Author’s note: This is the last column in a three-part series. The other installments are in my archive, which can be accessed directly from this column. The URL is tangled up in a little blue hyperlink somewhere on this page.
If you are reading my column, you probably fit into one of two categories. You might love everything I write - in which case you are slightly mentally disturbed. Or you might hate everything I write but can’t stop reading my column – in which case you are severely mentally disturbed. Regardless, you all have one thing in common: You have a God-given gift and a choice as to whether you will take it for granted.
I’ve been playing guitar off and on since I was about twelve years old. Ever since then I have wished I had a singing voice but I just don’t. Friends have tried to encourage me by pointing to the example of Bob Dylan. I’ve always responded by letting them know that Bob has a much better voice than I do. On a couple of occasions, I’ve had to prove it to them. I usually sing a couple of lines and it works every time. They never bother me again.
It’s frustrating when I hear a beautiful voice that is attached to a body that is withering away and dying from heroin addiction. It was frustrating for you to hear me tell the story in my column just a few days ago. But you probably don’t even know why it bothered you so much. The truth is that you have a lot in common with that heroin addict. You’re probably throwing away something valuable whether you realize it or not. It just isn’t so obvious because there probably aren’t needle marks there on your arm to remind you.
And you probably did it a lot like I did it. The thing was beautiful for a while. But then it got tangled up in something that was not so beautiful. Maybe it was downright ugly. And so you tried to toss the ugly things away and ended up losing the thing that was beautiful. The gardener in you knows what I’m talking about. Who among us has never tried to poison weeds without killing flowers in the process?
I have no one but myself to blame for allowing ugly things to overtake my brief life in the music business. But I have many people to thank for helping me become a better gardener. All I can do by way of thanking them is to share a little more advice. So please bear with me. What I have to say next is important because the carelessness we exhibit with our talents is not merely confined to our own lives. It spills over into our relationships and, from there, into the lives of innocent parties.
My old girlfriend is a good example. She’s been married for over fifteen years and she has two beautiful children. But her relationship with her husband has gone sour. And so last summer she told me she was leaving him. And then she did. Then she left their counseling sessions altogether. Nothing I say seems to make her want to go back to the husband or even to the counselor. She just gets defensive. And the lawyers are not helping me make my case. In fact, they are making it more difficult.
Thistles and thorns sprout up in the gardens of our lives every day. And one must be careful about weeding them out. No one likes to get his hands dirty doing the labor. But it is important work nonetheless. It does not help that we live in a disposable society where things of great value are routinely thrown away as if they were worthless.
Lately, I have experienced great joy putting my hands on an old guitar and plugging into an old amp that someone has taken the time to restore with great care and relentless attention to detail. If it is true that objects can be restored then how much more true is it of people? And how much more worthwhile is the effort?
As I finish the last few lines of this series I am looking across the room at that old Takamine guitar that hangs upon the wall. It isn’t the cedar or the rosewood that makes it so beautiful. It’s the scratches on the wood that remind me of all the times I fell. I’m just grateful someone was there to pick me up. In my life, there are so many stories left to tell.
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