The saint in a chequered shirt

How five days can change your life

Tijn Touber | June 2005 issue

I first met Chuck Bates in a log cabin. I was 14, and Chuck must have been around 30. With his rough beard and lumberjack shirt, he mainly reminded me of a bear I’d seen a couple of days earlier in Yellowstone Park. But this bear changed my whole life, and it wasn’t just his guitar playing.

We met at a party of mutual friends—in a log cabin in the mountains. That first evening we gathered around the campfire, spending hours discussing music. We talked about the most beautiful guitar solos ever played and the magical moments when musicians become one with the music—those moments when you aren’t playing the music, it’s playing through you. Chuck spoke fervently about the quiet spaces between the notes. “The magic is in the silence,” he said. “Be the wise man who speaks rarely but each word profound.” I listened breathlessly and barely slept. I was so excited. The next day we were going to play together.

I got up early, eager to get started. I didn’t want to waste one minute. But Chuck wasn’t in a hurry: “First we’ll eat a leisurely breakfast, then chop some wood and take our guitars and walk to the highest peak of the mountain.” When we finally got there, Chuck showed no signs of unpacking his guitar. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, in and out, in and out. I joined him out of politeness.

Finally we started to play. We were to take turns improvising on some simple chords. He let me go first and I tried my best to produce as many notes as I could in the least amount of time. When it was Chuck’s turn, he closed his eyes and waited for at least 30 seconds before playing a note. But when that note came, I was shocked at the level of impact. This was followed by silence. Then a few more notes, and again silence.

I spent five days with Chuck on the mountain where it became ever quieter.

In the years that followed, we lost touch. And then I unexpectedly ran into him whilst visiting the States last year. It was an emotional moment. He had no idea what I had been doing since then—that I started a rock band in the Netherlands and had gold records hanging on my wall and then had become a meditation teacher. Music and silence had become important guidelines in my life. And Chuck had absolutely no idea that all this was set in motion thanks to the five days we spent together. In fact, he had completely forgotten about them. To him, it was the most normal thing in the world to spend your time and energy bringing out the best in others.

Last week I got a package in the mail from Chuck. It contained a CD by Adriàn Verde, a young man from a tiny village in Mexico. The villagers loved him for his music. He had composed hundreds of songs with beautiful lyrics that touch the heart. Chuck spent some days with this talented songwriter and recorded a few of his works on his Apple laptop. When he got home, he called a couple of his well-known musician friends and recorded an entire band to back-up Adriàn. He then “photoshopped” a CD cover, copied the CDs and sent a box of them to Adriàn.

I would love to have seen Adriàn’s face when he heard his own CD for the first time. But by then Chuck may well have forgotten about it.

Solution News Source

The saint in a chequered shirt

How five days can change your life

Tijn Touber | June 2005 issue

I first met Chuck Bates in a log cabin. I was 14, and Chuck must have been around 30. With his rough beard and lumberjack shirt, he mainly reminded me of a bear I’d seen a couple of days earlier in Yellowstone Park. But this bear changed my whole life, and it wasn’t just his guitar playing.

We met at a party of mutual friends—in a log cabin in the mountains. That first evening we gathered around the campfire, spending hours discussing music. We talked about the most beautiful guitar solos ever played and the magical moments when musicians become one with the music—those moments when you aren’t playing the music, it’s playing through you. Chuck spoke fervently about the quiet spaces between the notes. “The magic is in the silence,” he said. “Be the wise man who speaks rarely but each word profound.” I listened breathlessly and barely slept. I was so excited. The next day we were going to play together.

I got up early, eager to get started. I didn’t want to waste one minute. But Chuck wasn’t in a hurry: “First we’ll eat a leisurely breakfast, then chop some wood and take our guitars and walk to the highest peak of the mountain.” When we finally got there, Chuck showed no signs of unpacking his guitar. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, in and out, in and out. I joined him out of politeness.

Finally we started to play. We were to take turns improvising on some simple chords. He let me go first and I tried my best to produce as many notes as I could in the least amount of time. When it was Chuck’s turn, he closed his eyes and waited for at least 30 seconds before playing a note. But when that note came, I was shocked at the level of impact. This was followed by silence. Then a few more notes, and again silence.

I spent five days with Chuck on the mountain where it became ever quieter.

In the years that followed, we lost touch. And then I unexpectedly ran into him whilst visiting the States last year. It was an emotional moment. He had no idea what I had been doing since then—that I started a rock band in the Netherlands and had gold records hanging on my wall and then had become a meditation teacher. Music and silence had become important guidelines in my life. And Chuck had absolutely no idea that all this was set in motion thanks to the five days we spent together. In fact, he had completely forgotten about them. To him, it was the most normal thing in the world to spend your time and energy bringing out the best in others.

Last week I got a package in the mail from Chuck. It contained a CD by Adriàn Verde, a young man from a tiny village in Mexico. The villagers loved him for his music. He had composed hundreds of songs with beautiful lyrics that touch the heart. Chuck spent some days with this talented songwriter and recorded a few of his works on his Apple laptop. When he got home, he called a couple of his well-known musician friends and recorded an entire band to back-up Adriàn. He then “photoshopped” a CD cover, copied the CDs and sent a box of them to Adriàn.

I would love to have seen Adriàn’s face when he heard his own CD for the first time. But by then Chuck may well have forgotten about it.

Solution News Source

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