MY WRITING TO JOHN MAYER 2010 TO THE PRESENT AND HOW IT BECAME AS LA DIVINA COMMEDIA WITH A TOUR OF HELL
by SHILOH RICHTER
4 FEBRUARY 2023
The way that Taylor Swift could make it appear true that she had had a relationship with John Mayer with never having been seen on a date, holding hands, kissing, in the back of a car together as with Jessica Simpson or Jennifer Aniston, or any of the photographs one might expect before it was considered true, and even while John was saying and showing something completely different, was that it was embedded in things that were true, and the false stuck in-between, just as Teodolinda Barolini describes of what is happening between Virgil, Dante, and the Demons in Inferno, Canto 21 in the Eighth Circle of Hell.
Photo: John Mayer in NYC in December 2010 while working on Born and Raised, and after the release of the public humiliation of “Dear John” in October.
Why John deleted his social media in 2010: Photo: Bauer-Griffin, People Magazine, Taylor Swift, 15 September 2010, one month before releasing the plagiarized “Dear John”; Left: John Mayer photo (People Magazine) from the same day that he appeared with Blink-182's Mark Hoppus as his first guest in New York at the premiere of Mark’s new show, A Different Spin, a day ahead of its airdate on Sept. 16 on Fuse, an interview in which John talked about just having deleted his Twitter that week—one major source of the problem of the “digital portal into his living room” Taylor was taking into his life and words. Photo: Amanda Schwab/Startraks, People Magazine
It’s the fifth bolgia, or “evil ditch” in the upper circle of Fraud, that of the “grafters” of their community, formally defined in this case as “people, usually politicians or public servants who obtain money unlawfully, using their positions and power,” which as Barolini points out here in Dante’s construction is a “civic graft as part of the urban fabric” that “the result is the corruption of the social order.”
Barolini is also careful to point out that this was the very turnabout that was used on Dante: being exiled by being accused of the very crime being perpetrated: Dante having worked in civil and military service and written for the ethical life, indicted and exiled for using one’s position and power for illegal personal influence.
In other words, the writer of “Waiting on the World to Change” and “Belief” publicly implicated in having used his age and position in music to unethically personally use a young girl in the music industry, the community that is then corrupted, and the public has its new young shining star, the savior of it in “speaking out.”
Photo: The “digital portal” into his living room: Taylor Swift, 17 August 2010, just a month before John’s interview with Mark Hoppus and him deleting his Twitter, she in a recording studio appearing in Rolling Stone dressed as John had been dressed in his apartment in his “Who Says” video.
The true parts that were visible include that John had just publicly dated Jessica Simpson, a female in the music industry, and Jennifer Aniston, a very trustworthy “Friend” to everyone whom all of the world knew and loved. That’s the milieu into which Taylor was publicly appropriating as her own social context to provide a casting of herself in the girlfriends’ likenesses and environment. The truth that allowed for that to be envisaged was that quite obviously John and Taylor recorded a song together the year before, “Half of My Heart,” had some of the same trusted industry friends like Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman whom she could also appear in public with, and publicly performed together for John’s song, thus a public “relationship” over the course of the professional association. The situation could then be taken advantage of by power and position by adding the “small” untruth of suggesting that she had been used herself.
The actual crime that isn’t a crime but the truth turned to look like a crime by inserting the false inside the truth is then documented as the source as saying, “See, I’m offering the proof that this is TRUE” as on the cover of Speak Now. Furthermore, it is taking the position of a public ART FORM, therefore offered in the guise of an expression of the SOUL, a bearing of one’s “girlhood” to show the public this budding “artist’s” commendable intent of surviving in this harsh world of “bad men” in music. The “community” of music now looks like hers.
But if one looks closely, as Dante is showing to do in Canto 21, the false face being offered can be seen: Taylor was copying the artwork of Faith Hill, someone who is trusted, with the sideways pose, the lighting, and the fairy tale: believable, innocent, and magical qualities of Faith’s Fireflies.
