Yitzhak Perlman, the great violinist, was playing in New York. Yitzhak Perlman was crippled by polio as a young child, so the bottom part of his body doesn’t work well and he wears these very prominent leg braces and comes on in crutches, in a very painful, slow way, hauling himself across the stage. Then he sits down and, very carefully, unbuckles the leg braces and lays them down, puts down his crutches, and then picks up his violin. So, this night the audience had watched him slowly, painfully, walk across the stage; and he began to play. And, suddenly, there was a loud noise in the hall that signaled that one of his four strings on his violin had just snapped.
Everyone expected that they would be watching Yitzhak Perlman put back the leg braces, walk slowly across the stage, and find a new violin. But this is what happened. Yitzhak Perlman closed his eyes for a moment. Yitzhak Perlman paused. And then he signaled for the conductor to begin again. And he began from where they had left off. And here’s the description of his playing, from Jack Riemer in the Houston Chronicle:
“He played with such passion, and such power, and such purity, as people had never heard before. Of course, everyone knew that it was impossible to play this symphonic work with three strings. I know that. You know that. But that night, Yitzhak Perlman did not know that. You could see him modulating, changing, recomposing 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 awe-filed silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. Everyone was screaming and cheering and doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had just done. He smiled. He wiped the sweat from his brow. He raised his bow to us. And then he said, not boastfully, but in a quiet and pensive and 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.'”
Sometimes, it is our task to find out how much music we can make with what we have left. What is the name that is big enough to hold your fearlessness, that is big enough to call you into fearlessness? That is big enough to break your heart? To allow you to open to the suffering that is this world right now and to not become immobilized by fear and to not become immobilized by comfort? What is the way in which you can hold your work so that you do feel free from hope…. and therefore free from fear?
– Margaret Wheatley