Posted by: jhvn | 06/03/2013


First, I apologize for my geezer slip that required a password for my last post. To the best of my ability (such as it is) that will never happen again. However like many interruptions, that one caught my attention and sparked my realization that we all – children, adults, and geezers – often find ourselves coping with disabilities, accidents, or other interruptions to “normal” life.

As I reflected on that realization, up popped a memory of a story sent to me ten years ago by a client who had been disabled for decades and was at that time confined to bed; so I had visited weekly at home. To my wonder and delight I had saved the email in my storage file labeled “wisdom”. So read on – the story of an ultimate geezer. No further comment needed.

“Article from the Houston Chronicle…
“On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the 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 unforgettable 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. People who were there that night thought to themselves: “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, 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 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 [way] of life — not just for artists, but for all of us.

“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.” — Jack Riemer


  1. Fantastic story John, an inspiration, thank you

  2. John — Thanks for posting this very beautiful article. I’ve had the honor of hearing/seeing Perlman perform several times when he was a guest artist at the San Francisco Symphony. Yes, it was extraordinary even with all the strings of his violin intact. Another time I was listening to the radio as I was driving and this incredible music came across the waves. I thought I would almost have to pull over it was so moving — and, yes, it turned out to be Perlman. I really like the idea of making music with what we have left when we don’t have everything left. – Martha

  3. Fortunately, the only stage of aging that has made its appearance to me is time. Bucket lists are now part of my agenda, and the race with the nursing home is on. As more take aways appear, I hope I am able to resolve each in a way that continues artistic endeavors with little participation in self pity and no participation in arts and crafts.

    • I needed a good chuckle today! I get it! And, I identify in ways I would rather not divulge!

  4. Wow! The synchroncity of your “wisdom” reaches further than you realise at this moment. I will explain when I see you Thursday.

  5. This is by far my favorite posting…what a great story to share!!! Marcia

    Sent from my iPad

  6. John, this testimony really helps encourage me personally as I struggle to accept mental health deficits that hinder my full potential for contributing to society. Despite lingering symptoms, I must focus on my abilities I do have and rejoice that God is able to work through me no matter. Staying off the pity pot is of the utmost importance in order to “..make music” with what I do have to work with in regards to self-realization. God can use me much better when I refrain from lamentations. As Khalil Gibran described…we are separate strings on a lute, though we quiver with the same music. I guess I am content to be the unsung hero string sounded in a way that is imperceptible to most- except to God’s own heart.

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