No, I’m not feuding with my record label. It’s not an identity crisis. The name on my passport will stay the same. All I’m doing is ditching the capital letters. Instead of “Jeremy Messersmith” it’ll be “jeremy messersmith.” That’s it. Two fewer reasons to use the shift key. I’ll be referring to myself in lowercase and while I don’t expect everyone who writes my name to do the same I figure it can’t hurt to make a polite request. Now let’s get to the why.
Well, I’m an artist. And from what I understand artists are allowed to do some crazy shit every once in a while; it’s kinda their job. I’ve hesitated to use the “a-word” to describe myself but I think that stems from insecurity. I feel safe in the cozy little box I’ve labeled “mild-mannered singer-songwriter.” This year, I want to break that box into pieces. I don’t want self-imposed boundaries or artificial limits. I want the full range of self-examination and expression in whatever medium suits it. I’m an artist and I’m not going back.
I think my name stands out too much when it’s capitalized. It projects a linguistic self-centric view of the universe that elevates and sets me apart from the rest of nature. It screams out that “Jeremy Messersmith” is somehow more important or worthy of distinction than grass, or gravel, or the cosmos itself. I’m made of the same starstuff as everything else in the universe. The atoms that make up my body are only borrowed. My sense of self is likely an illusion; evolutionary systems and microbes all shouting and competing with the winner becoming my inner voice. I’m more of a composite being than I am individual. I’d like my written name to more accurately reflect, well, myself.
I also like the idea of poking at a social convention. In this case, it’s a rule of grammar being violated. I like being reminded that outside of the laws of science (which we merely discover, not invent) any part of human culture can be changed. Eating habits can be modified, theologies uprooted and governments destroyed. Culture is simply an accumulation of ideas we humans carry around in our heads. Those ideas should be examined and modified as we grow.
This isn’t my idea. e. e. cummings is well known. So is will.i.am. The spark for me though, was reading “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander. In the acknowledgments she thanks “john powell, director of the Kiran Institute for the Study of Race.” I read that sentence several times. The slow realization that the capitalization was a deliberate choice by an academic and not a typo delighted and intrigued me. It made me feel like anything is possible. Like there were no limits nor should there ever be. Thanks for that, john.
Happy 2017 everybody,