November 30, 2009

I need to write this.

I've been traveling alone in Japan for the better part of three weeks now, and it's been so remarkable an experience for me that I can't book a ticket home yet. I haven't spoken very much out loud these days, but I've been thinking to myself in what feels like surround sound. I can see so many things clearly, and feel so connected to myself and the world around me that I need to share the perspective with you.

I'm already aware that when I sing, say or write anything, fifty percent of the response will be in support of it and the other fifty will want to discount it. This blog, though, is directed to one hundred percent of people reading it. If my blog truly does have any cultural effect, then it should be used for more than just pictures of sneakers and funny YouTube videos. (If you don't think my blog has any effect, than you can't by definition be reading this right now and therefore don't have to respond to it in any way. Isn't that tidy?)

What I'm about to write isn't about fame or success or celebrity or the media. That's my business.

This is about us all.

This is about a level of self consciousness so high in my generation, that it's actually toxic.

This is about the girl in her bedroom who poses in front of the camera she's awkwardly holding in her outstretched hand. She'll take a hundred photos until coming up with one she's happy with, which inevitably looks nothing like her, and after she's done poring over images of herself, will post one on her MySpace page and then write something like, "I don't give a fuck what you think about me."

This is about the person trying out for American Idol, who while going off about how confident they are that they were born ready to sing in front of the world, are trembling so badly they can hardly breathe.

This is about me, the guy who walks through a throng of photographers into a restaurant like he's Paul Newman, but who leaves a "reject" pile of clothes in his closet so high that his cleaning lady can't figure out how one man can step into so many pairs of pants in a week.

This is about a young guy who maintains a celebrity blog that subsists on tearing other people down but who has wrestled with a lifelong battle for acceptance as a gay man.

This is about us all. Every one of us. Who all seem to know deep down that it's incredibly hard to be alive and interact with the world around us but will try and cover it up at any cost. For as badass and unaffected as we try to come off, we're all just one sentence away from being brought to the edge of tears, if only it was worded right. And I don't want to act immune to that anymore. I took the biggest detour from myself over the past year, since I decided that I wasn't going to care about what people thought about me. I got to the point where I had so much padding on that, sure, I couldn't feel the negativity, but that's because I couldn't feel much of anything. And I think I'm done with that.

I'm not the first person to admit we're all self conscious, Kanye was. But what I want to do is to shed a little light on why we're all in the same boat, no matter the shape of the life we lead: because every one of us were told since birth that we were special. We were spoken to by name through a television. We were promised we could be anything that we wanted to be, if only we believed it and then, faster than we saw coming, we were set loose into the world to shake hands with the millions of other people who were told the exact same thing.

And really? Really? It turns out we're just not all that special, when you break it down. Beautifully unspectacular, actually. And that truth is going to catch up with us whether we want to run from it or not. The paparazzo following me to the gym ain't gonna be Herb Ritts and the guy he's following ain't gonna be Bob Dylan. It's just a matter of how old you are once you embrace that fact. And for me, thirty sounds about right.

What now, then? I can only really say for myself: enjoy who I am, the talents and the liabilities. Stop acting careless. In fact, care more. Be vulnerable but stay away from where it hurts. Read. See more shows. Of any kind. Rock shows, art shows, boat shows. Create more art. Wear hoodies to dinner. Carry a notebook and hand it to people when they passionately recommend something and ask them to write it down for me.

Root for others.

Give more and expect the same in return, but over time.

Act nervous when I'm nervous, puzzled when I don't know what the hell to do, and smile when it all goes my way. And never in any other order than that.

And when it's all over, whether at the end of this fabulous career or of this life, which I hope takes place at the same time, I should look back and say that I had it good and I made the most of it while I was able. And so should you.

I'm going quiet now.
John Mayer

November 26, 2009

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice."
Meister Eckhart

November 25, 2009

"Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."
Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"

November 24, 2009

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
Henry David Thoreau

November 23, 2009

"Begin each day as if it were on purpose."
Mary Anne Radmacher

November 22, 2009

"You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality."
Florida Scott-Maxwell

November 21, 2009

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
Howard Thurman

November 19, 2009

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost, "The Road Not Taken"

November 18, 2009

"Whatever limits us we call fate."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

November 17, 2009

"May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face.
And may the wings of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars."
George Jung, "Blow"

November 16, 2009

Will Phillips isn't like other boys his age.

