bonar crump

bonar crump
husband - father - reader - runner - picker - grinner - lover - sinner

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sample Chapter

3—INTONATION – Musical Interlude to the Infinite

My brother is 15 years younger than me and a fantastic guitarist. He’s been a fantastic guitarist ever since he picked up a six-string at the age of 13. I remember teaching him a couple of chords early on. Six weeks later he was trying to get me to understand the concept of using a capo and how I could drop the tuning on a string to bring in more depth to a chord. Needless to say, as the proud older brother, I developed all kinds of excuses which kept me busy enough that I wouldn’t have to sit down with my little bro and be humbled by his understanding and execution of music. Everyone touted his “gift” and how easily he was able to learn things on that guitar. And, yes, he certainly did exhibit an enormous amount of talent early on, but what no one gave him credit for was that he worked tirelessly developing each and every technique.

Day after day J-man would come home from school, dump his books on the couch, and go to his room to get his hands on that fret board. Long evenings led to long nights of tirelessly repeating sequences, runs, and riffs. There was always the emergence from the room for food and bathroom breaks, but right back into that room he would go. There were times of frustration, times of epiphany, and times of sorrow that he experienced trying to learn to master that instrument.

And, yet, he wasn’t performing at the time. He wasn’t earning a living on stage. He wasn’t even allowing
 anyone outside of his immediate circle of family to hear his playing. I often wondered why in the world he kept at it. Why would he invest so much time into something that didn’t seem to reward? Why not put that kind of tenacity and self-discipline into your school work or into a sport?

That was 10+ years ago and I think I’m just now beginning to understand what was driving him—it was love. Not just a love of music—not just a love of accomplishment—no, it was much deeper than all of that. What he taught me most through the process of making that guitar a part of his very DNA was that he had fallen in love with what might be. He had fallen in love with and become consumed by how complicated it was—how delicate and, yet, powerful his world became. He had discovered that the music knew no boundaries. That it couldn’t be contained within a box and was never to be separated from the human soul. He had discovered beauty and in doing so he was able to feel beautiful.

I have an instrument that I’ve labored with since the age of 9. It has made my fingers bleed. Strings have broken from time to time. Constant practice has worn down the frets. Countless hours of repetition have left me frustrated and angry. Why? Why do I return to this instrument again and again only to become hurt, disappointed, and dejected? It’s not like I’m getting paid to play the damn thing. It’s not like I don’t have other things I can devote my mental and emotional energy to. What is it I’m trying to discover? What is it I’m trying to master?

Religion: “A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving a devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”

Like my brother, I am motivated by beauty. I stand in awe of the visual, auditory, tactile, succulent, aromatic beauty that I encounter in this world. These are the things that I long to experience and describe, but, oddly, I spend little time trying to understand how they work. Beauty, after all, isn’t subject to the constraints of mathematics, science, history, or logic. Beauty is real and yet it is mostly a concept. Beauty achieves a pleasure of the mind without engaging the logical wirings of the brain—it just is.

Religion certainly doesn’t seem to be beautiful at all. It seems very calculated, certain of its position, and fundamentally rigid. And, yet, I wonder how many of us are able to separate our religion from our understanding of God. I wonder if it’s possible for even 1% of Christians to be able to separate their concept of God from their concept of religion. Supposedly, God is to be experienced—not understood. Reportedly, we’re encouraged to call God “papa”—not “O, sovereign one.” It is my understanding that affection, exuberance, serenity, perseverance, compassion, and love for others are the results of encountering “papa”—not rigidity, compliance, self deprecation, and righteous indignation.

I’ve been practicing all these years with an instrument that I’ve come to hate. But no one ever explained to me that God doesn’t dwell within this system of beliefs and moral codes. It’s made me wonder how many others out there suffer the same sort of bleeding and frustration trying to get beautiful music out of an instrument that’s missing half its strings and is without several frets—it just ain’t gonna happen!

I’m done fooling with this broken, out-of-tune, culturally irrelevant instrument of repulsiveness! And I’d like to encourage as many people as I can to discard this fowl piece of junk. It doesn’t work! Look around you—turn on the lights—you’ve been standing in a guitar store this entire time. There are Martins, Fenders, Ibanez, Gibson, Epiphone, Carvin, Alvarez, Hohner, Ovation, Rickenbacker, Taylor, and Yamaha guitars lining the walls and they are all available to you. Throw that piece of junk in your hands to the floor and stomp on it vigorously! Don’t be sentimental about all the time you’ve spent tuning it and cleaning it and protecting it—break that sucker over your knee and move on! You’ve moved past that religion training guitar! Now we can start to experience some beauty! Now we get to experience God!
Crazy things begin to happen at this point—you begin to appreciate that each guitar has its own distinctive tone, resonance, and sustain. They’re all different and yet they’re all uniquely beautiful. "Do we really need to have this many different varieties of guitars available? Wouldn’t it be much simpler to only offer 3 brands? Maybe we should hold a forum in the back room to decide which 3 brands we’re gonna continue to sell…….NO……that’s what started all of this shit in the first place!"

Our souls crave the beauty! Quit trying to get us to plug into your effects pedal so that our sound will more closely blend with yours. I want to plug directly into my amp (God) and when I do I will experience something profound. The experience won’t be a one-man jam session in my garage—it’ll be a symphony of believers playing now with one another instead of playing to the mirror trying desperately to get it right. There is no “getting it right”. It’s not about “getting it right”. It’s fundamentally about strumming the pick across the strings and working out the ever-changing sound that’s in our soul. Don’t be shy about it either—turn that knob up—it goes to 11! Come on, let’s jam!

You see, my bro still plays the guitar, but he doesn’t just play one guitar. Funny thing about guitarists…they always own 23 or more guitars. Seems irresponsible and fool-hardy to most of us, but they understand something that the rest of us don’t—there is a sinister beauty and elegance in the altering of a very few wavelengths. Each instrument will project something different—they are all uniquely relevant. One of the guitars might be favored for one song—another for a different song. You can hear it, but you might not be able to explain it or define exactly what has changed. You have to open your senses to the diversity necessitated by creation. To create you must open yourself to the vast diversity represented by the guitars on the wall. Different is good…different is absolutely good!

Repeat after me: “I will rant and rail and threaten and attack anyone attempting to force me into sticking with only league-sanctioned instruments. I’ll play instruments of generous orthodoxy. I’ll play instruments of no orthodoxy. I’ll even make my own instruments out of twigs and web from time to time. I’ll plug them into my amp (God) and if they create any kind of sound at all…I’ll call it beautiful. If they do not create sound (are incompatible with the amp) then I’ll discard them. I am loyal to no one instrument and I am certainly not interested in anyone sanctioning my choices. See, I have a relationship with my “papa”—one that is multi-faceted, complex, simple, reliable, and real. I really don’t need a governing body of religious folk dealing me psychopharmacologics. What I need is a group to play with and an audience to play for. Oh, yeah, and I’m not in it just to play music for the amp to enjoy…that would be absurd…”

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