“The only thing I can’t … teach is whether a musician can get through to his guts. They have to find that themselves, and some of them never do.” So says the seventy-two year-old-world-renowned violinist, Itzhak Perlman, the subject of Chernick Alison’s documentary (2018). Such discoveries usually occur in the wake of intense suffering.

I suggest that Itzhak’s came to him during his formative years. His Polish parents fled their country in advance of Hitler’s ghettoization. Their purchase of a toy violin at a Tel Aviv thrift shop for their three-and-a-half-year only son, too small to hold a real one, evidenced their hardscrabble existence. And six months later, their shock as they dealt with Itzhak’s polio-ravaged body.

Multi-faceted interventions followed: medications and special diets to restore what was left of Itzhak’s health, passive range of motion exercises for his paralyzed legs, constant adjustment of his shoes and the heavy leg braces and crutches to accommodate his growth. When thirteen, his prodigious talent brought him and his parents to Manhattan where he began his studies at the Julliard School of Music—again, leaving behind everything familiar.

More studies solidified Itzhak’s violin playing with his gut, the sacred core of his being. Always listening, he still approaches each note with reverence, as if taking direction as to when to enter it, how long to stay, and when to leave it behind. His facial expression reflects this passionate embrace. Such playing informs Itzhak’s uniqueness and still crowds concert halls around the world.

Alison’s short documentary, Itzhak, offers clues to Itzhak’s genius—A must see.

 

 

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March’s ire prolonged a soggy grayness that flummoxed root systems timed to fire their greenness above ground. Wetness loosened gumballs from specter branches and hurtled them like grenades toward slick pavements. Solitary patches of fescue, like punk hair, bullied wilted mounds of zoysia on lawns. A squirrel twitched its nose, tossed back its head. A dog shivered, leaned into its leash as it scrambled onto my neighbor’s porch.

Yet, the rains dripped into April. Like those safely ensconced within Noah’s ark we yearned for the sun’s energy to restore dryness and color to our land.

All the while, a happening in my flowerbed gave me pause. The tips of six green blades began to push through the protective mulch—unheard of because of nothing having been planted there. Weeks passed. Like daunting gymnasts strutting their stuff, more blades appeared, not without being pommeled by winds and biting rains. Nothing would stop the growth of these daffodils, not even Easter Sunday’s sleet storm.

Three days later, the sun’s warmth lowered the heads of the tight buds and unraveled them; their yummy yellow still trumpets hope for all to hear.

Such display, in microcosm, reflects the Unseen Hand bestowing life in its full color and symmetry, despite insurmountable obstacles. We have only to observe …

 

It was evening, the auditorium in Knight Hall located on the Washington University of St. Louis campus. The introduction was made. All was ready.

Petite in stature, her wavy hair framing her oval face, Princeton Professor Elaine Pagels shared her research on a millenials-old story—“war literature,” she called it, referring to the Book of Revelation (91 CE). Urgency, tinged with joy, enhanced her speech, evidence of her having been in the fire with the Sacred.

Upon the floor-to-ceiling-wall, behind her, flashed art works from medieval illuminated manuscripts, from woodcuts, from paintings, from sculptures that further enhanced the cataclysmic clash between Michael the Light Bearer and Lucifer the Prince of Darkness and their minions. For continuing evidence of this clash, we only have to look within our psyches and the world around us. Thus, the continuing attraction of this book that so engaged her listeners.

 

 

My take-away only surfaced later… War still exists in my body: fifty-seven years of living with rheumatoid arthritis have throttled my spirit, blunted psychic growth, and enervated relationships. Drugs, knee joint surgeries, and fatigue almost devoured me until I took responsibility for my health. Only devotion to the Crucified with bleeding knees has and still sustains me.

 

It’s about being faithful. There will be a resolution—entrance into the New Jerusalem as narrated in the Book of Revelation.

Available on Amazon

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