On Nov.18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is not a small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he walks with the aid of two crutches.
The audiences sat quietly while he made his way across the stage to his chair and began 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, everyone 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 his brow and then he said in a quiet, 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.”
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.