There is a man who ‘busks’ on the street near my office. He stands just inside the underpass holding his nylon strung guitar awkwardly, unstrapped. He plucks at one string over and over again.
duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh
He makes no pretense at melody. He utters not one word of song.
I walk past him regularly on my missions to meetings or for the odd sandwich. There he stands, motionless but for that monotone finger, staring zen-like at a point on the far wall, seemingly oblivious to the hand full of coins that some have dropped at his feet. Not by me, I hasten to add. I tend to shake my head in wonder. Surely he could just learn a chord for heavens sake?
However, the more I have observed him, the more I have come to think that there is something admirable, majestic even, in his stoical vigil. His total lack of artifice, of artistry, of concern for the judgement of others- it is remarkable. So much so that I find myself humming along to his droning string.
Hum hum hum hum hum hum hum hum hum hum
I have played guitar since I was 11 years old. But I could not have stood all those hours in that cold underpass and attempted to play for money. I would be too concerned about getting it right, about looking cool, about wanting people to be impressed by my art, by my skill. I would fuss over tuning and resonance. I would almost certainly fall short of my own expectations of myself.
So it is with many creative folk. To create we need to believe we have in us something worth creating. But self belief is a fleeting thing, often wafted away in the first breeze of public scrutiny.
Or at least that is how it often feels to me. It is almost as if each string I pluck makes nothing more than that same monotonous duh duh duh.
There he stands. And I walk by.
Yes, Chris, I remember him well – I saw him a lot when I was still part of that world, and I share your sense of admiration for his resilience. I feel somehow your “walking by” is now connected to his existence, as he has found a place in your mind. I will never know what is in his, and I wonder what his hinterland might be…