How Much Music Can You Make?

Imagine this. A concert violinist is performing a difficult piece in front of a large audience. Suddenly there is a loud snap that reverberates throughout the auditorium. The audience immediately knows that a string has broken and fully expects the concert to be suspended until another string, or instrument, is brought to the musician.

But instead, the violinist composes herself, closes her eyes and then signals the conductor to begin again. The orchestra resumes where it had left off and now the musician plays the music on the remaining three strings. In her mind she works out new fingering to compensate. A work that few people can play well on a perfect instrument, the violinist with the broken string plays magnificently.

When she finishes, an awesome silence hangs in the room. And then as one, the crowd rises to their feet amidst enthusiastic applause and cheers. The violinist smiles and wipes perspiration from her brow. When silence returns to the great room, she explains why she continued to play in spite of the accident. “You know,” she says, still breathless, “sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.” 

(Though this incident is sometimes purported to have happened to the famous violinist Itzhak Perlman, it cannot be substantiated and is more likely grist in the mill of urban legend. But there is a powerful truth in this story nevertheless.)

We know what the violinist means, don’t we? We know about experiencing losses and setbacks. We know what it means to find out how much music we can still make with what we have left.

Maybe you’ve lived most of your life and you have only a little time remaining. Though most of your life is behind, can you still make music?

Maybe disease or an accident has robbed you of your capacity to work. Though too sick or weak to hold down a job, are there other ways to contribute? Can you still make music?

Perhaps a financial loss has left you impoverished. Without the resources you’ve enjoyed in the past, can you count up the numerous other resources still available to you? Time? Energy? Skills? Knowledge? Can you still make music?

Or maybe a meaningful relationship has ended and you feel alone in the world. Will you figure out what that loss means in your life, grieve its passing and decide you still have a future? Can you still make music?

There are times when we all experience loss; times when something occurs that changes everything. Like the violinist, will you find the courage to discover just how much music you can still make with what you have left? How much good you can still do? How much joy you can still share? 

I’m convinced that the world, more than ever, needs the music only you can make. And if it takes extra courage to keep playing in spite of your loss, many will applaud the effort. And who knows? Others may be inspired to pick up their broken instruments, their broken lives, and begin again.

The all-important question we each must ask is this: Just how much music can I make with what I have left?

And so, we pray: Lord, I sometimes forget that I can still play music, and make excuses for not playing. Help me to find the music… and play the music I can play with what I have left. Amen.

Grace and Peace

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