David Brooks of The New York Times writes an interesting article about Sting revisiting his past in order to move forward in the present:
Most of us have an urge, maybe more as we age, to circle back to the past and touch the places and things of childhood.
Brooks notes that going back home, as painful as it often is, does three helpful things:
- Creates: “The events of childhood are like the Hebrew alphabet; the vowels are missing, and the older self has to make sense of them. Robert Frost’s famous poem about the two paths diverging in the woods isn’t only about the two paths. It also describes how older people go back in memory and impose narrative order on choices that didn’t seem so clear at the time.”
- Invents: “…a coherent tradition out of discrete moments and teasing out future implications. He has to see the world with two sets of eyes: the eyes of his own childhood self and the eyes of his current adult self.”
- Reorients: “Going back means recapturing the original aspirations. That’s one reason Jews go back to Exodus every year. It’s why Augustine went back during a moment of spiritual crisis and wrote a book about his original conversion.”
The effect of going home for Sting? “His creativity was reborn. Songs exploded from his head.”
Sting’s talk was a reminder to go forward with a backward glance, to go one layer down into self and then after self-confrontation, to leap forward out of self. History is filled with revivals, led by people who were reinvigorated for the future by a reckoning with the past.
Read Brooks’ illuminating article on Sting’s story here.
…as soon as I decided to honour the community I came from and tell their story, the songs started to come thick and fast. I’ve described it as a kind of projectile vomiting; a torrent of ideas, of characters and voices. Verses, couplets, entire songs almost formed whole materialized in front of me as if they’d been bottled up inside of me for many years.