Violin with broken strings
On Nov.18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give aconcert.
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 walks with the aid of two crutches.
The audience sits quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair and begins his play.
But this time, something went wrong.
Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke.
We thought that he would have to stop the concert.
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 with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.
Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a harmonious work with just three strings.
I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that.
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.
He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow and then he said-not boastfully,
but in aquiet, sacred 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.
This powerful line 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.
He has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of your strings, but all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert,
he finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings,
and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings
So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music,
at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.