How (and Why) to Play Music in the Night

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A project from my cabinet of curiosities.

Meet Fuente Fuente OpusX Belicoso.

A cigar box ukulele I made during lockdown.

For the brave: Full origin and build story.

When I first learned to play my new ukulele, my fingers hurt. They turned an angry red. They ached.

The notes sounded horrible.

In time the pain receded and music ascended.

Through a long year, suffering produces callouses in our lives.

We harden. The shell thickens to dull the onslaught.

But we have to be careful that we don’t allow that layer to get too thick.

Or we won’t feel a thing. And worse — we’ll lack compassion. 

It takes time to process and let your soul catch up with all that’s happened and changed.

Cigar Box Ukulele Finished

Distressed for Purpose

It’s the callouses that enable us to press into the pain.

Because we’ve been there. We’re willing to push in.

Because even if we can’t see it, we know deep down suffering can become glory, and glory is a beacon.

And that requires time and space to heal and recover.

When we press into the pain that has healed, we make musical notes that resonate with others who bear the same pain.


In the Dark

Sometimes, we think of callouses as a bad thing.

Ugly. Rough. Coarse.

The mechanic or carpenter with tough scaly hands. Yet what wonders they craft with their hands — which have been formed by the work they’ve practiced repeatedly.

They become so practiced they could do their craft with their eyes closed.

Sometimes before bed, I dim the lights and strum my ukulele to decompress.

At first I had to squint down at my fingers. But after a few weeks I realized I didn’t even need to look down at the strings anymore.

Our practice shapes our lives to the best form to serve others. Our work makes something, and at the same time the work shapes us. It builds muscle memory in our lives so we can build others up.

But it takes time. Reflection. Being willing to stay in the dark. Sit and learn from the pain.

To be unashamed of the scars.

And even when we can’t see, even when things are dark and uncertain, because of our practice, we will know which notes we need to play in the night — for ourselves and for others.

Cigar Box Ukulele and Guitar

Want to make your own? Here’s how I made mine.


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