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Life Lessons

The Three Stringed Violin

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, a violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City.

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, undoes 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. 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. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that.

You could see him modulating, changing, 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 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.

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Be A Lake

The old Master instructed an unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and Then to drink it.

How does it taste?” the Master asked.
“Awful,” spat the apprentice.
The Master chuckled and then asked the young man to take another handful of salt and put it in the lake.
The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and when the apprentice swirled his handful of salt into the lake.
The old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”
As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the Master asked, “How does it taste?”

“Good!” remarked the apprentice.

“Do you taste the salt?” asked the Master.

“No,” said the young man.

The Master sat beside this troubled young man, took his hands, and said,”The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less.The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of ‘pain’ we taste depends on the container we put it into.”
So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things …..

Stop being a Glass, Become a LAKE..

Reaction vs Response

Suddenly, a cockroach flew from somewhere and sat on her. I wondered if this was the cockroach’s response to all the glory that was spoken about it! She started screaming out of fear. With panic stricken face and trembling voice, she started doing jumping, with both her hands desperately trying to get rid of the cockroach. Her reaction was contagious, as everyone in her group got cranky to what was happening. The lady finally managed to push the cockroach to another lady in the group. Now, it was the turn of the other lady in the group to continue the drama. The waiter rushed forward to their rescue. In the relay of throwing, the cockroach next fell upon the waiter. The waiter stood firm, composed himself and observed the behavior of the cockroach on his shirt. When he was confident enough,
he grabbed and threw it out with his fingers.
Sipping my coffee and watching the amusement, the antenna of my mind picked up a few thoughts and started wondering, was the cockroach responsible for their histrionic behavior? If so, then why was the waiter not disturbed? He handled it near to perfection, without any chaos. It is not the cockroach, but the inability of the ladies to handle the disturbance caused by the cockroach that disturbed the ladies.
I realized even in my case then , it is not the shouting of my father or my boss that disturbs me, but its my inability to handle the disturbances caused by their shouting that disturbs me.
It’s not the traffic jams on the road that disturbs me, but my inability to handle the disturbance caused by the traffic jam that disturbs me.
More than the problem, it’s my reaction to the problem that hurts me.
Lessons learnt from the story:
I understood, I should not react in life. I should always respond.
The women reacted, whereas the waiter responded.
Reactions are always instinctive whereas responses are always intellectual…

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