Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Are you playing yourself in tune? ----Originally published 10/6/11

You may be living the blues, or any other songs in the key of life, but are you playing yourself in tune?

When I was a young man I wanted to be the greatest guitar player that ever lived. I was inspired. I worked and worked, practiced and practiced. I became a damn good guitar player, however, somewhere along the way, my aspirations changed. I decided that what was really important was for me to be the best musician I could be. Later, after going a long way towards accomplishing that, I realized that what was really important, paramount, was always playing myself in tune...

This could be a metaphor for life, and indeed follows the journey of many people. When we are young and first experiencing the power of our adult selves and the possibilities available to us, we are often inspired to greatness by people who move us, who engage our souls with the level of expertise they exhibit. Guitar player Duane Allman was my insiration. I had been playing guitar for about four years before I heard him, mostly playing accoustic guitar, three chord stuff with an E minor or an A minor thrown in occassionally... small blast. But the first time heard Duane play, something happened to me inside, I was changed forever! I HAD to learn to do that, to be able to make that sound. Years later, when I could "wail" on most Allman Brothers' songs, I realized that there had already been one Duane Allman, and the local wedding band didn't need someone to play "Whipping Post" note for note. They needed an all-around good musician, someone capable of playing "Wave" during dinner, playing the favorite song of the new couple, along with "the bride cuts the cake," the "Hokie Pokie," and still have the chops to rev it up a la Chuck Berry, when everyone let their hair down... Wedding bands wanted well rounded musicians, players who could read charts, maybe write charts and be able to learn on the fly, to improvise and sometimes even fake whatever was needed. I decided to be the best musician I could be...

After many years of gigging night in and night out, every weekend, every New Year's, and after talking to countless people from the audience, I realized that the musicians were no more special than anyone else. EVERYBODY in the audience was applying themselves to something that moved them, something that inspired them. People would contantly say, "Oh, you're SO talented!" but that was simply their culture speaking through them. We happen to live during a period where people value music as a source of inspiration, but I was no better than the person volunteering at a homeless shelter, making a living as a plumber, or raising a child with special needs. Through these people, I started to realize that playing oneself in tune, no matter what was one's inspiration or chosen field, was what was important.

LOVE, kindness, compassion, humility, we're talking. I learned that playing myself in tune taught me how to live a life worth living, that through finding opportunities to give others the experiences I longed for, I actually experienced them as well! I learned to BE of service, and how loving and close I feel to my fellow man when I'm doing so. I learned that everything I gave, came back to me many times over. I learned to BE grateful for simply living, and that bliss was available to me every moment if I could stop judging. Better than playing great guitar, huh?

Today, find your inspiration, or look at the one you have, and see how the inspiration, and not the act, can BE applied to your life and the lives of others. Play YOURSELF in tune, in a manner that lifts the spirits of all those surrounding you. Inspire them to BE their best selves, to play themselves in tune, and help them find a life worth living...


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