It’s Monday night, and I’m sitting on the floor of my living room taking pictures of a 1974 Gibson Les Paul Custom 20th Anniversary guitar so I can post it to sell online. I looked up the guitar and found that the color is listed as Alpine White, although I had always thought of it as more of a Vanilla Pudding Yellow. I’ve had this beautiful instrument for over 20 years, and about 15 of those years it has been little more than a heavy symbol of bitterness toward an old friend.
It was probably about 15 years ago that I let a friend of mine borrow the guitar for a gig that he was playing at his church. This was after my time playing in punk rock bands in Denver, and during one of my many phases of contrite repentance. Both my friend and I were playing in church worship bands. I had sold my amplifier to pay for my move back home to Texas, so I was primarily playing acoustic guitar at the time. Despite the fact that it mostly just sat in its case at home, the guitar was my most prized possession. Truth be told, it was one of my only possessions of any significant value.
I still remember the phone call from my friend, telling me that he had dropped my guitar and cracked the neck. At first I thought that he was playing a prank on me, since he had actually joked about how he would make sure to use the strap locks so that this very thing wouldn’t happen. It wasn’t a joke. When I came by to look at it later, it was actually a lot worse than he had made it sound.
I immediately began to feel angry, both at myself for letting someone borrow something so precious to me, and at him for not being more careful with my guitar. He had not put on the strap locks as he was getting the guitar plugged in, and the strap had slipped from the peg, dropping with the full weight of the heavy guitar on its headstock. I didn’t lash out at him, as that wouldn’t have been the Christian thing to do, but inside I was seething.
My friend was a church worship leader, which naturally meant that he didn’t have any money. To be honest, he only gave me a passing overture of wishing he could pay me back. We had someone take a look at the guitar to see if it could be repaired, but they said that there really wasn’t much that could be done. The guitar had a solid body, so even putting on a new neck wasn’t an option. This guitar that I had loved so much was now just a twelve pound symbol of my bitterness sitting in my garage.
Over the years, I have carried this item across the country with me. I have never really known why. I have always assumed that it could never be fixed, and there really isn’t even a chance that I will get seriously into playing music again anyway. Every time I have looked at it taking up space in my garage, I have felt a tension build in my chest, and thoughts return to my mind of my old friend’s disregard for something that had been so important to me.
As I sit on the floor, listing this broken instrument for sale at a minuscule fraction of what a functional version of this guitar would bring, it strikes me that the guitar wasn’t the only broken thing that I have been holding onto. I have been holding onto the anger and bitterness that the guitar represents. In the grand scheme of life, the guitar is just a thing. It was a thing that I was attached to when I was younger, and maintaining that attachment has lead to a lot of suffering over the years. I know that it seems silly to have felt so strongly about something so small, but this is what attachment does to us. Why have I allowed this broken thing to reside in my heart?
This morning I sold the guitar, and as I did, I felt a measure of freedom come over me. I feel like I am finally disentangling myself from a burden that I have held onto for a long time. As the purchaser drives away in his silver Subaru, I wish him well, and I hope that he can figure out how to put the guitar to use in some way. May it be useful to him, and as silly as it sounds, I hope that the guitar finds a new purpose as well. Above all, may I continue to free myself from the tyranny of broken things.