A CNN news story caught my eye because it featured a famous pianist, Lang Lang, who has taken the world by storm. I love my piano--no, really. I love making music, feeling music, bringing music into my home and weaving it into our family culture. And my secret dream has always been to become a concert pianist, but I'm not sure that's happening any time soon! Anyway, so this Lang Lang pianist talks about his upbringing, where he was dubbed a prodigy at the tender age of, like, three, and his father drove him to greatness.
The melodic tone of young Lang Lang's dream ended rather abruptly when his piano teacher fired him, calling him talentless, and the heartbroken father, who had moved to a new city to enable his son to become a star, give him a good piece of, er, fatherly advice: to throw himself off the roof of a building rather than dishonor the family.
I'm not going to touch the subject of Far Eastern honor culture here. What I'd like to reflect on, for a moment or two, is the complex synergy between who we are and what we do. Is my life my work? Is my life my family? Is my life my friends, my accomplishments, my bank account? What, in essence, IS my life? In Lang Lang's case, his father clearly felt that his life was his musical career. When that did not pan out, his life was worthless, a crumpled piece of yesterday's newspaper, rightfully destined for the garbage.
In Jewish thought, every moment of life is inestimably precious, even if that droplet of life exists in a total vacuum. The person in a vegetative state, being sustained by a respirator and myriad tubes, is precious and valuable and their life is just as exquisite and sacred as the person receiving the Nobel Prize or tending to humanitarian causes in Rwanda, or...or the woman writing hasty blogposts in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel :-)!
Just a sprinkling of thought, on the very periphery of my exhausted mental state. Life is precious and purposeful, regardless, perhaps, of its by-products. Life is a means, but it's also an end. I'm really glad Lang Lang shelved his father's bit of advice.
About Riva Pomerantz
I'm a freelance writer, widely published in several magazines including the internationally-distributed Ami Magazine and Mishpacha Jewish Family Weekly. Riva's work also appears on the award-winning website www.aish.com, amongst others. You can buy my books here.