Blog Post

Inspired

6th January 2013 |

You know when you hear something truly inspirational you just want to share it? Well the following piece was sent to me over the festive period about Itzhak Perlman, the violinist who went on stage on the 18th November 1995 to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.  I just want to share it….

If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight.

He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, unfastens the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play. 

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap - it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn't. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again. 

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off, he played with such passion, such power and such purity as they had never heard before. Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing, and re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was De-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium.  We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering; doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone - "You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it.

And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any he had ever made before with four strings. 

So, perhaps we should reflect on Itzhak’s approach in our work and lives. Let us make the most of what we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, make the best with what we have left.

Inspired

 I decide what matters to me. ubu help and teach me to make my future happen 

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