Thursday, February 5, 2009

On Being Centered

My guitar feels good in my hands because it was made, partially, by my hands. I watched every piece come together. Spruce, Walnut, Mahogany, Ebony, Maple. Based on Martin D28 plans, my guitar was customized and crafted by Master luthier Hulon Stringer of Bolivar, Tennessee. After spending several years as owner/operator of a men’s clothing factory, Mr. Stringer decided to spend his golden years making musical instruments. His violins and guitars are works of art. Watching him build my guitar redefined the expression ‘attention to excellence’. We began with the top, European Spruce I found online (it has a subtle bear claw). He sanded it close to the desired thickness and glued the book-matched pieces together. Then he sanded it to thickness, carefully measuring at several points with a micrometer. “Sounds pretty good” he said, as he tapped it with his finger. Finally it was time to drill the pilot for the sound hole. On closer inspection he realized he had drilled the pilot hole slightly off-center, almost imperceptibly (at least, to me). His reaction startled me. I thought he was going to throw it in the trash and begin anew. When I said, “It’s only off a fraction!” he stopped, looked at me, and said, “Off is off. The amount doesn’t matter.” I wonder if he knew the deep spiritual truth he had just offered. How many of us walk this life with ‘off-centered’ sound holes?

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