Open Letter to Musicians
I think musicians are some of the most influential people in the world. Every day, billions of people are being motivated and inspired through their favorite artists. An artist doesn’t have to have a million different fans to make a profound difference in other people’s lives, but only a handful of committed and devoted followers. Some of my favorite bands have fewer than 2,000 likes on Facebook, and some truly powerful artists I’ve encountered are all but unknown.
Artists are powerful because of their inherent grasp of emotion and of feeling. Musicians wouldn’t make music unless it made them feel something; music is what feeling sounds like. Untold movements have been propelled through feeling, and not all of them good. I’m mentioning this because, whether an artist realizes it or not, their work has profound impacts through their mastery of emotion. I want artists to reconsider what they are filling their music with and how it affects people’s lives. I want musicians to consider whether the content of their music is creating a world of peace, or if it is influencing war.
I don’t regard world peace as something that is outside of our hands. The concept of world peace has been distorted and mystified so that we would believe only governments can have any say in it. This is patently false, because peace is not built by governments from the top down, rather, it is built by families and communities from the ground up. Peace is built through interpersonal relationships, not intergovernmental relationships.
Until we can figure out how to relate peaceably with one another, especially in the context of romantic relationships, we will not know peace. Until we can figure out how to plan for meaningful and lasting relationships that foster a healing environment for ourselves and for our children, we will perpetuate the cycle of brokenness. This cycle is a cycle of war because it opposes peace. The greatest and largest war is not in the middle east nor does it have any media coverage, and for this reason, most do not recognize it to exist.
The Law of Attraction, Your Music and Your Audience
The law of attraction is an important concept that most overlook in their personal lives. This law states that like attracts like. It is a universal law that affects our perceptions and actions just like the law of gravity, or any other law, whether we recognize it to exist or not. Because of this law, our thoughts build our reality. Our thoughts have measurable energy that, over enough time, accumulate and are made manifest. When we have ugly thoughts, we live ugly lives. When we have beautiful thoughts, we lead beautiful lives.
The law of attraction is the driving force behind many common adages: Be careful what you wish for. Choose your company wisely. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. All of these and more are built on the idea that like attracts like. We become what we surround ourselves with, without a doubt. The most important thing that we surround ourselves with is our own thoughts, because our thoughts are the first step in building our reality.
Our thoughts are easily influenced by information around us because of the law of attraction. If we immerse ourselves in a certain type of information, our thoughts will be changed, and thus, our reality. It is a gradual process and it doesn’t happen overnight, so, in a world of instant everything, this process is scarcely recognized. Because of this, people surround themselves with what makes them feel good in the moment, and what they can connect with instantly. Because of this, music has become one of the greatest instruments of war.
Think of it like this: Is your music making an emotional appeal to lasting success in relationships and peace within them? Or, is your music glorifying the thoughts and habits that lead to insecurity, unfulfillment, broken relationships, and kids who don’t know what it is like to have a loving mother and father?
Think carefully on this, because your messages are powerful; you are a musician. You have devoted fans that make intimate connections through the emotional art of your craft. Do you want your fans to be immersed with thoughts and ideas that they can build lasting relationships, happiness and a lifetime fulfillment with? Or, do you want the people who support your career to fail in relationships, to know want, misery, desolation, loneliness and brokenness? What about their kids and their families? This surely isn’t to say that you are ultimately responsible for their lives, because that is false; you are only responsible for you. That said, what kind of you do you want to be? What kind of friend do you want to be? What kind of impact do you want to have on the world through your music?
If you recognize that our world is ultimately made up of thoughts and beliefs, you have to seriously consider what thoughts and beliefs are driving your life, and what thoughts and beliefs you are sharing with the world. This view is empowering because it means that you are totally in control of your life, and that your thoughts and actions are critical to the whole world. At the same time, it can be a kick in the ass. Changing your thoughts is like reversing the direction of a train because there is considerable momentum. Your whole world is built of them, so they carry weight.
