the world needs you

Posted: December 20, 2010 in A Day in the Life

I’ve lived most of my life not really knowing who I am.  Let me state that a little more accurately.  I’ve lived most of my life not really knowing how to access that truest part of who I am.  Better.  I chose not to delete that first sentence because it communicates a truth and perspective that most of us would like to hide.  You see, I believe most people in the world live this way; not knowing how to live from their deepest, true selves.  But they make the mistake of seeing and saying it in a way that tells those in their world that they “haven’t yet found themselves”, or put in my favorite way:  “I’m almost 40 years old and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up”.  I freely admit that I’ve thought this way much of my life as well.  But it’s not really true.  Actually, it’s an outright lie – and not always an unintentional one.

In my heart I believe that many people actually do know who they are; that is, they’ve discovered who they are at some point in life, even if only in a momentary glimpse.  And it isn’t that we don’t know who we are, but rather that we simply are afraid to live as who we really are.  Terrified would be a better word.  But of what? 

For some of us, we’re terrified that we might actually succeed.  While that sounds strange, it makes a certain sense.  There’s a sort of “then what?” fear that can numb our creative senses.  Maybe some of us feel that we don’t deserve to live that way for reasons only counseling can begin to unveil.  Others may believe that it’s simply not possible to live out loud from that deepest place within ourselves, both financially and emotionally.  For others, our fear is one of failure.  If you live your entire life imagining it in your mind, you never fail – at least not in an imaginary sense.  Still for others, the fear has been learned over a lifetime.

As a boy, I would spend many evenings outside just staring into the northern sky.  In the distance were the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis.  And in the pitch black sky, stars of brightness and multitude which I have never since seen.  Even the star dust of the distant galaxies could not hide within this dark canopy which enveloped and protected me each night.  It was there that I first experienced something bigger than myself.  It was there that I first experienced a real and deep concept of God, of eternity, and of my place in it.  It was there that I felt my first longings to be drawn into something much greater.  And it was there that I realized in a deep and profound way that I saw life through a different lens.  For me, life was about words and song, music and rhythms.  It was there that I first conceived of a life where a boy who looked a lot like me could step boldly into the cosmos and communicate what he saw and heard through word and song.  It was there that I first realized who I was.

I spent a lifetime unlearning that experience.  In a family of gifted athletes, I felt out of place to put it lightly.  Understand, however, that my family  – all of us – were also musicians and singers.  My bride says we were “The Christian Partridge Family”.  Not an altogether inaccurate depiction.  Yet, from early childhood through high school, while the others were watching sports or playing sports, I would come home and sit at the piano, sometimes for hours.  I would skip class in high school to sneak into the auditorium just so I could hear the familiar hammered tones of the ugliest piano you’d ever laid eyes on; just to feel the smooth, cold ivory keys beneath my fingers; to reach in and pluck each string and hear its musical vibrations and the beautiful way they faded into utter, empty silence.  From an early age, I’ve breathed music.  And from an early age, I’ve felt very awkward about it.  I didn’t like what the other kids liked.  To this day, Thanksgiving day is still a bit awkward as cousins and extended family ask me about how the local football team is doing, or what I think of the most recent trade.  For years, I just played along, feigning as though I really were an avid fan, fumbling along with general remarks in complete, utter football ignorance.

Music as something I could do for a living never entered my radar until after an expensive four year degree in Chemical Engineering.  It seemed to me a “stable” direction for one to go in life; far more grounded and linear than the choice of music and the arts.  You never heard of anyone having a financially-rewarding career in music.  But an engineer?  Now that was a promising career path.  Yet whenever there was a free moment, you wouldn’t find me in the engineering library hammering out advanced differential equations.  Instead I was sitting at the perpetually-out-of-tune baby grand on the first floor of our dorm, hammering out my life’s concerto.

I think a lot of artist types are this way.  Change the names and the places, but it’s the same story.  You see, until recently we’ve always lived in a world where math, the sciences, and the humanities were valued far above the arts.  And while that still seems to be the case, we’re at an unprecedented moment in history where a generation of post-moderns are leading the charge for a life filled with purpose.  Artists, for their part, are the types who “have their heads in the clouds”.  And to a degree, that’s true.  But artists are also the types who are able to then come “back down to earth” and tell the world this rich narrative of what they’ve just seen.  This is, in fact, their very definition of purpose.  And there are many who can do this in a compelling way.  So compelling, in fact, that as a culture, we come to celebrate those great songs, that ground breaking art, that revolutionary film.

And that is the double-edged sword of the creative.  We are loved and our gifts are celebrated when we finally produce that written, musical, or visual work that inspires the world.  When we reach into the heavens and then communicate the eternal to a world in desperate need of inspiration, we are considered creative heroes.  But we can also be immediately cast as the frustrating, unreliable, head-in-the-clouds types during that vast, dusty wasteland of time and seemingly fruitless effort that often follows; those “empty” moments in between the more productive moments of creative brilliance.  And given that painful, confusing way to live, many of us opt out.  We get desk jobs and kill off that part of us that frustrates others, and even ourselves at times.  And in doing so, we cut off our very oxygen supply.  We may be stable, but we’re truly empty and hopeless and ashamed that we can’t just buck up and do what’s required of us.  We feel guilty for not simply being able to live “more sacrificial” lives.  I know.  I’ve done it for years.

But take a moment and chase that thought to its extreme.  Were we all to subdue our creative minds and numb our artistic sensibilities, what would our world look like?  Indeed, an empty monochroma, devoid of emotion and imagination and, may I suggest, hope.  No music to inspire, console, soothe.  No beauty in the landscape of our cities and the villages filled only with utilitarian structures.  Bland tastes and sights and smells.  One can conceive of the utter desolation of such a culture.  An ache deep within the soul that is never able to be quenched.  A longing for more, saddled with a certain desperate knowledge that no, Virginia, there really is nothing more.

The artist doesn’t just create good food or an art that is pleasing to the eye or ear.  While this part of the artist is critically important, it is my opinion that this is also the least of her offerings.  For there is a deep need that is placed in the heart of every woman and man; a need to know that there is more than our four walls.  A need to know that there is something grander to which we belong.  A need to know and be known.  And to know that every one of us is needed to make our own unique and important contribution to our world.  Good, honest art can do this; great art can connect the world to the divine, and in doing so fuel the hope and desire of a culture who longs to know that there really is more than just these four walls.

I’ve recently started a group called Front Burner Creative.  The drive of Front Burner is to set in motion “ideas that change things”.  I truly, deeply believe that ideas can change things.  Further, I believe that great ideas communicated through compelling art can change not only things, but the world.  Art has the power to do that, to thread its way delicately into our imaginations and help us to remember why we are alive, and what is most important in life.  Great art can even compel us to follow such inspired thoughts with inspired action.  This is why I started Front Burner.  I invite you to take a look at what we’re doing at Front Burner.  Follow us on twitter, check out our website and the projects we’ll be bringing to the culture in the coming weeks and months.

There is an artist in all of us.  We simply need to remember who we are.  For some, it is an art that we’ll  exercise occasionally, for that is what we’re called to.  For others, it is an art that we’ll rightly devote our every waking moment and, indeed, our lives to.  Our culture will only be what it is supposed to be when  you live in a way that is true to who you truly are.  That is your unique contribution, and no one else can fill it.  As an artist, I invite you to stay true to yourself and to stay close.  The world needs you.

If you’d like more information, please leave a comment or question.

You can follow us on twitter: @frntbrnr

I’ll also announce when the website is up and running,

In the mean time, you can email me at
Please stay tuned.  There is much, much more to come.  Ideas really can change things.


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