And since this configuring of a falsehood embedded in trusted things worked so well on the public with the sales and public perception of Speak Now in October 2010, which had also shown Taylor that because of public perception capitalizing on John had received approval and adulation and therefore she was free to continue the lie (without the public understanding the why behind-the-scenes John did the Rolling Stone interview about actual girlfriends that he purposely was stating involved sexual relations). And so staying on John’s trail, just three months later on 1 February 2011, immediately after the use of power for the public accusal for gain, Taylor started adding details to make the accusal seem like it had a reality basis of a relationship by using pictures and personal effects available about John on-line while also replicating Faith Hill’s “Cry” video with “Back to December” as the grounding of her “emotions” at being “hurt” like Faith in Faith’s provable romantic life and reliability, whom Taylor is then assumed to have so much in common with, along with the innocence of “just trying to find love out here in this harsh man’s world” of provably unruly rock stars (except that for the first time in the history of rock-n-roll, these rock stars didn’t even use drugs and had legitimate relationships, not groupies). There is absolutely no reason not to trust Faith Hill or her magic.
Now, using John’s actual personal effects from the digital portal into his life, what he is known to wear: a black jacket, a gray scarf, (and she herself dressing as he was dressed inside his own house places her in the imagination inside his apartment), she can add Faith’s emotions from the borrowed ideas:
“If your love could be caged, honey I would hold the key /And conceal it underneath the pile of lies you handed me / And you'd hunt those lies / They'd be all you'd ever find /And that'd be all you'd have to know / For me to be fine / Yeah... And you'd cry a little /Die just a little /And baby I would feel just a little less pain /I gave now I'm wanting /Something in return / So cry just a little for me”
and thus, through concoction, the emotions, scenario, and basis for accusation offered as proof of an actual relationship portrayed to the public for consumption–and power.
John’s credibility built since he was 13 years old suddenly vanished in the accusation with a lie, an entire career now tainted by a false face and the public’s believing it, and the media, the public’s consciousness, repeating it as truth. Thus, the Poet is supplanted. Then Jessica’s and Jennifer’s reactions to their actual relationships with John could be taken as evidence of what Taylor “suffered,” even though the actual evidence with her did not happen.
Even back in December 2009, the supposed “romantic” professional time when John and Taylor performed together and are the pictures still offered to this day by the press as “when they were together,” the background for this borrowed story’s success was apparent to her in the social climate: it had been laid when no one noticed what she was doing, say in the articles in February 2010 Rolling Stone, for example, the virgin and her new empty abode, and this directly following Kanye West’s “brutal” attack on her debutante coming-out moment that she could see becoming clearer as the very night of the 2009 VMAs progressed to an across-the-board guilty verdict by the end of the night of how magnificently she had been wronged by Kanye, a ground-breaking and foundational member of the music industry–and thus a verdict of his unethical use of position and power, and with that too, she could more freely assume the identity given to her of the slighted virgin just wanting to be loved, and not seen as taking advantage of opportunity and public opinion. Letting Kanye take the fall was a shift of power. Then the months in-between into the February Rolling Stone shows Taylor, publicly empowered, was now more openly, publicly gunning for John and in which he then abruptly goes public adamantly overstating he has been and is still deeply involved and particularly sexually with his ex-girlfriends, and, using the U2 Joshua Tree reference, he “still had not found what he was looking for.” In other words, Taylor was taking John to the press without a relationship and John was stating to the press, “It’s not happening.”
But that video for which Taylor won at the VMAs, “You Belong with Me,” and her plagiarism was already demonstrating the duplicity and manipulation of which Kanye was already aware. Speaking out for Beyoncé was legitimately Kanye’s passion for expressing about Blacks and music, especially on such a monumental shift in the power of music with Beyonce. It was a huge development for music. It was also personal. Behind the scenes there was manipulation that appeared on-screen as innocent and vulnerable. As with John, the public assumed Kanye was abusing his power inappropriately. Speaking out has its dangers–except with Speak Now, capitalizing on the power to speak that both John and Kanye had lost, these dangers were now hidden and unrecognized and no one could say anything without Taylor being perceived as the victim. No one saw that all of 2010, while John languished in the public backlash of trying to show he wasn’t involved, Taylor was taking his down-and-out as the opportunity to more openly target John publicly to force a relationship she hadn’t had the power to force in 2009. Two years later he would say, “"It really humiliated me at a time when I'd already been dressed down, I mean, how would you feel if, at the lowest you've ever been, someone kicked you even lower?" A year earlier Taylor had given the clues: by 1 February 2011 Taylor made her awareness of her ability to abuse that power evident by showing in “Back to December” she was now able to publicly empty John’s stadiums if he didn’t comply. The public perception was, “Wow, what a powerful stand for women who men try to use.” Taylor’s getting in the door to John had been dubious, but John believed in music and kindness. Now a different perception was set. But that “bridge” to his freedom Taylor was seemingly offering wasn’t true either. It was just sandwiched to look like heartbreak.