I have some samples of music from various prolific artists in the community and I want you to break down their meaning and significance with me. I want you to assign these bits of information into 2 categories: Peace and War. The category of Peace will be comprised of information that empowers an individual to live a significant life filled with lasting and successful relationships. The War category will be comprised of bits of information that would ultimately lead a person to believe that their power and fulfillment lies outside of them, whether that be in another person or whatever. Everything that we do is backed by the law of attraction, so the former category will have information that would build lasting success and happiness, while the latter category would have thoughts that lead to brokenness.
*Note* There are two types of relationships two types of relationships. 1- Commitments to people. And 2- Commitments to feelings. Commitments to feeling lead people in and out of relationships as the feelings go, leaving broken families and divorces in the wake. Commitments to people, however, start off with an individual’s commitment to their own happiness and fulfillment. Because they are fulfilled, they can view and appreciate a person for what they do, how they think and what makes them unique, rather than simply for the feelings that a person can extract from them. Decide whether these songs sing of commitments to feelings or commitments to people.
Noah and the Whale
Well if you can, you should try and learn to forgive yourself, night and day, the world will try to make you something else, but you’re not alone on the earth tonight, no you’re not alone in the blinking lights. Victory, will be one and lost a thousand times, so if you can, offer empathy don’t get lost in pride, oh forgive your friends, they are only young, oh forgive your friends like you’ve always done.
I think I lost my mind that weekend, I think I lost my mind, thanks to you. Take you by surprise all weekend, take you by surprise, it’s hard to do. Oh honey I know we could have lit the room on fire. Burn that damn house down with both of us inside… Oh honey you burned me good, cooked me from the inside out. I know I should have tried to take you to bed that night.
*I should have tried to take you to bed that night so I could learn more about the real you, the uniqueness and the values that would provide the foundation for a lifetime of limitless joy and exploration together? Or- I should have tried to take you to bed that night so I could use you as a common drug and then abandon you as soon as the feeling fades away.
Baby I want you, baby I want you, baby I do. Darling I love you, Darling I love you, you know that it’s true. Don’t leave me here out on my own, don’t you know I hate to be alone, I just want to be a part of your whole. Baby I want you, baby I want you, baby I do.
* For this song, I have to add something… How pathetic!! “Don’t you know how I hate to be alone..” This man is admitting that he cannot be happy and fulfilled in his own time, so how could he possibly bring anything of value to a relationship? The law of attraction says that this man will attract an equally unfulfilled woman who is seeking the pleasure of another’s company, and they will both be doomed to failure because they aren’t generating success, but taking pleasure bit by bit. Paragon of terminal relationships.
You and your museum of lovers, a precious collection you’ve housed in your covers, my simpleness threatened by my own admission…But I still love to wash in your old bathwater love to think that you couldn’t love another I can’t help it, you’re my kind of man…I know I’m diving into my own destruction.
Now the world can be an unfair place at times, but your lows will have their complement of highs…You must stick up for yourself son, never mind what anybody else done. Stick up for yourself son, never mind what anybody else done.
*I can’t tell you how many times this song helped me through really rough patches of my life. Thank you Yeasayer.
I believe that my heart skips a beat every time I’m thinking that you wanna leave me, when I’m thinking that it’s over for us I’m falling again, falling again.
Instant Karma’s gonna get you, gonna knock you off your feet. Better recognize your brothers- everyone you meet. Why in the world are we here? Surely not to live in pain in fear. Why on earth are you there, when you’re everywhere, gonna get your share.
Harry George Johns
You’ve been fucked all evening and your love has no feeling and I made the mistake that you cared. I’m not saying goodbye, I’m not saying it’s forever now, I’m just paying the price for falling harder than I shoulda done. I’m gonna drink myself to sleep.
Stay true to the one, who loves you. Stay true to the one… Oh oh ohhh. Oh God please, tell me, I need to know, what it means to love like you. Oh Hosanna, won’t you come won’t you come my way.
My brother where do you intend to go tonight, I’ve heard that you’ve missed a connecting flight to the Blue Ridge Mountains, over near Tennessee, you’re ever welcome with me anytime you like, let’s drive to the countryside leave behind some green-eyed look alike, so none gets worried no more. But Sean, don’t get careless, I love you, I love you oh brother of mine.
