“Learning from the Masters” is a weekly series I started here recently with the goal of sharing useful lessons we can learn from others, regardless of their medium. The important thing for me is how we can apply these lessons to photography, and to our lives as creative individuals.
I heard the following story while listening to a talk given by spiritual teacher Jack Kornfield, and thought it was not only profoundly inspiring, but contained great lessons for us as photographers.
Itzhak Perlman, one of the greatest violinists in the world, was doing a concert in NY at Lincoln Center with the New York symphony. He has braces on his legs because he had polio when he was 4 years old, and so he can't walk really well and walks with braces…and he takes these braces off and pulls out his Stradivarius and makes this extraordinary music.
So there he was playing this violin concerto and he's part way through it, and striking the bow all of a sudden there was this loud crack and pop – a string broke. Everyone in the hall heard it, the orchestra stopped, and he sat there quietly for a moment, closed his eyes, paused.
“What will he do?” everyone was thinking.
“Will he limp off stage and get another violin? Will somebody come and restring his Stradivarius?”
“What's going to happen?”
After he paused for a few moments, he signaled for the conductor to begin again, and he re-entered the concerto playing with passion, and power, and purity. And those who really knew, who were close, could watch him modulate, and change, and reconfigure the piece, so that he could play it on three strings.
When he finished there was a silence in the hall, and then an outburst of applause. People rose and cheered. He smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, raised his bow to get things quiet. And then he spoke not boastfully, but in a pensive, reverent tone.
“You know” he said, “sometimes it is the artists task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”