I did not participate in the hysterical outpouring of emotion and mass mourning for Michael Jackson. I think he was a terribly tragic figure who lived a lonely life and died a lonely death. But he certainly could dance.
His famous ‘moon-dance’ was magical. Smooth and seductive, it was hard to tear your gaze away; deceptively simple but almost impossible to replicate. And it wasn’t just Michael Jackson’s feet. He carried off the stunning illusion of moving backwards while walking forward, by employing his entire body. His posture, the tilt of his head, and the swing of his arms were just as important as his fancy footwork.
One doesn’t have to admire everything about a man in order to learn something valuable from him. How we carry our bodies is important. Do we sit or slouch? Do we stand or stoop? Do we stride purposefully or saunter languidly? These things impact our mood and our effectiveness.
If your drill sergeant yelled, “Stand up straight!” he probably attended the same drill sergeant school as my mother. You cannot possibly feel alert, let alone look it, while slouching. You will undoubtedly irritate your boss as you amble leisurely down the hallway in response to his summons.
Gazing downwards not only makes you look guilty, it also depresses your mood. Conversely standing erect and keeping your eyes above the horizontal prepares you to tackle challenges. Lifting your eyes even higher, until you are looking heavenwards, can increase your feeling of spirituality and enhance closeness with the Creator. Are we humans perhaps created to be able to look at the sky? Doing so is, after all, far easier for people than for animals.
The children of Israel were encouraged to look upwards in a perplexing section of the Bible. After endlessly complaining in the desert, Israel was punished.
And God sent, among the nation, snakes
which bit the people and many of the Israelites died.
The frightened nation atoned and asked Moses to pray for the removal of the snakes.
God said to Moses,
Make a snake and place it upon a staff.
All who were bitten should look up at the snake and they will live.
This, of course is the origin of the well-known medical symbol of healing, the rod of Asclepius, sometimes known as the caduceus.
Ancient Jewish wisdom observes that a snake on a long stick possesses no healing powers. Rather the purpose was to raise the striking image of a copper snake high into the air forcing its viewers to elevate their gazes until they were tilting their necks heavenwards. In that posture the well-known healing power of prayer could get to work.
It might have been with these thoughts in mind that the second president of the United States, John Adams, a devoutly religious man, wrote to his wife, Abigail on July 3rd 1776.
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews (sic), games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
‘Illuminations’ is the word Adams used for what we call fireworks.
Could part of the appeal of fireworks be that they make us gaze heavenwards for extended periods? Perhaps that spiritual high we all feel after a gasp-inducing fireworks display has as much to do with our upwards posture as it does with the virtuosity of the performance.
As military people and moms know, standing erect not only looks good but it energizes us. Gazing upwards feeds energy back into our souls.
I wish all our United States readers a wonderful and uplifting Fourth of July. I hope that amidst the fireworks, parades and barbecues you find a few minutes to take advantage of the last few days of our Fourth of July sale on the Biblical Blueprints audio series. They too, are meant to turn your gaze heavenwards.