As a self-employed person, my winters follow an explicit pattern: income and spending disappear, and I am forced to live more ascetically while awaiting the promise of spring. This hibernation is usually quite welcome, as it provides a desperately-needed quietus to work on my art, bond with my family, and prepare for the advent of a new year. When all goes according to plan, winter is calm and contemplative reset.

This winter did NOT go according to plan. Not at all.

For starters, my annual income had plummeted — and not for lack of trying. All year long, I was putting in more time and making more investments than usual, yet none were providing anything close to the rewards I reaped in years past. Most of us associate hard work and effort with reward, yet I found myself giving more and receiving less. The financial toll quickly became emotional, and I was overwhelmed with insecurity.

Winter reflections, art, and family be damned: I needed MONEY.

That thought seemed so normal, until I thought about its implications: to pursue money, even to make ends meet, is to value financial wealth and security above all else. Some might see that as noble — it’s not (at least, not necessarily). The Protestant work ethic serves well when you’re providing food and shelter for your community, but most of us don’t work for our neighbors. We work for whoever happens to have wealth, and as long as they give us a little, the greater purpose they serve rarely matters.

As an agnostic artist, I serve love above all else. That is my greater purpose.

Love is, essentially, the opposite of self-security. It is self-sacrifice, an endless bleeding openness to others. Man cannot serve God and profit, as a better interpretation of scripture states — yet most of us cannot envision a world without it. But love, not security, should be the vision of any artist, and the ultimate purpose of any religion. So, I decided it was time to stop thinking about pursuing it, and start doing it.

Instead of worrying about financial security, I decided to disregard it (thanks, Wife).

I took out a loan, backed by the equity of a home I am willing to lose (thanks, Dad).

I met with a producer I like, and discovered he was ready to roll (thanks, Mitch).

I called my favorite collaborators, and paid them whatever they asked (thanks, friends).

While the rest of the world was in the dark post-holiday doldrums, we began to shine a small light on love. While the album is still in post-production, I am eager to release it to the world this year as an inspiration to artists and individuals everywhere. I hope it shows you love, and even more, I hope it empowers you to serve it.

Soon, I’ll be departing for Kazakhstan (with Humming House) as an ambassador of American music. I’ll be performing, teaching, taking in culture, and showing love. When I return, I’ll begin the release process for the album. But in the meantime, here’s a little something to remember me by:

Now is the time to create the world we want to live in.

Believe in your voice. Pursue your art. Serve love.