On a recent trip to Beijing, China I met a fabulous violinist named Lin. As a violin player myself there was an instant connection and through the course of the evening I got to hear Lin’s story. Lin, had always wanted to play the violin, but came of age during the cultural revolution when the Chinese government was destroying every western instrument in sight. Rather than giving up his dream to play, shortly after the cultural revolution ended, Lin was able to get his hands on an instrument. Even though he was well into adulthood at this point in his life, and did not have anyone to formally teach him, Lin dove in with both feet. Practicing for hours every day, Lin taught himself to read music and play by listening to the recordings of other musicians. With many years of formal lessons behind me, I can tell you this is an extraordinarily impressive feat. Lin did all this while simultaneously starting a company and becoming a successful businessman in Beijing. Listening to Lin play, I could close my eyes and easily imagine myself listening to a violin soloist practicing for a concert at the Lincoln Center. In fact Lin’s skills have progressed to the point that one of the most famous luthiers in Beijing now gives him violins to play – both to get a sense of how much they are worth, as well as to give him a chance to break in the instruments.
Walking across the wild landscape of Mo’omomi Nature Preserve at dawn on the island of Molokai with giant untamed ocean waves pounding their bass drums on the shore, I wonder at the similarities between Lin playing the luthiers violins; and God, nature, the universe – whatever you want to call it – playing the scene before me. Violins are endowed by the hand of the luthier with a voice at their creation, just as my eyes are have been endowed with their own perspective on the world. The violins voice develops and sweetens over time and practice until the gentlest brush stroke of bow on string brings forth notes of graceful music, just as my eyes become more adept at resonating to the brush stroke of natures brilliant music. The violin cannot accomplish this without the violinist, just as my eyes cannot see the beauty before me without the hand of nature pulling its bow across my soul to resonate ever more sweetly in its presence. The hands of the master reach for the Stradivarius. One day may my eyes be that instrument.