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My friend “Wikki” was feeling that most bitter of sorrows last night: the desire for a mate. There’s something about having someone to cuddle and rant at that makes the rest of life easier to live. I can’t say that I’m not dealing with a bit of the same thing. When the weather is beautiful there is nothing better than feeling the soft touch of a hand to hold, and the way a simple squeeze shivers up my arm and into my chest. At the same time, I know that soon I’ll have to get back to work and my energy will be dispersed enough to leave that same hand waiting, empty, far too often. Wikki knows this too but she couldn’t imagine finding anything that would fill this genetically engineered hole in her heart. Here’s where I’ve learned at least one way to hold off this forever distracting desire.
Rob Hanczar was the crazy kid all through Jr. High. He wrote absolutely brilliant short fiction in our writing class, but was known to fail any class he didn’t care about. At one point he decided that sloths were particularly funny and became an encyclopedia of sloth knowledge, just to get in as many obscure sloth references as possible. Late into High School, when I had just started playing guitar, I found out that he had been playing electric bass. I know instantly that he was going to be an amazing and completely out of the box creative musician and I jumped to form a band with him that lasted well through college.
One night I remember sitting with Rob, drinking a cheap beer and discussing life. We were talking about how much we loved playing music and he said to me, “You know, sometimes when I think about having to choose between sex and playing my bass…”
Most people put sex, and through implication, relationships, highest on their lists. Unlike Wikki, however, I’ve found some experiences in life that rival it. My friend Jonathan March was being indoctrinated into a corporate culture, and the new recruits were each told to share an emotionally intense moment. He started describing the time he played acoustic bass with an orchestra in a particular hall and as he recalled the event, tears began streaming down his face until he couldn’t speak.
After playing blues guitar live I was often accosted by women who appeared to have been overpowered by a mysterious force, their eyes melting and their brains bent on seduction. It was baffling to me, but my girlfriend at the time, Lisa Kvasnika, told me, “You are so intense and focused when you play. You’re putting so much energy into the guitar, that I want more than anything to be that guitar in your hands.”
When I’m improvising a solo, or even a whole piece with a group, I start to get lost in it. I revert almost entirely to the right brain, feeling out where each moment will take me next. I’m not thinking about the fact that as I stretch up into a bend the drums are dropping just enough to make that note want to sing a little longer before sliding down into a whisper, but I’m feeling all of that happen. As my fingers play through a range of gentle to intense the strings tremble, snap and shiver in response. I don’t think I have to push this analogy very far. The rise and fall of intensity. The rush of adrenaline.
Of course there are other intense experiences that give me similar feedback. When I’m rocketing down a hill feeling every twitch and shift of my body turn the snowboard into a knife carving snow I feel it. I aim for a pocket of moguls and hammer them, leaping into the air and flexing the board on the hard turns as I land, my heart dropping as I catch long air, landing with a fwap before cutting smooth arcs again, my legs vibrating over the rough spots.
But when the lonely nights arrive, my nylon guitar is the old friend that has always seen me through. I can spend hours working out a new piece of music or crafting lyrics that, when sung, carry the emotion I feel up a level, from my chest and out into the room. I think it’s telling that I’ve rarely, if ever, played the songs I’ve written this way for anyone else. I think they are written more to feel that emotional connection with the universe, something outside myself, than a way to get attention or respect. Cuddling with the universe, as it were!
I encouraged Wikki to find something that would feel this way for her. I’ve tried to encourage many people throughout my life to explore these other options. Ultimately, the desire to love and be loved is probably too great but at the same time humans are just too unreliable to depend on for all of these needs. Finding a passion outside of human relationships has made me a stronger, more independent person and I think that, ultimately, this is the best foundation for any real loving relationship.
click on the image to see the photographer’s page on flickr