For one thing, he's smart. Scary smart. A student in the West Fork School District in Washington County, he skipped a grade this year, going directly from the third to the fifth. When his family goes for a drive, discussions are much more apt to be about Teddy Roosevelt and terraforming Mars than they are about Spongebob Squarepants and what's playing on Radio Disney.

It was during one of those drives that the discussion turned to the pledge of allegiance and what it means. Laura Phillips is Will's mother. "Yes, my son is 10," she said. "But he's probably more aware of the meaning of the pledge than a lot of adults. He's not just doing it rote recitation. We raised him to be aware of what's right, what's wrong, and what's fair."

Will's family has a number of gay friends. In recent years, Laura Phillips said, they've been trying to be a straight ally to the gay community, going to the pride parades and standing up for the rights of their gay and lesbian neighbors. They've been especially dismayed by the effort to take away the rights of homosexuals – the right to marry, and the right to adopt. Given that, Will immediately saw a problem with the pledge of allegiance.

"I've always tried to analyze things because I want to be lawyer," Will said. "I really don't feel that there's currently liberty and justice for all."

After asking his parents whether it was against the law not to stand for the pledge, Will decided to do something. On Monday, Oct. 5, when the other kids in his class stood up to recite the pledge of allegiance, he remained sitting down. The class had a substitute teacher that week, a retired educator from the district, who knew Will's mother and grandmother. Though the substitute tried to make him stand up, he respectfully refused. He did it again the next day, and the next day. Each day, the substitute got a little more cross with him. On Thursday, it finally came to a head. The teacher, Will said, told him that she knew his mother and grandmother, and they would want him to stand and say the pledge.

"She got a lot more angry and raised her voice and brought my mom and my grandma up," Will said. "I was fuming and was too furious to really pay attention to what she was saying. After a few minutes, I said, 'With all due respect, ma'am, you can go jump off a bridge.'"

Will was sent to the office, where he was given an assignment to look up information about the flag and what it represents. Meanwhile, the principal called his mother.

"She said we have to talk about Will, because he told a sub to jump off a bridge," Laura Phillips said. "My first response was: Why? He's not just going to say this because he doesn't want to do his math work."

Eventually, Phillips said, the principal told her that the altercation was over Will's refusal to stand for the pledge of allegiance, and admitted that it was Will's right not to stand. Given that, Laura Phillips asked the principal when they could expect an apology from the teacher. "She said, 'Well I don't think that's necessary at this point,'" Phillips said.

After Phillips put a post on the instant-blogging site twitter.com about the incident, several of her friends got angry and alerted the news media. Meanwhile, Will Phillips still refuses to stand during the pledge of allegiance. Though many of his friends at school have told him they support his decision, those who don't have been unkind, and louder.

"They [the kids who don't support him] are much more crazy, and out of control and vocal about it than supporters are."

Given that his protest is over the rights of gays and lesbians, the taunts have taken a predictable bent. "In the lunchroom and in the hallway, they've been making comments and doing pranks, and calling me gay," he said. "It's always the same people, walking up and calling me a gaywad."

Even so, Will said that he can't foresee anything in the near future that will make him stand for the pledge. To help him deal with the peer pressure, his parents have printed off posts in his support on blogs and websites. "We've told him that people here might not support you, but we've shown him there are people all over that support you," Phillips said. "It's really frustrating to him that people are being so immature."

At the end of our interview, I ask young Will a question that might be a civics test nightmare for your average 10-year-old. Will's answer, though, is good enough — simple enough, true enough — to give me a little rush of goose pimples. What does being an American mean?

"Freedom of speech," Will says, without even stopping to think. "The freedom to disagree. That's what I think pretty much being an American represents."

Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson smiles.
David Koon, "A boy and his flag: Why Will won't pledge"

November 15, 2009

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, “Desiderata”

November 13, 2009

"From our orbital vantage point, we observe an earth without borders, full of peace, beauty and magnificence, and we pray that humanity as a whole can imagine a borderless world as we see it, and strive to live as one in peace."
William C. McCool, Astronaut

November 12, 2009

You think you own whatever land you land on,
the Earth is just a dead thing you can claim.
But I know every rock and tree and creature,
has a life, has a spirit, has a name.

You think the only people who are people,
are the people who look and think like you.
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger,
you'll learn things you never knew you never knew.
Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, "Colors of the Wind"

November 11, 2009

"I won't regret 'cause you can grow flowers from where dirt used to be."
Kate Nash, "Merry Happy"

November 10, 2009

"I will listen to you, especially when we disagree."
Barack Obama

November 8, 2009

I'm laying in my London hotel room in one of my least favorite scenarios: the job is done today but the plane takes off tomorrow. The European tour was an absolute blast and I think I speak for the band and crew when I say that all sights are set firmly on the US tour and making it the best ever.

As a 30-year old with an eight-year mainstream professional music career, I couldn't be happier (and more thankful) to still have a gig. All I can think about when I'm on stage these days is how terrible it would feel to have learned how to make the most out of each and every show after the gig was up.

It's a funny time to be alive right now, in that I'm not quite sure we're celebrating like we should. I don't mean the "Hand me your keys, Dan!" celebrating. I mean the very innate act of celebration; human appreciation. Group reveling. A general sense of "This is my tribe and this is our fellowship." Like a concert.

I know I've written along these lines before, but do you know why it matters? Because someday you're going to be old, and things are going to change. Your body is going to turn on you. I already know where the L-5 and L-6 discs in my back are, because they're wearing down a little, and when I ask the doc how we lick this, he says "It is what it is. You're not 18 anymore." I have 3 gray hairs that I insist are "mutant clear hairs" but they're not. They're just gray. And right on time.

Chances are you won't get hit by that proverbial bus people always talk about when they're smoking a Lucky Strike and tipping back on their chair. Odds are also on your side (thank God) that you won't ever get the news from your doctor that you have only months left to live. But you know what he may very well tell you? That you need a new hip. Nobody ever says "live it up because someday you might need a new hip" but it's the truth. They don't say "Be good to one another because in time we'll all know a medical lab technician on a first name basis" but it happens every day.

My point is that whenever that someday comes, when I slide into the MRI scanner and the thing starts spinning up, spitting lasers and screaming into my ears, I may very well say to myself "I wish I had just one more of those summers."

Being a young man is kick-ass. Being a young man who knows that being a young man is kick-ass is what it's really all about. And as a musician, I'm finally learning to distinguish the notes that matter from the ones that don't. I'm also getting better at knowing those notes as a person, too. I'm excited to bring it all on stage, and even more excited to see you all out there.

Thank you for another one of those summers.
John Mayer

November 7, 2009

"True religion is real living; living with all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness."
Albert Einstein

November 6, 2009

"To dream anything that you want to dream. That's the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do. That is the strength of the human will. To trust yourself to test your limits. That is the courage to succeed."
Bernard Edmonds

November 5, 2009

"It is important that you learn early in life that failure is not the end. Indeed, if you have not yet failed, you probably have not yet risked enough."
John Sexton
Fordham University Commencement, May 2005

November 4, 2009

"We live in an era when the great world has grown small. What happens in distant places is known, and more importantly, experienced almost everywhere, by almost everybody, immediately and unavoidably. The central challenge of your collective lives will be developing ways to manage in this miniaturized world of immediacy a vast richness of race, of faith, of culture, of thought. If you are to avoid the kind of destructive balkanization that can threaten to shred the fabric of civility on a global scale, you will be forced to create pathways of comprehension and communication across traditional divisions."
John Sexton
New York University Commencement, May 2006

November 3, 2009

"We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same."
Anne Frank

November 2, 2009

"If you would be loved, love and be lovable."
Benjamin Franklin