I was truly moved today by watching this short film below about the pianist Leon Fleisher who, due to a crippling dystonia, had to give up his career at the peak of his powers. Thankfully, a valedictory journey into various therapies but most of all through the meaning of identity in music brought his right hand back to join his left .
What made this so resonant for me was that his words brought to mind all I had written when I wrote the fictionalised story of my own journey to self-realisation through identity crisis, different from his but not too much. The understanding of self is not self-indulgent whimsy – it is a necessary corollary on one’s lifeline. There is no weakness or selfishness in recognising self – because the self in the world is the only way we love, feel empathy and understanding, and commit to living fully; being the best of ourselves is being the best for others. No matter how insignificant the things that matter to you seem to be, they are the sinew of living and defining that most elusive and misunderstood posture, happiness.
We all need to empty those spaces that are too filled with longing and remember that life must be lived forwards but is only understood backwards. And looking back I see just how much I created, positively, out of the experience of being lost to myself, as Leon was, when the one thing he was born to do was seemingly smote from in front of him in the form of curling fingers. One has to be really lost to find oneself. A half-turn does not cut it. No, one has to journey to the hinterlands of alienation, of failure in any sense, to be able to recognise and pick out those shards of diamond in the dust.
I have seen wonderful things come and go more in these last months and the diamonds are still there and I see more everyday. I am not empty at all. I am with you all, at my best, or trying to be, every day, with two hands and a full heart. As is Leon, demonstrating here in Bach the sublimity of his journey; sublime because every extended and overused posture is removed and he plays all that matters. I want to live as he plays this, because this playing reflects my maxim:
‘In art, as in love, instinct is enough.’