What is the truth?
About four years ago I did research on the Titanic for a project I was working on. I read court testimonies and personal accounts all trying to figure out what exactly happened on that ship. What I discovered was an unfortunate realization: left in hands of humans, truth can be a very relative thing. For example, some survivors swear they heard "Nearer My God to Thee" played while the ship was going down, but studies from recent hymnologists reveal that the melody differs on both sides of the Atlantic. How could both Americans and the British/Irish recall a similar tune being played? Here's another example: some say Bruce Ismay helped tirelessly to load people on lifeboats and only when there were no women or children left did he board one himself; others say he jumped on as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
Long story short, there are several examples like this - despite it only being a hundred years old at the time - and reading them made me question the credibility of my own beliefs that had been handed down to me. What does this say about history in general? What does this say about my own religion? What does this say about my own personal history? Those questions, I'm afraid, are slippery slopes, causing one to lose their faith. And that's exactly what happened in my case.
What is the truth? I'm afraid there are no easy answers. What is the truth for me, personally? Let me try to answer that while I can still remember it, though some things have blurred my vision and recollection. The truth is I was unsatisfied. I was in a career that was a dead end. I was making music that hardly anyone bought or listened to. Friends were constantly coming and going. There's more but, suffice it to say, I wanted more. I wanted more out of my marriage, more out relationships, more out of my career, more out of my music, more out of my religion, more, more, more...more out of life.
And so, desperation.
I met someone and tied my emotions into her. Inevitably I fell in love with her. It wasn't planned, but these things don't happen in a vacuum. I called a good friend about what was happening and he advised that I tell my wife and go in to counseling. And so I did. And so we did. I had an emotional affair and it completely broke me, morally, personally, religiously. The next several years were spent dealing with those emotions. Counseling helped me uncover what led to that breakdown and most of those revelations are written into this album. Originally subtitled "i'm a fool to believe," this album was not only about desperation but also about the foolishness in believing that one person could rescue me from all my discontentments and dissatisfactions with life. It's not an uncommon tale, but it hurts like you're the only one to ever have experienced it.
Yes, to fall in love again, to lose yourself in a rush of dopamine...that kind of romantic bliss that takes you out of your problems - it sure is a good feeling, but reality is waiting for you around the corner. And what is reality? The law of gravity: what goes up must come down.
And then, out of nowhere (what I wasn't expecting at all), panic attacks and an existential crisis. For about three or four months, I was utterly terrified of nearly everything around me (though, thankfully, still able to function most days). It was a situation so bizarre that I still don't have words for it, but I'm now twenty or thirty self-help books and hundreds of dollars of therapy wiser, all of which has led me to peace inside and out and to feel confident in saying words that are repeated several times throughout this album: I don't know.
I suppose peace comes from understanding that no one thing can save your life, and choosing peace in spite of it. Eventually you have to stand at the edge and look deep into your own despair, having faith that you'll come out on the other side better than you were before. This is why we busy ourselves, why we binge eat and binge watch: we're looking for anything to distract us from our problems, our individual traumas, and from what we hope the world isn't (nihilism, and all that jazz). Unfortunately what the world is is uncertain. The quest for certainty breeds hatred, fear, wars, anger, desperation, and, yes, even affairs. What would happen if we could embrace the truth, if we could accept that we'll never know whether the world is truly meaningless or meaningful but to hold both possibilities in balance while we lean towards what we value in life? Then I believe we'd be closer to real love, real compassion, and real life.
I still want to be famous and have millions of people listen to and appreciate my music, I still want friends to call on me and recognize how good I am, I still want my parents to tell me how proud they are of me, I still want a job that will fulfill me, I still want a marriage that will meet my every want and need, I still want to talk to my exes, and I still have feelings for another woman that I suspect won't go away for a long time. This is life. This is the complexity of human relationships and human desire. It's human to want and to want causes suffering. I'm naturally an optimistic person so I accept it and choose to rise above it.
Do not give in to despair. Recognize that truth is paradoxical, love is complicated, and that everything changes. There are many things we will never know for sure, things we can never be certain about, and then we die. Embrace it, celebrate it, learn to say "yes" to life - learn to believe. That is what we call faith.
Search for the peace that surpasses all understanding. Grow every single day. Think hard, deep, and long, and then find spaces where you let go and move beyond all thinking. Strive to be better each and every day. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Write a long, preachy preface to an album that people probably won't listen to and then forget all about the ways in which you wish it could be better. Create and learn how to not take yourself so seriously. Share your deepest fears, longings, wishes, hopes, and dreams despite the fact that people will find ways to use them against you. Yes, be honest and share your truths, both the good and the bad, and then let them go. All of life is letting go right up to the end when we let go of life itself.
Yes, that's what I wanted to say all along...
May we do so gracefully.
For now, here's my ninth studio effort: Quiet Desperation.
Peace be with you. I love you more than you know.