Dear John Mayer,
I don't know you. I just listen to your music.
Sometime in high school, after hearing "Neon" for the first time and spending ten hours learning to play "Why Georgia", I officially added you to my life-long-listening list. This list includes people who - like John Butler, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Ray Vahn, Ray Lamontagne, and John Lee Hooker - I will forever fall back on for soul food. So yeah, thanks.
I'm not going to pretend I know anything about you, even though people seem to be in general agreement that, while you are a genius on the guitar, you are a womanizer and tragically self-centered. This may be true, and I must admit that I see more than a few character flaws in you. But again, I don't know you. And I also think we as a culture too often presume we can fully figure a person out and box them into neat categories through tabloid gossip, sound bytes, and a few interviews. I don't even fully understand myself, let alone someone figuring me out through a 3,000 word Rolling Stone cover story.
So I must be honest - this could be a total shot in the dark. I'm going off of little actual knowledge of you and lots of presuppositions. I'm presuming you are in fact pretty far from God and far from living a virtuous life. This letter is more an attempt to play out an infectious idea, one of your ideas in fact, confessed on stage in 2008 during your Live in L.A. concert. It is no small thing you may have stumbled upon and this idea, if played like a Stratocaster - with aggressive dedication and attitude - could be a conversion moment. That is your life might radically change if you really believe what you said and tried to live it out.
Here are your words, the ones that make me think there could be a giant of holiness sleeping within you, under the flaws and vices. It's your monologue at the end of "Bold as Love".
"Aight so check it out right. I've tried every approach to living, aight I've tried it all. I haven't tried every thing, but I've tried every approach. Sometimes you don't have to try every thing to get the approach the same, but. Ha.
I've tried it all I've bought a bunch of stuff and went "nuuuh I don't like that." I kinda came in and out of that a couple times. Thought I would shut my self off, I thought maybe that's cool maybe that's what you have to do to be a genius is you have to be mad. So, if you can get 'mad' before the word 'genius' then maybe you can make 'genius' appear, right? That doesn't work either.
And I'm, I'm in a good place I pace myself I'm in my thirty I've seen some cool stuff. Made a lot of stuff happen FOR MYSELF. I made a lot of stuff happen for myself, right? That's a really cool sentence when you're in your twenties. "I made it happen for myself."
But all that means is that I've just somehow or another found a way to synthesize love or synthesize soothing or... you can't get that and what I'm saying is that I've messed with all the approaches except for one. And its gonna sound really corny but that's just: love. That's just love.
I've done everything in my life that I wanna do except just give and feel love for my living. And I don't mean like a roman-candle firework Hollywood hot pink love I mean like I GOT YOUR BACK love. [Applause]
I don't need to hear I love you. You guys love me, I love you, we got that down. But some of the people who will tell you that they love you would be the same people that would be the last to just have your back. So I'm gonna experiment with this love thing: giving love, feeling love, I know it sounds really corny but its the last thing I got to check out, before I check out. Take me to the solo one more time. Thank you!"
You are right. John, you say a lot of really stupid things. But if you really believed what you are saying, you would become a Saint. You live honestly and openly without reservations - better to be hot or cold than lukewarm. You really have tried it all. And not just tried, you fully succeeded in the popularly conceived ways attributed to happiness in this age.
You achieved world-class fame, as is apparent just by Twitter followers alone; before you kicked the habit in 2010 you had over 3 million followers. You've become something of a sex symbol and have been romantically involved with Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and probably Taylor Swift and Katy Perry as well. You've won seven Grammys, your debut album "Room for Squares" sold more than 4 million copies before you turned 25, laid in bed on the cover of Rolling Stone, most of your albums have gone platinum, blah blah blah. You check your email. Heck, you owned a Ford GT at some point, putting you well into the top 1% of America.
This is everything your average American agnostic young adult male consumer would salivate over. And you seem to have come to understand that *surprise* it is about as fulfilling as agreeing to donate a dollar to a non-profit no one knows about when you renew your driver's license.
Desk Lady: "Would you like to donate $1 to The Help Someone Out Cause?"
That guy: "Why yes, I felt a fuzzy impulse to be a little ambiguously altruistic just now. Charge it!"
What you are saying, at the end of this electric guitar punch to the face that would make Hendrix proud, is right. You are right, all the approaches to living you've tried can't fulfill you because all the approaches you've tried hinge on non-renewable resources. Everything is finite. And I think if you are honest with yourself, you can feel within you a deep sense of longing for the infinite.
"When you're dreaming with a broken heart, the waking up is the hardest part." But the first few steps up the mountain are the steepest of the journey. After the initial break with the false plan for happiness that consumerism and pop culture paints you as a kid, the rest is just finding true North and walking. The map of life we've been given, turns out, was leading us to the wrong treasure. It leads to self-gratification, a titillating treasure that slips through your fingers like sand. You are on the right track by realizing that self-gratification as an approach to life is - just like masturbation - empty and fruitless.
John, "from the greatness and beauty of things comes a corresponding perception of their creator." (Wisdom 13:5) You are attracted to love because you are created to love. The things you are attracted to: fame, money, success, approval, love, women, watches, purses (well, forget I mentioned the purses) have within them a quality that is larger than life. They are owners of goodness, not goodness itself. They in fact participate in love, but are not love.
"Love is a verb" is false. Loving is a verb. Love is a proper noun; a person with a face and a name: Jesus of Nazareth. God became a man like you. He lived in the first century and died in the first century for you and has been relentlessly pursuing your soul, fighting for an eternity spent loving you and screaming at the top of his lungs through the beauty, truth, and goodness you see around you just for you to believe Him for one second. And maybe, just maybe, there is a chance you would love Him back.
The odd part about trying to be the greatest lover is that in your search for love, John, love might find you. And if you really did honestly attempt to give and give and give of yourself in love, Love Himself might find you. And He would teach you the type of " I got your back" love that doesn't listen when you scream "I hate you, we are through." The type that doesn't even waver when stabbed in the back, let alone through the hands and feet and to a cross. The type of love that reaches out past those who would love you back and gives and gives and gives like a mad man who fell in love with the whole world running around loving with a fire in his eyes and an urgent burning in his heart.
If that Love found you, you would suddenly become very similar to some of the greatest lovers in the world. You would become like the Saints; you would become like Jesus. And the part of your soul that burns with a desire to give limitlessly would for once feel hope in the cause. And you would start to understand this:
Try Jesus' approach to living and loving. It just might be the last thing you check out, before you check out.
From a guy trying to live as bold as the God named Love, Edmund