The only very mainstream song on here is by No Doubt because mostly every song that you hear on the radio is about: 1. Wanting to have sex with somebody, regardless of what they have to offer in a relationship. 2. How bad someone got hurt by someone else and how it’s all the other person’s fault. 3. How bad someone wants another person back because they are so alone and miserable…On and on it goes with the disempowerment, the ephemeral pleasure, and the brokenness.
Your Real Contributions as an Artist
If broken families who don’t have security and lasting fulfillment are the biggest part of war, how is your music either contributing to it or creating peace?
Ultimately, peace and war are within us. You won’t be able to change your content unless you decide to change the way you live your life. If the world were more peaceful, I wouldn’t be calling on men and women to change the way they think and live. But, as it stands, we are embroiled in divorce, depression, disempowerment, repression, insecurity, isolation, brokenness and fear. If what you are singing about glorifies the lifestyle that leads to unfulfilled relationships, divorce, loneliness, and momentary pleasure at the expense of a lifetime of happiness, you are supporting war.
For humans, happiness is something that we have to plan for. Planning is such a fundamental part of our existence as humans because we have such massive brain power. We don’t have the massive brain power just for show; we have it because we need it to love. Planning is unique to us and separates us from most other animals, and for this reason, we can’t just do it like animals. Other animals don’t have the extensive brain capacity, so obviously they have no need for planning in the structures of their families and communities. This is where the confusion of “naturally” and “thoughtlessly” stems from- just because it requires thought doesn’t mean that it isn’t natural.
The human society is extraordinarily complex as opposed to the very simple nature of most other animal’s social structures. Our culture is so profoundly rich and beautiful, and it is a privilege which requires the art of planning to maintain. Our relationships are profoundly rich and complex, and so they are a privilege which requires planning and thought. Our families are profoundly rich and complex, and so the privilege of family requires us to plan and actively think to form and maintain them.
If we don’t plan for our lives, we lose ourselves and we lose the privilege of being happy and natural just like all of the other creatures. Does a person plan to be poor? Does a person plan to be homeless? Does a person plan to divorce and experience the heartache and misery of a bad relationship? Does a person plan to raise their children so that the children think that brokenness, pain, heartache, loneliness, and divorce are all normal? The answer is simply and irrefutably no. No one would want to plan to experience lives that they wouldn’t want to live.
So why don’t more people plan, if the alternative is so obviously bad? Simply enough, we are culture creatures. Whatever the prevailing thought train is, we have a proclivity to embrace it because society is so fundamentally important to our existence. Think about it: What would life be like if we didn’t have a natural desire for camaraderie and strong social ties? This biological drive is the reason why all of our contributions to the broken world can be so easily forgiven. It is the easiest thing in the world to jump off the cliff when we see everyone else doing it because human connection is what makes this life worth living.
As a musician and as persons with such a profound influence on the minds of your listeners, I enjoin you to call people back from the cliff. I call you to fill your songs with information that will inspire people to live lives of lasting fulfillment and happiness. I beg you to fill your songs with beliefs that will help people to live freely and to express their truth. Please fill your music with uplifting, wholesome thoughts that portray the genuine beauty of men, women, and the sheer joy that comes when we actually plan to make the love that we desire.
Noah and the Whale has it right on when they speak of forgiveness, acceptance, self belief, faith, hope and love. They make it sound so good, and they inspire others to reflect on their thoughts and the qualities that make life worth living.
The artists that I listed in the war category are individuals whom I have tremendous respect for their talent and craft. The music is sophisticated, the melodies are dreamy and the feelings are strong. I want to reiterate that I have nothing but respect for these artists and their music. That said, I cannot abide filling my head with information that would produce a life that I wouldn’t plan for. I cannot for a moment listen to words that speak of fulfillment and power lying outside of one’s self, because that is where want comes from. That is where loneliness comes from. That is where war comes from.
Think of it like this: If you have no want, then you have no war. If life is what we make it, we need to take the responsibility for making love ourselves, of finding fulfillment and happiness within ourselves, and of finding meaning inside of ourselves. If life is what we make it, we ought to make it peaceful by the way we plan, and that starts with the thoughts that we entertain. Much the same way you wouldn’t hang around a friend who has no interest in your happiness, neither should you surround yourself with information that speaks of brokenness.
