My part in the orchestra, the song of who I am

Johnny R. O'Neill
3 min readJan 6, 2022


The song of a tree (2021) by author

Sometimes it’s helpful to sing it out. Forget the whys and wherefores, just belt it out. This is what I believe.

Here goes…

I believe there is no true border between ‘me,’ and ‘not me.’ To look out upon our world is to look in upon ourselves.

I believe we do, and must, draw a conceptual border around ourselves. But just as the frame around a painting does not remove it from its surroundings, so the border we draw around ourselves does not remove us from our world.

This border we draw in the sand of our world is ours to draw as we wish. It is a border around thoughts, dreams, ideals, beliefs. Around people and places and things. My town. My child. My car.

We draw a border and call everything inside, to a greater or lesser extent, who we are. We define ourselves as that part of the wider world closest to us in heart, mind, and body. And while it may seem that others draw our border for us, because we don’t ‘choose’ where we’re born, or to whom, or any number of other ‘imposed’ givens of our life, all those things are yet who we are.

A border collie is not a border collie because ‘it’ chose to be a border collie. A border collie is a border collie because it is a border collie.

We are who we are.

I believe life has meaning.

I believe our meaning is embodied in the boundary we have drawn for ourselves. Find your border, find your meaning. Find your meaning, find your role. Find your role, find yourself. And having found yourself, truthfully and honestly, you can then — if you so choose — meaningfully change yourself. Freely and knowingly, you can change your border, change your role, change who you are.

I believe life goes on.

I believe the border we draw around ourselves, the meaning we embody by being ourselves, is a song. A communication. Our life is a song we sing to our world, our part in the chorus of life.

We feel the song of ourselves and our world.

We feel it as vision. We feel it as sound. We feel it as smell and touch and taste. We are the song the flesh and blood of us feels. We think it! The feeling of thought in our brain is the sound of our song. The emotions, memories, dreams, these exist as the song we sing to our world by being who we are, and the world…it sings back. A communication.

Is there a false note? It’s heard. Is it off-key? It’s known.

There is no hiding your song. If you think you are, if you think there is more to you than what the world hears, then, well, that’s the song you are singing, a song that says ‘you haven’t heard my true song.’ And that’s the song those who listen to you, those who care for you will hear. Somewhere, somehow, they will hear you not being true to them.

Songs end. Like a painting framed, there must be a boundary, an end to the melody. But songs don’t die.

They can be heard again.

The instrument playing the song may change, but the song is the same. The audience hearing it may be different, but the song is the same. Songs aren’t instrument or audience. They exist as the relationship, the communication between the two. That’s what a song is. And when the world needs to hear your song again, well, there you are, singing it anew, the song that is you.

Songs may not die, but if they don’t fulfill a role in the world, one needed or wanted, they won’t get played.

Be a song the world wants to hear. Make it a good one.

The only song you can ever sing is the song you are. But you can be any song at all.

That’s what I believe.