It could also be covered over, in case it didn’t work and if any one were to ask, by a relationship with Taylor Launter and date nights, giving herself a back door, that she could say it wasn’t about John at all, but about someone else. The face could shift if necessary. It could always leave itself that opening, “See, I didn’t lie” while being the very framework of using one’s position to gain and deceive. The public is then taken into this “confidence game” wherein not just the community of the music industry is corrupted and no longer believed, but the social order reconfigured. The fans are taken in:
“A confidence trick is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust. Confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, confidence, irresponsibility, and greed. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as ‘a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial’, as they ‘benefit con operators ('con men') at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')’ (Wikipedia quoting Con Men and Their Enablers: The Anatomy of Confidence Games).
How could a ‘young girl’ be guilty of that? And if she ever gets called out on it, there’s the route of acknowledging/claiming a shifting identity to “I Did Something Bad” while still capitalizing on it in the same way, flipping from the heroic to the ‘daring’ criminal, whichever works, as with the players in The Bling Ring saga where, in the later Netflix documentary (any path to being known), in order to look like somebody still because fame didn’t work for them and they didn’t get enough notoriety, take on the identity of the criminal in confessing to be the “Mastermind,” and people will say, “Wow, look how audacious,” even though the actual doors broken into were unlocked and the victims (deeply kind people like Orlando Bloom) known to everyone on the planet to not be home. This “mastermind” invaded and plagiarized from unlocked doors and relationships given with trust. Taylor’s Fearless, in the very same way had not been “fearless” at all: it was the beginning robbery of Faith’s identity and artwork that just happened to work, and on to the next crime, even the same target house repeated.
Then to offer more verisimilitude when the light was green with hate prevailing in the guise of fortitude and the boldness of not being self-effacing, and supposedly for all women (yet still plagiarizing them like mad for self gain), and ‘broadening one’s career’ and creative expression in 2021 into “directing,” the former crimes in the clear, she could now say that Red, for example, the follow-up in the first crimes and a direct covert confrontation with John again, as we will see with Dante, how the bridge, the escape route is a lie, “may or may not have been about Jake Gyllenhaal, but here’s evidence it is actually about John again, since you let me by with it, I’ll show you all the crimes, all the eras” of the crimes because this keeps selling ‘hook, line, and sinker’ in her testing the public’s ability to see or not see the deceit and personal harassment, and to continue and go further if they don’t detect it. It’s still sold as “Look what pain I’m still in” because she still is in hell and plans to keep everyone there. That’s the whole construction from the beginning. I use the fishing cliche here because this is exactly what is happening in Dante’s Hell: the demons are poking the victims back under the black pitch with their forks if they dare try to rise up precisely so that they can’t come up out of the torment.
And as for shifting boyfriend identities to keep one in the dark, no one notices either the shifting dates.
“It’s almost word-for-word. It is a song and a conversation that needed to happen because I don’t want to hurt people,” she told USA Today of the track at the time. “If you unintentionally do so, you’ve got to make that better. I feel so comfortable singing about these details and these relationships and listing times, dates, details, names. But when it comes to an interview and they say, ‘Are you dating this person?’ or ‘Did you date this person?’ or ‘What’s your current relationship status?’ I suddenly feel very shy.”