In order to make peace, not war, we must have no want, which is just to have. If we desire to experience something, we can’t just want it; we have to be it. That may sound strange, but when you consider that our thoughts are what reality is made of, then being is absolutely a choice that we have in every moment that we are capable of thought. If we want a beautiful reality, we have to think those beautiful, loving and lasting thoughts.
If we want to maintain those thoughts, we cannot willfully subject ourselves to information that would oppose our end goals, but moreover we must add to our beautiful thoughts with the information we selectively choose. For this reason, I have effectively weeded out the bulk of my music collection within the past few years and replaced it with classical music. The message in classical music is of infinite creativity, expression, appreciation for beauty, and so on.
Though I respect and appreciate classical music, I miss my bands and I hate not being able to listen to the friggin awesome music that so many artists are putting out. I miss the singer/songwriter, I miss the three piece bands, and I miss the sensations that can only come through the music of one’s generation. I find solace in amazing bands like Noah and the Whale, Sufjan Stevens, Good field, Andrew Bird, Busman’s Holiday, D.D Dumbo and more.
A Well Examined Life- How Your Music Creates the World Around Us
We must add to the beauty that we selectively choose. This is the reason that Socrates said that a well examined life is the only life worth living. If you don’t examine and filter the information that surrounds you, you will be owned by the negative thoughts that you would never plan for. Examine your thoughts. Examine your music. Examine the life that provides the material for your music. Are you being led off of the cliff, or are you helping to lead others to the abundance that life has already given us?
If all success is gained by helping others to gain success, could you call yourself successful? Even if you made millions of dollars, if you aren’t helping others to achieve their own success and fulfillment, you aren’t providing anything of actual value. Just because others prize a thing and will pay you for it doesn’t mean it has actual value, it only means that they have been conned into supporting something that contradicts their own lasting success. At the most basic level, will singing about one night stands, about how your happiness lies in another person, and about limiting behaviors and thoughts help any person in any way?
The songs may sound pleasant because they evoke feeling, but what happens when the pleasant experience of the song fades away? Will your audience be left with a message that will help them to attract lasting fulfillment and satisfaction, or will they be left with messages of want, of desolation and of heartache that lead them to seek fulfillment outside of themselves? Think about it, because you are important. Think about it because your words are actively shaping this culture and the people within.
What do you want our culture to be characterized by? I’d think that respect, decency, courage, valor, honesty, humility, happy families, intelligence, commitment, kindness, encouragement, creativity, beauty, boldness, lasting love, forgiveness, responsibility, gratitude, empathy, generosity, admiration and brilliance would be qualities that no one would argue against, and that many would argue for. If you want our culture to be characterize by these amazing traits, you have to personally bring them forth through your work. You can’t say that you desire peace and then wage war through your words and actions.
What You Call Love Could Well Be War- The Truth of Our Actions
Hypocrisy is a trait that has been reviled since time immemorial, yet we have become nothing more than a nation of hypocrites because it is convenient; because everyone else is doing it, and because it is comfortable to continue doing so. Is there anything honest or courageous about telling a person that you give your entire self to them with your body, and then abandon them with your words and deeds? No, honesty and courage have little involvement in such impropriety. Honesty is truthfulness, and courage is a person’s commitment to truth.
With humans, the act of sex says that you want to share life with someone; that you want to create life with them. If you have no desire of creating a life with someone but moreover would be terrified of the thought, the act of sex would render you a coward; someone who is neither honest nor courageous. An honest and courageous man or woman would be proud to have the truth of their love for each other bring another life into this world, because life is awesome and creation is what we are here for. Are you seeing where this is heading? Yep- Planning.
Our children are amazingly complex and beautiful beings who take up to a quarter of a century to mature. In that time, they need the instruction of two loving parents so that they can have the advantage of knowing what love is, rather than searching blindly for years on end. As one who had toiled for years searching for love outside of myself, I can tell you that it is impossibly painful. Our nature is love, so to raise a child outside of his or her nature is cruel, albeit not unusual in this day.
