  were in attendance.  Audiences were encouraged to try out the invention and wrote GLOVEevaluations that the children would later read and discuss as we reflected on our projects.

The whole idea of leaving a FOOTPRINT demands great thought.  However, an aspect wbssof the discussion that I never really thought of before is found with Michael.  Of course, those of us who have spent ANY time with Michael absolutely know that his approach to any issues held unparalleled creativity.  He simply created an art form for EVERYTHING.  And so, “MARK OF THE ANCIENTS”.  Many of you know, I have been retired for some time and I love each moment of it.  But, every now and then, I discover something that makes me wish I was still blessed with amazing young minds.  I would have loved to use Michael’s parable for our invention conventions.


He had lived in the desert all his life, but for me it was all new.  “See that footprint in the sand?” he asked, pointing to a spot by the cliff.  I looked as close as I could.  “No.  I don’t see anything.”

“That’s just the point.” He laughed.  “Where you can’t see a print, that’s where the love is my messageAncient Ones walked.”

We went on a little farther, and he pointed to an opening, high up on the sandstone wall.  “See that house up there?” he asked.  I squinted.  “There’s nothing to see.”

“You’re a good student.”  He smiled.  “Where there’s no roof or chimney, that’s where the Ancient Ones are most likely to have lived.”

We rounded a bend, and before us was spread a fabulous sight, thousands upon thousands of desert flowers in bloom.  “Can you see any missing?” he asked me.  I shook my head.  “It’s just wave after wave of loveliness.”

“Yes,” he said in a low voice.  “Where nothing is missing, that’s where the Ancient Ones harvested the most..”

I thought about all this, about how generations once lived in harmony with the heartearth, leaving no marks to scar the places they inhabited.  At camp that night I said, “You left out one thing.”

“What’s that?” he magic

“Where are the Ancient Ones buried?”

Without reply, he poked his stick into the fire.  A bright flame shot up, licked the air, and disappeared.  My teacher gave me a glance to see if I understood this lesson.  I sat very still, and my silence told him I did.


There is something magical about a handprint.  The first week of school, the children in my classes had their hands painted and then pressed them onto the windows of our classroom.  Beyond being so very cute, it was a symbolic gesture.  It was a part of an entire collection of activities meant to empower them and allow them ownership in their year of education.  Once again, Michael took the handprint to a whole other level:  the white glove, the hands which added to the dancer’s body…a part of the storytelling, the hands lifted toward the heavens, his hands wrapped around Fans with love as he then bowed before them, his world music awardshands stroking the heads of Fans and children…all in a tapestry of unconditional love.  His hands also affected global change as he created a multitude of acts to heal our world, to heal our ECOLOGY.  And, his hands created unparalleled art.  Michael’s BEAUTIFUL handprints are visible today.

The question that begs to be asked is…what will we do with this profound inspiration as we work to leave our handprints around the world.  And…what lessons do we gain from MARK OF THE ANCIENTS.  How much of a footprint are we creating and are there acts we can do to emulate living in harmony with the earth.

EVERYDAY IS EARTH DAY…that truth is the answer to our survival as a planet.  Marking a special day on the calendar serves to remind us, just in case we might have lost our way.  I remember Michael saying that if there had been a CHILDREN’S DAY when he was a child, that would have made all the difference to him.  There is an EARTH DAY.  I pray it will make all the difference to us.hugs

I love you more than words can say.


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  1. I love this! It is especially meaningful because you used illustrations from your own teaching experience. I pray that teachers everywhere will do their best to engage their students in thoughtful and meaningful ways to make a positive difference in our world. Giving young people the opportunity to use their creativity in figuring out solutions to environmental problems is a lifelong learning experience. Your lessons helped these young people become more caring and concerned about our world. Hopefully, they will continue to pay it forward as they journey through life. Michael was truly ahead of his time and inspired anyone who shared his deep desire to make this world a better place. Thank you for once again sharing your insights with us. I learn so much from you and continue to be amazed at what a genius Michael Jackson truly was!!

  2. Thank you so much Jude once again! When I read your beautiful articles I feel as if I am in another place – thank you so much for this wonderment!

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