When it starts to look apparent to the public that the first concocted dates of the presumed relationship couldn’t have happened in 2009 or early 2010 as the press had relentlessly reported, as with Jessica Simpson publishing her Open Book, Taylor offers a new date, now 29 April 2010, conveniently moved to the date two days after I started writing to John. (In 2010 and for a while thereafter she tried to move it to 8 March, the first night I saw John in concert in Austin, Texas.) And so the opportunity was opened by the public approval of the further concoction of the same story with details, now still as emotional on SNL–”see, it was so bad I still hurt,”and in Taylor’s “film”--a seemingly further professional (grafting) development–of “All Too Well,” to further fill in the relationship material that was not there for the press and public to witness but now for which there is further audio-visual evidence because her word is trusted, and now leaning more into the crime by wearing a hat John wore in pictures more recently, or replicating Katy Perry with him, also pictures, the mining/mine field for personal data to appear biographical and to continue the imposed, false relationship that she was able to carry off to begin with. Eerily, Dante’s demon in Hell also tells the current date by what happened in the past. He does it to give a sense of reality to what he’s saying that isn’t true. But for Dante, the Poet, seeing through it, it’s showing the demon is saying exactly where he is still in Hell from the past.
And this is where Dante gets serious. He’s been talking about Poetry itself all along, from the actual “Limbo” of the ancient Poets to the very next circle of plagiarism and acting a story out as one’s own to the detriment of anyone, which are small crimes compared to where we are now in the Eighth Circle, but the whole way down in this creation of Hell having been the path of leaving the Poet further and further (and thus creating Hell on Earth). But this path has not been away from the Poet, as Virgil is the guide and Dante the participant staying very much with their works and its construction, but eerily, creepily, this is now much further down into Hell until we are now standing in front of a demon that does not mean well at all, and having now a personality and a name by which to manipulate a seemingly “personable” negotiation and who will be testing the whole while as to whether he is being believed in his further intent to bring serious harm and block the passageway while sounding like he’s offering safe passage through Hell.
Now the weaving on the demon’s part is clearly sinister and Dante is showing he is very much aware of it, and yet weaving still has to be the topic, to show his Poetry. And so, what “appears false”--an imaginary Hell with a demon in front of one vying to take out the Poet–is, in fact, True. What is more True is the Poetry, and thus the Poets, themselves when it appears that Poetry isn’t Life. The Poetry contains eternal truths, what Dante knows for certain will always hold true, and offers actual illumination–he’s certain of these things. The construction of this Hell and those in it seem like an imaginary story, but Poetry is actually, really dealing with the SOUL and the hard human experience, and guiding that with insight and understanding–and actual helpfulness, the Poet guiding as Virgil guided him, as Homer guided him. How could it be true that those who have “passed” guide us? And yet, here it is. Isn’t someone in person more reliable? The Hell, appearing to be false, is true on Earth. Leaving the Poet is the first clue to how that Hell got woven. John’s “Wild Blue” means hard-won personal freedom and joy. Taylor’s “Lavender Haze,” constructed untruthfully and by manipulation and power and still adding constructed audio-visual details to make 2010’s lie biographical, shifting faces from Jake to John intends to take out that path by replicating John’s actual verisimilitude, having taken the voice of the Poet to speak. John hasn’t been believed or actually listened to for thirteen years except by those who are listening to their own hearts as well and know the Poetry when they hear it. They know the truth when they hear it. Music, that which guides us, has been robbed of its truth, and there has been actual suffering. That’s true. Taylor intends people to suffer with her–and stay there–even though her suffering was falsely constructed–appears true, but is false and does not aim to alleviate suffering. This matter of Poetry is the matter of life itself. It appears to be “entertainment” and peripheral, i.e. false as a necessity and therefore it doesn’t really matter if it was manipulated for money and personal gain. Music is actually dealing directly with the heart, what is priceless, and its truth matters beyond life and death. And it matters greatly to the foundation of a culture.
