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Anton Mauve:
Aardappelrooiers [Potato Harvesters]
(1848 - 1888)

"I pursue my best with the least promising resources …"

After a few years of relative inactivity, my fingers seem almost as agile as Fingerling potatoes. They've lost their limberness. They feel stiff and inattentive when attempting to play anything the least bit intricate. They transform my guitar's fretboard into an authentically fretful place. I attempt little and achieve worse, cursing under my breath. I face a long recovery, a bare uphill track featuring few useful landmarks. I some days doubt that I will ever recover my former mindlessness, for proper guitar playing requires little if any thought. It's incarnate muscle memory in action, not in any way thoughtful or strategic. Once mastered, it just happens, freeing up consciousness to remember lyrics or control voice and volume. The guitar should properly accompany, not feature, and in order to properly disappear into the background, it must be transcended. No struggling to remember chord order or, heaven forbid, proper fingering. That must follow as a matter of course, without thought or fuss.

Now, it remains mostly thought and fuss, of course, which reliably produces the absolute opposite of reinforcement to practice, which will provide the only viable escape route back to even the appearance of competence.
I first learned my music back before I developed taste. When I first touched my guitar, any odd sound I managed to make amazed me. I produced a remarkable volume of absolute garbage which seemed like ambrosia to me before I ever managed to make what anyone else might recognize as music. I'd play every idle second of every damned day, much, I'm certain, to my birth family's chagrin. I could no longer bear to just sit and watch TV, I felt compelled to provide a guitar accompaniment, amazing only myself with my 'mastery.' I understand now just how remarkable that blindness was, and how it served my budding ability by largely cloaking me from its harsh underlying reality.

Now, my sensibilities have considerably matured. I do not so blithely satisfy myself. My inner critic sits scowling on the edge of his seat in the front row, unsatisfiable. I can't sneak much past his ear, which clearly knows the difference between shit and Shinola®, and only very rarely ever sees or smells much Shinola® these days. I know for certain that an ounce of dedication might be the only cure, but that smell, that texture! I must maintain a painful mindfulness until I somehow manage to regain that blissful mindlessness again. The shortcut is now the long way around. The only way to runs right through the middle of what nobody ever wants.

It's just a dedication test, similar to the ones that always seem to attach themselves to anything really worth wanting. It represents the contingent cost of a dream come true, the gauntlet one just has to pass through, never productively avoided. Only slightly less difficult than stopping smoking, it's another one of those challenges unblunted by turning up the volume on the television. It's do or lie to myself about having done. I might be the only one who would know if I deceived myself for now, but the day would come when everyone would recognize that I'd somehow failed myself. The crime would remain one of omission, and I would remain the only real victim, but I would have to hide out from myself then, with little hope of ever returning. My life along with my aspiration would go on permanent exile then.

This SetList has deep resonance. It's one of those seemingly little things that produce a tsunami. I was not careful what I wished for, thank Heavens. I was for once an expansive dreamer which, by all rights, should have properly resulted in a notable increase in nightmares. My Fingerlings remind me every damned time I touch my guitar now. I can hear in my mind how it's supposed to sound. I clearly have not yet found my fingering again. I must keep trying, however tiring even thinking about trying becomes. I might not have been born to contribute anything beyond trying. Accomplishments seem fleeting. Gains diminish over time, but trying might be the only eternal contribution anyone ever makes. It disappears upon emergence. I might or might not succeed in whatever I'm trying to achieve, but I must only try to actually succeed at trying. I pursue my best with the least promising resources, Fingerling potatoes for fingers. When was life any different?

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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