It’s been just over a week since I hit the road to play music up the East Coast. I recently quit my job and moved out of my house and into my car. Fortunately I haven’t had to sleep in it yet due to the kindness of friends along the way.
I’ve never toured before. I’ve also never written a blog before. Both are teaching me something about fear. The most obvious fears regarding touring are the unknowns: How will I make money? What if this doesn’t work out the way I want it to? What if I lose my phone? What if I lose myself?
Blogging has invoked a different kind of fear: the fear of sounding pretentious. We all know that person who speaks casually when recounting his day; but when the discussion becomes about art, history, spirituality, his voice becomes more eloquent, more articulate, more fake. It’s as though he is trying to make his words sound more important because he himself isn’t confident in them.
I don’t know why I have the fear of sounding pretentious. Maybe it’s because when studying for my BA in English Lit, these people seemed to be just as numerous as the gum under the desks. Most I assume were making up for the lack of affirmation in other aspects of their lives. That’s what pretense communicates. It yells, “I don’t think I’m worth much, but that won’t stop me from trying to convince you that I am.”
I’m so afraid of sounding pretentious that I almost made this whole blog about the fear of pretense. The motive in the back of my mind was to convince you that I am not a pretentious person (which would have been a pretentious thing to do).
Instead, I will share the type of reverie that inspires much of my songwriting—reveries that I usually don’t share for this very fear. These are thoughts, day dreams, that often prompt in me questions about life and spiritual things. I turn these thoughts into songs because that’s the best way I know to communicate them—the best way I know to ask them.
This is the type of thought in which I often lose myself in the company of others. Sometimes I appear disengaged. But rather, I’m looking for connections. Connections between earth and Heaven, between what is real and what I hope is real, between who I am and who I’m supposed to be.
I wrote this particular reflection after sitting around the bonfire with an old friend and several new-found friends with whom I stayed in Nashville this past week. We shared songs and laughter; yet I found a certain irony in the moment. Here it is:
Something interesting happens to a group of people when they are sitting around a bonfire, their faces with an orange glow, eyes mesmerized by flame; their spirits become lighter and carefree as though the dim light on their faces provides only enough to reveal the bit of themselves they feel comfortable exhibiting to others.
The flame is comforting; it’s just enough light to create the illusion that we aren’t imperfect and broken beings. The less favorable parts of us can hide in the shadows.
But it’s not just the shadows that make one feel comfortable; the fire’s beauty and warm atmosphere is one that allows us to see ourselves in a more beautiful light. I don’t think we hide in the darkness as much as we do appreciate how we look in the light. After all, man is vain. Everyone looks more attractive in the light of a fire. That’s why candles are so romantic.
Everyone seems a bit more confident around the fire, more poised, well-composed. That environment produces camaraderie with a spirit of self-assurance. It’s more likely for someone to casually pull out a guitar and sing around the campfire than they would in a bright, florescent-lit kitchen.
And so we pass the guitar around, ironically, and often unknowingly, singing of the brokenness that hides in the shadows.