Today I finally got around to devoting some attention to one of my favorite activities, which I’ve been neglecting for entirely too long; playing my guitar. I had watched The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” on YouTube and as I marveled at John Entwistle’s prowess, and noticed the look of sheer delight on his face as he struck out the chords, I was at once filled with remorse for my failure to continue keeping up a regular playing schedule. I’ve had an on-again-off-again relationship with my guitars for nearly five years now. I’ll pick them up and play every day for a few months, then completely forget about them, only to start the cycle over again somewhere down the line. It’s made progress in the discipline quite difficult!
I’m not sure what took me so long to even realize that I’d been neglecting to keep up my guitar work, which holds a special place in my heart- considering that it was the first artistic hobby that I ever put any real effort into- but let’s just say that I’m glad I’ve got it going again. While I love all the traveling, writing, photography, camping, backpacking, and other exciting things I’ve been doing lately, I really do miss blasting out those old songs, and singing away with my favorite bands. There’s something about it, something so calming, connecting, and restorative, about producing that much sound. For me, it’s invigorating like almost nothing else.
So for the first time in months, and what felt like years, I finally removed my Martin MMV from it’s golden-buckled coffin and strung it over my shoulder. I marveled at it’s appearance, remembering that it symbolizes my return to the life of a responsible, tax-paying citizen. It was the first major purchase I made after returning from my travels through Asia, which at the time seemed to cement my assessment that the “working life was worth it”, since it allowed me to purchase such wonderful things like this guitar, without even caring about the extreme expense (it was well over $1,000).
I stared at the shimmer of the MMV’s surface, catching the gleam of the light off its golden machine heads, then glanced over the pearly white bridge and pins restraining the well-worn out steel strings, already in dire need of replacement when I put it away months ago, but I couldn’t help myself; I had to play.
Ifinally again felt that familiar sting of the strings on my once-calloused finger tips as I struggled to work them over the ebony fretboard, in my feeble attempt to punch out the right shapes and sounds. My degenerate left wrist, tormented by a long-standing affair with tendonitis, nearly gave way under the strain. But I didn’t care about the pain, I was finally making music again!
As I corrected my posture, spreading my shoulders like the wings of a bird emerging after a long rain, I felt the familiar tug of the denim strap on my left side, and smiled in remembrance of the endless hours of attention and emotion I’ve poured into this instrument; seemingly capable of absorbing limitless amounts of negativity and dissolving it, completely. I’ve always felt like playing guitar was emotionally therapeutic. Somehow that act of creation, of filling the void with melodic progressions of beautiful sounds, causes all my imagined burdens to fall swiftly aside.
Without any conscious decision to do so, I started belting out that first batch of songs I learned to play, way back in college; those rusty relics I learned in what seems like at least a lifetime ago. Perhaps those days were more exciting, but they were also far less fulfilling, back before I’d found my place in the world, and before I understood my connection to the universe.
Back then I hadn’t yet even made any real attempt to connect to my creative side- I was simply a passive observer. I took in a lot of content, but produced absolutely none of my own! But in that first song I learned, The Grateful Dead may have managed to get through to me and wake me from my slumber, subconsciously pushing me to continue exploring new avenues of self-expression. “Come see, Uncle John’s band… Got some things to talk about, here beside the rising tide.” The tide is certainly rising, and I’ve always had quite a bit to talk about, but I’d always been missing the necessary courage to stand up and do so. But not anymore (as you can see!).
And as I drilled deeper into my still-limited playlist (I only know about 10-15 songs), I was filled with joy, exuberance, and even a bit of pride at the thought that I was finally performing again- in reality just for myself, but in my mind for the universe at large. It didn’t matter to me that I was the only one home, that the cat had run out of the room as soon as I started singing, or that nobody was clapping at the end of each song- I’ve never done anything for the recognition anyway.
What mattered was that my mind went blank, the “self” and all of it’s attachment dissolved as the music took over, and I filled my empty house with the sounds of a lone, but far from lonely heart.
And in that hour of total peace, I remembered what it means to be a human being, and why it’s entirely worth all the trouble.