But to prove this and show insight Dante has to carefully show the methods whereby the Hell is woven and the methods of the true Poetry, thus proving his own and Virgil’s true identities which then cannot be besmirched here by a conning demon, and thus also giving themselves passageway through the also constructed lies that are designed to trap and torture them here, especially Dante as he’s still a vulnerable human–he still has his humanity as he goes through Hell. And his story is yet to be written. (But of course we know it has been, just as Dante knows it as he is writing.) He is saying, “I promise you, you will get through, too.” Just like Virgil says, “I’ve been here before you. I know the way.”
Photo: BoltofSunshine, Bob Weir
Very precisely Dante makes Poetry–and lyrics–the first subject of Canto 21, the sixth “evil ditch”: “We came along from one bridge to another, talking of things my Comedy is not concerned to sing.” The Poets are discussing things he isn’t going to tell you. (This happened before when he was talking with the ancient Poets in Limbo and later with Virgil, now again.) There appears to be deceit here by omission–”Wait, John isn’t telling us something! The accusations must be true.”Bob Weir isn’t talking! Katy isn’t, after her “Watch out.” Why aren’t they telling us everything? It looks duplicitous. But John, Bob, and Katy, among the other Poets, are steadfastly guiding themselves–finding the way–and their companions, the listener of their music, to freedom, love, and life itself, the most important truths of all. In their honesty, that’s a guaranteed truth, one far greater than merely talking when they aren’t believed or listened to. They are performing the actual process of the eternally true and in the case of no matter what in society appears in one’s path–how to get through. There are things Virgil is showing Dante that he knows for certain will happen: for example, he knows when he drops the lure down into the abyss towards Fraud, the monster will always appear. The subject is beyond deceit–which will happen–to the subject being life itself. So strangely, the deceit is being shown but isn’t the whole picture, bringing the Poetry to its rightful life-saving state is. Getting there can be Hell.
Dante has provided a promise of a future he resolutely knows is true: this is a Comedy, a beautiful “ending” with no ending but eternal illumination, a delivery of the very real experience to be known within the veins and within the InterBeing in identity with the Sun itself–free from suffering and pain to how to know joy. How does he know that when he’s in Hell hiding from (making Born & Raised) and then standing in front of a huge demon who does not mean well? And if he’s conversing with the demon, is that not a relationship? It looks true. And isn’t he playing the demon as the demon plays him if they are both weaving? Isn’t he then guilty of what they are guilty of in constructing Hell? Did he not actually write this Hell? And yet who doesn’t need the manual “How to Get Through Hell” written? Or better yet, a personal guide to go along through it, step by step, offering care, compassion, and companionship. And so it is vastly important to get through that he shows the two very different kinds of weaving, through shared experience and thus insight.
And so these conversations which Dante does not divulge, which appears to be deceit, tell the listener that there is something MORE from the Poets to be known that can’t be seen on the surface appearance, something to be looked for deeper on one’s own journey, and to listen intently, a very necessary truth. The belief is in how far he’s brought you. Katy's and Thomas Rhett’s “Where We Started.” This isn’t deception but an actual confidence, a taking one into one’s protective arms under cover from those who mean one harm and mean the Poetry itself harm, or the industry of Poetry, or the city, or the social order. One would have to come to know the Poet very well to be “taken into that confidence,” in other words, see into the Poetry and know it well, not taking in shifting details as truth. This “confidence” is the exact opposite of being “taken into the confidence” of the demon, which if that happened would mean one has fallen for the deceit and the demon knows it and is going to continue to play it, adding verisimilitude, or shifting it when necessary in the conversation. That’s actually dangerous stuff–a Hell that appears false in reality, but is literally true. Dante shows how he knows it’s going to be true for the populace by the very fact of making the demon a popular conception of a demon for the first time in the Inferno. So far he’s been imaginative and using mythological symbols. Now he’s dealing with the popular imagination, and that therefore is the subject matter here. Think our popular imagination doesn’t matter? Dante knows what he’s talking about and it turns out to be absolute truth. Taking someone’s life like John’s, his clothing, and his personal details and trying to first concoct and then keep him in a public Hell seems like it is just happening to someone the public was convinced deserved it. In that, there’s no human there to see, which is the very opposite of the true lyrics. The construction of the social order then is empty of compassion, the very thing Virgil, the Poet, is guiding Dante with, and he, us.