Sunday, July 11, 2004

Six String Meditation

Carl Sundberg
Reasoning with madness
October 23, 2003

These past couple weeks have been a grinding, draining bore. Between work, school, homework and the demands of everyday life, I have not had much time to do what I enjoy the most: play guitar. In this world, joy becomes peace and life without peace is pointless.

Saturday morning, I decided the daily grind would come to end. I woke up around 10 a.m. and headed downstairs into my basement where my Les Paul and Fender amp awaited patiently to be awakened.

I clicked on the amp, turned on the effects pedals, threw the guitar over my shoulder and strummed a magnificent, monstrous G chord.

Transcendence began.

For what felt like a split second, I played my guitar loud and unforgiving. Distortion shook the walls and riffs shattered the silence of morning. The notes began to increase their rhythmic motion until I lost myself in a constantly shifting pattern of arpeggios and chord progressions.

It turns out that I had played down there for about four hours. Time flies when you're having fun, you know.

Hunger eventually pulled me from my trance. I went upstairs and got something to eat, went back downstairs and played guitar again until the sun went down. I never got out of my pajamas.

For me, the guitar is more than just an instrument. It is a way of silencing my mind. It is a meditation of sorts. I can close off all thoughts and just let the energy of music sweep through my hands and resonate through the strings. I can sit and play for hours on end. It is beyond enjoyment -- it is necessary. Without it, I have no peace.

The world outside is demanding. There is always something to think about. There is madness at every turn of the way. We all need something that quiets that crazed beast called reality.

I think it is important for people to find the kind of peace that I find in playing my guitar. It doesn't have to be playing guitar, obviously. I know plenty of people who say playing an instrument frustrates them to no end. That's quite all right. We all have our thing. I chose the guitar.

It hasn't always been this way, though. I can think back to when I first started playing. It was difficult. My hands hurt; they became calloused. I hated it. I quit for a while because I was terrible. I saw no reason to continue. Plus, I was only 12. I just wanted to play "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses. I learned that, and then I was done.

But then one day in high school, a couple of friends and I decided to start a band. I told them I could play "Sweet Child O' Mine," and it began.

We learned some simple covers and started playing shows. It was then that I found myself practicing for hours every day. I saw something deeper than I had before. There was infinity, right before me, in the form of six strings. I knew then that I would play guitar for the rest of my life.

I guess it depends on what you enjoy, but I believe we all have that moment in which we find the perfect element that completes us. That piece of Zen. That source of infinite power. Whatever it is.

If you like gardening, plant some seeds. If you like dancing, go to the clubs. If you like falling from great heights, jump from a plane.

I'm not here to tell you how to run your life. But if you're miserable, you're the only one that can change that. And quite often, the most amazing things are the things that have been there all along. We've either taken it for granted or we just don't see it. And sometimes, it just takes work and practice before this awakening occurs.

Look around. What sets you free? Where is the peace that makes you appreciate your life? Is it there? If it's not, maybe you need to reevaluate your situation. If you have that peace, smile and share what you have. Live it. The rest can wait. Joy is the most important thing in life.

And with that in mind, I'm going to go back downstairs to play my Les Paul.


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