Unlike the other animals, we can’t make love unless we plan for it. Love would never say to a child- “You’re not worth sticking around for. Oh, and by the way, you don’t deserve a mom and dad that love each other with all their hearts. Nah, you don’t have security and faith in love.” Nope, that isn’t the language of love, but that is precisely what we say when we have sex without actually committing to a person and to the future.
Broken families with children who don’t believe in love are the greatest contributors and causes of war. Broken families and broken children are direct results of moms and dads who did not plan for each other and who did not plan for their children. They are the result of men and women who chose pleasure over love. Men and women wouldn’t choose pleasure at the expense of their futures if they were taught to plan for love, and if they found fulfillment and satisfaction in preparing for a lifetime of commitment with another person. That life of planning and fulfillment is called chastity, which is another word for mastery of sexual desire. Distinct from words like abstinence and celibacy, chastity is about what you do, not what you don’t. Imagine walking into a party and having to describe your life by what you don’t do. Nobody would listen to you, and somebody might actually die of boredom.
Chastity says, “You are beautiful. Because I admire your beauty, I am inspired to bring out the best within myself in all of the creative things that I do. Through your inspiration and my decision to act respectfully and intelligently, I will have more knowledge of myself and more value to bring into a relationship. This way, I have a complete man to offer a complete woman in a lifetime of learning, respect, admiration and creation.”
Chastity acknowledges sexual desire as fundamental to our existence and channels that desire creatively and respectfully for a full discovery of self and for a complete offering within a marriage. Since the highest order of creation as a man or woman is bringing a new life into the world, sex is the culmination of our sexual desire. Sex is not repressed, like in abstinence, but is celebrated in the context of marriage, where the fruits of such creativity are prepared for, embraced and loved to no end. In preparing for the culmination of sexual desire, a chaste man or woman practices mastery every day by expressing the full range of their creativity through their desire. This mastery leads to fulfillment in self, exploration, purpose, value, and a whole person who is not content for a moment’s pleasure but only a lifetime of happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction. For one who recognizes that their birthright is lasting happiness, chastity is the adventure of a lifetime.
Chastity is having a vision of something better and living it out joyfully and adventurously on a daily basis. A chaste person isn’t remotely concerned about what they aren’t doing because they are too busy exploring the infinite possibilities of their creativity in love. Love is healing, abundant and creative, whereas falseness begets brokenness, separation and emptiness. A chaste man who sees a beautiful woman sees his wife and children, and is in complete awe of the gift that she truly is to the world of peace. A chaste man will offer a prayer for that inspiring woman and her husband, because he knows that everyone deserves a lifetime of happiness and satisfaction. A chaste man or woman would never settle for the fleeting and whimpering highs that pleasure for pleasure’s sake has to offer, because, they are intelligent enough to know that we deserve and are capable of so much more than occasional peaks of pleasure in a valley of brokenness.
Outside of chastity, husbands wives and children are not prepared for. Because they are not prepared for and are human, they are not loved properly (remember our big brains?). Because they are not loved properly, they will always look to fill the void of love outside of themselves. Enter: cheating, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, separation, divorce, and children who grow up without stability and without faith in love. This is a crime because we all deserve so much better, and all we have to do is plan for it!
If you speak of sex or making love with someone outside of the context of total commitment and faith (marriage), you are really talking about war. If you are filling your music with such information, you aren’t helping your audience to succeed but are helping them to attract a life that they would never plan for. Would you plan for a broken heart, a broken marriage and insecure children? If not, stop writing music that would attract such a reality and write something better.
Do The World a Favor and…
Write something useful that would inspire men and women to bring out their best selves. Fill your music with information that would help a man or woman to attract the lasting commitment and fulfillment that we all desire and deserve. Fill your music with information that glorifies the beauty of men and women, and hails our adventures together in the creation of a free world.
Your music is a strong part of the fabric of our culture- make your strand one of lasting love, of empowerment to fulfill one’s own self, and of commitment to creating peace on this earth. You are powerful and your influence is vast, so please use your power to help others achieve the success they desire inside and outside of relationships. If you can’t do that, then please make a special track for me without the words.
Author, mentor, future amazing husband and father, and lover of music.