Ever since I was 15, I’ve identified myself primarily as a songwriter. It is what I do, and who I am.
And ever since I began performing, I’ve begun segmenting myself. There is the side of me that performs and travels, and does ridiculous things in random midwestern states. There is the side of me that is introspective, that writes about the things I see, and tries to see the world differently. And there is the side of me that is all logic and precision and theology and politics and economics all blended together.
And it’s always a difficult thing to decide how much of each one I should share with the world.
As a musician, I’m expected to do things. Play big concerts, tour around the world, meet famous people, and maybe even cause a few international incidents along the way. Since I’m also a musician who writes songs, I’m perhaps expected to see things a little differently. But I don’t really think there’s any true cultural precedent for a musician who thinks critically about things.
This makes sense. We don’t turn to Bill O’Reilly to find music that stirs our souls, and we don’t turn to Fergie to learn about international politics. By and large, we want our public figures segmented into careful categories.
But I don’t think I’m really able to segment myself like that anymore. For me, thinking bold and interesting new thoughts, analyzing the political and religious and cultural messages I hear, having new insights about the world, writing music, and performing for others, all came meshed together. There is some kind of organic symbiotic relationship between all these aspects of my life. And every time I’ve tried to carefully box each segment up, they begin bleeding together, overrunning their barriers, and meeting in a confusing mess on the floor.
My main resolution this year is to do nothing I’m not passionate about. I think that means taking down some of the walls I’ve built. I think it means letting things converge.
I believe in convergence. Progress in technology is almost always about the convergence of previously unrelated things; lately, many people’s phones have become their computers. Blending styles has always been the way music has progressed; despite radio’s failures, we are the heirs of a broad and rich spectrum of musical influences, stretching back through centuries. The convergence of different ethnicities helped to make America great, and the convergence of science, art, philosophy, and religion sparked what came to be known as the Renaissance.
Convergence isn’t just a way to kick off new creative movements. It’s also the reality of humankind. We live in a rapidly converging world, where the actions of tribal people in remote parts of the earth deeply impact the lives of urban citizens in first-world countries. In the past, many would disregard the needs of strangers, expecting never to see those people again. Now, it is increasingly likely that the people who are strangers today will encounter you again and again, as neighbors, coworkers, or people you meet online. For humanity, all of our individual paths are converging.
There is something deep about reality, I think, that works to take all of its far-flung pieces, and bring them back together. Even as we diverge and diversify, our worlds collide. Even as the universe spreads outward, it becomes more interconnected.
So I am going to try to stop fighting. I’m going to try to let go of my struggle against gravity, and let all the pieces of my life turn and plummet back together. And we’ll see what happens.