Have you ever had one of those days when nothing seems to go right? It is as though you were performing on a stage in front of a large audience ... when some of the strings on your violin just broke. Of all times for them to break! Why couldn't it had happened at another time ... or place ... like at home ... in private. Oh, well, that's life.
When life falls apart, some of us just give up. We throw in the towel. We call it quits. We never think about adlibbing it and going on with the show. No, we just feel sorry for our selves and give up. After all giving up is so much easier ... isn't it?
Well, on November 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the world-class violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Perlman had been stricken with polio as a child. As an adult he stills wears 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.
On this evening he walks painfully until he reaches his chair. Slowly, he puts his crutches down on the stage floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up his violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.
But on this night, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. The audience 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.
The audience thought that he would have to get up, put on his clasps again, pick up his crutches and limp his way off stage ... or to find another violin ... or fix the one he had broken with another string. 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. 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 symphonic work with just three strings. We may know that, but on this night no body told Perlman. He was modulating, changing, and recomposing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was detuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.
When he finished, there was an awesome silence in Fisher Hall. And then the people cheered. He smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, raised his bow to quiet the audience, and then he said..." 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 statement! Here was a man who had 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 strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful than any that he had ever made before.
So, the lesson we are to gather from this is in this fast-changing, shaky, bewildering world in which we live ... we are live our lives in spite of the obstructions placed in front of us. We are to use all that we have to the fullest with what we have at the moment. Instead of giving up, making excuses or blaming someone or something else, just make music through your life with what you have and be happy!
Dr. Charles M. Wood, II is an accomplished instructor of psychology and religion at Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College. He is a Christian counselor in Logan — serving, ministering, and donating his time to people from all denominations.
If you would like to contact Dr. Wood, please write: The Logan Banner, c/o The Good Life With Dr. Wood, P.O. Box 720, Logan, WV 25601; or call (304) 752-4658. All letters addressed to Dr. Wood will be forwarded to his office.