Humans are the only living things on earth who know they’re going to die.
We’re aware of our ultimate demise. And that makes all the difference in how we live.
Most mammals spend their entire existence looking for food and water, getting out of the weather, mating and avoiding getting eaten. They really don’t know why they’re avoiding it, it’s just their instinct to keep living. I think that’s what makes life sacred. Every living thing has a hard-wired instinct to keep doing it. Anyway …
We’re the only earthlings who search for more than food and water and shelter and safety. We search for all those things too …but then we search for meaning and fulfillment and happiness. We question where we are, how we got here and (most importantly) why we got here. We seek knowledge and wisdom and truth. And these quests drive us through our lives.
The search for existential answers leads us to love and hate and politics and religion and marriage and divorce and alcohol and drugs and fame and fortune and Jesus and Buddha and Mohammad and Allah and everything in between. And I often wonder if even the most spiritual or smartest or most talented or most at peace among us find all the answers before they take their last breath.
Billy Graham died today. Maybe he did. But for the rest of us …
I’ve been working through my own existence and age for a few years, now. Every year (for about the last 5 years) I’ve tried to do something that scares me or challenges my assumptions or stretches my boundaries. This has all been by design. I have to admit …I’ve been trying figure myself out. What am I? Why am I? How and why did I decide this was what I was supposed to be? I’m not sure I’ve really known for some time, now.
On Face Book I decided to use a baby picture as my profile picture this year. There are so many things about my life that are coming to a crescendo or coming to a close or opening to a new beginning. And I thought a baby picture was in order to remind me of a few things …
Since I was 19, I’ve started every new year (on January 1st) by opening a notebook or going to my grease board or logging in to a computer file, and doing and assessment of unfinished songs, ideas, titles, etc. It’s just a muscle memory thing most professionals do, and I find it a nice way to start the year. This year, I went to my grease board and realized that I had no back log of songs or even ideas. I had no melodies burning me up. No hooks I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into. No “thing” I wanted to sing. The grease board was finally …solid white.
I said to myself, “this either means It’s time to start all over …or it’s time to quit.”
Songwriting has been a difficult road for me the past few years. They always tell you to be your truest self in your work and that will lead to your greatest success. I have always found it to be just the opposite. The more I have veered into my own way of writing and communicating, the less interest I have seen commercially. All my hit songs (including the big one) were written with something commercial in mind. The “being my truest self” has always been a hard sell. I’m reaching the point of having to maybe admit that I need to be more of a hobbiest than a professional.
My friend Chance Scoggins had a great quote about chasing his dream. He said, “at some point I realized that I was chained to a dream a teenager had. Not a grown man.”
So I’ve been asking little baby boy me, who made all the decisions I am currently living with today, if it’s okay for me to move on and grow up, finally. He just gives me that cold stare. But I think I’m making some progress. I think I’ve seen him crack a smile once or twice.
I have some time left on my current publishing contract. And I owe my publisher ONE more song. So, tonight I’m going to write that song on Face Book live. This feels like the ultimate throwing back of the curtain. This thing I’ve kept so close and held so tightly as my “craft” I’m going to just share with everyone …stupid, first throwaway lines and all.
I don’t really know what people are going to do for a living not too long from now. Technology has overtaken so many of the things we used to have need of. It’s playing out in the arts in a major way. If you had wanted to ask Al Pacino to teach an acting class for beginners, right after he’d filmed the Godfather, you wouldn’t have gotten past his agent. But now he’s teaching one online …for $99 bucks. Why? Because people don’t go see him (or anyone) in the movies anymore. The only movies we go see in the theater anymore are comic book/special-effect slathered car/plane/spaceship-chase movies. For a great (aging) actor, you are either playing the aging villain in one of those movies or you’re deconstructing your own world in some Netflix documentary-style gonzo re-creation of something.
Everything is currently being demystified. We’ve seen Al act …now we want him to show US how to act, Al. Because we can do it too. We just know we can.
And so, those of us who once upon-a-time made a living by concealing some form of magic and holding it hostage for money, are now showing the audience where the trap doors are. Because that has become more interesting than the show. That’s fine by me. It just means that the trap doors are no longer valuable.
Those trap doors led to me living a book-worthy story, that led me to writing this blog every week. For those of you who are faithful readers, I want to let you know that some changes are coming. I spend so much time working on this expression. And I truly love doing it. I feel like it’s almost a calling of sorts.
I’ve avoided earning a penny from this for the past 12 years. I’ve always wanted to remain free to punch in any direction without worrying about where it lands, be it subscribers or advertisers. But I am at a point of decision as to how to proceed.
I have a few options: I can scale back my time and maybe blog once a month. I can open the site up for “tippers” and rely on direct support from the audience. Or I can go after advertising dollars. I’m leaning toward the latter, but it would require a few thousand more direct subscribers. I’m pretty sure we can reach that goal. But it might mean I have to go all Gary Vanderchuck on you and inundate you with stuff you don’t really want or care about. Either direction I choose will require me getting out of my comfort zone a little and changing a little bit of who I am naturally. For someone whop believes in authenticity above all …it’s a concerning proposition.
In the coming weeks and months if you see changes associated with this blog (or my life in general), bear with me. I’m trying to let that baby grow up and make some decisions as a grown man.
I’m hoping he can do it. He’s been so young for so long.
PS – Follow me on Face book tonight to watch “the last song” get written.