“Bout to fly …I love you” is always the text I send my wife before I put my phone in airplane mode. Even if we’ve been fighting, I send that text. Because if something bad happens to my plane I want that to be the last thing she ever reads from me.
I stood at the makeshift memorial, on the strip in Las Vegas, Friday afternoon before my show. I stood quietly and watched people of all races, nationalities and ages shed tears and offer prayers for the victims of the mass shooting that took place there. I too wiped tears and wrote messages on the poster boards and signed my name, to show I was there to be part of the healing. I’ve never thought of the strip as anything sacred before. But on this day …it was.
On the walk back to the hotel, I thought about life and legacies and what you leave behind. Forever, the man (I don’t use his name) who perpetrated that horrible act will be known as someone who brought horror and death to innocent people. No matter what good he might’ve done in his life prior to that act, none of it matters. His last act was his defining one. And it puts him squarely on the “part of the problem” side of the human ledger.
“Your last act” is something I think a lot about these days. When I post something publicly, I think about it possibly being the last thing anyone ever sees from me. Life is so fragile and I’m all too aware of how quickly it can end. I was made even more aware of it this past Friday night, at Mandalay Bay. And so, when I tweet or post or write or sing, I think to myself, “is THIS the lasting image of me I want people to have?” If you ever start asking that question, it changes your entire perspective.
I don’t want my last uttered phrase to be something about a president or politician. They don’t get to have that. That one is for me. I don’t want my last publicized thought to be one of anger or hatred. I don’t want my lasting verbal impression to be a condescending or indignant one. I’m trying to be a better man. And if I die suddenly, I want my son and daughter to see that reflected in the words that I wrote and the songs that I sang …and yes …the things that I posted.
I participated in an online songwriting course this past week. One of the songwriting principles we discussed was returning to the hook; the theme; the main idea. Great songwriting requires this. But I think great living requires it as well. Once you find out who you are and what you’re about, you should return to that theme often and continue to define it. Obviously, we all have opinions and points of view. And fighting for what you believe (provided it doesn’t involve randomly killing people) is a good thing. But if your last tweet or text or post was the last thing you left for the world to read from you, would you be proud of it? Would you want it framed and handed to your children at your graveside? I dare say not many of us would. But I’m trying more and more to think about “the last thing I ever say” whenever I say anything.
Sometimes I’m so angry I could spit nails, Sometimes I’m so deeply hurt I can’t catch my breath. Sometimes I have several axes to grind …simultaneously. Those are the times I need to stop and think about what I’m about. I don’t always get it right. Anyone can read my posts and see that. But I’m trying to keep a few things in mind:
My wife lit up my dark world and probably saved me from succumbing to debilitating depression. She has the loveliest heart I’ve ever known. She feels like home to me …she always has.
My daughter is a miracle and she dramatically changed my life for the better. If I have any good in me, SHE is the one who brought it out. God sent her to me. And I am continually thankful for it. Go find someone with a disability and spend some time with them. They’ll bring out the good in you, too.
My son is my absolute joy. He is brilliant and beautiful and has all the makings of a world changer. I feel honored to be around him pretty much all the time. And I cannot wait to see what he becomes. In the meantime we spend a lot of time competing to see who loves who the most. I tell him I love him to the moon. Then, of course, he has to love me to Mars. This is a vicious cycle that no one ever wins …and I hope no one ever does.
Those people caring for someone with a special need are doing God’s work. They are fatigued in inexplicable ways most of the time. I try to help them as much as I can. You should too.
American service men and women and retired veterans are the backbone of our very society. We only get to do all the stuff we do because they VOLUNTEER to stand guard over us and watch our backs. We cannot do enough for them. And they’ve earned any good thing that comes their way. Disagree with your country or your president or your congressman or your school board. But NONE of that is a veteran’s fault. Always remember that.
The country in which I was fortunate enough to have been born, is a grand experiment in self reliance, self determination, diversity of thought, diversity of personhood, self governance and human freedom. I love that it was formed and I love that I get to be a part of it. I don’t take it lightly and I don’t take lightly my responsibility to contribute to it in a responsible way.
Music heals. And if it isn’t making someone dance or laugh or cry or smile or love or pray or work out or throw their fists in the air or drive fast or chase the girl (or the boy) or get over the girl (or the boy) or MAKE the girl (or the boy) …it isn’t worth writing. In short, if it doesn’t move you, it’s just an exercise in notes and letters.
God is a mystery. And that’s actually okay. The bible says God is a spirit. It also says God is love. Therefore, God must be the spirit of love. Everything else about religion is just a lot of bowing and kneeling and standing and singing and swaying and reciting and reading and memorizing and more bowing and more kneeling and preaching and speaking and more singing and more reciting. Without the spirit of love in the mix, it’s a very silly game of Simon Says.
I reserve the right to laugh at everything laughable …including (and especially) myself.
Race is a really weird way to divide people up. I actually can’t believe we even still talk about it.
Ironically, every person I’ve ever met was human. That is both comforting and terrifying. And I am surprised by nothing.
I would rather talk about ideas than people or events.
Those are the things my life is about. So, when I write or perform or blog or speak or text or tweet or post, I try to keep all that stuff as close to me as possible. And if what I say or sing or write is the last thing I say or sing or write, I want it to have something to do with one of those things. That helps me get clarity in world where clarity is often hard to come by.
And if you’re reading this, just know that I love you. I believe you’re here for a reason. Go find that reason. We need you doing your thing. We won’t be the same without you.
And if this is the last thing I ever say …I’m totally okay with that.