As the years went by Uncle Jeffrey became a young impresario giving concerts at more and more impressive venues. Yet, Master Czoza was never satisfied with Uncle Jeffrey’s playing. One day, Master Czoza addressed Uncle Jeffrey.“Uncle Jeffrey, you have been studying violin with me for twelve years now. Have I taught you to love your violin?”“Yes,” Uncle Jeffrey answered.“No, you cannot love your violin. It is your tool; it is your slave. It is there for you to shape into beauty, for you to mold it into an expression of love. Do not love your violin. Make your violin into something you love.”Uncle Jeffrey stared at him.“Do you understand?”“No,” said Uncle Jeffrey.“My son, you are a great talent. You can play a violin like few your age. You are even better than I was at your age,” Master Czoza said looking into Uncle Jeffrey’s eyes. He then turned away and said, “Your future could be unlimited if you begin to play from deep within yourself. Technically, you can master anything-- given enough time.”Master Czoza turned back toward Uncle Jeffrey.“Are you ready for the challenge of your life?” he asked in his calm but strong voice.
The story of Uncle Jeffrey the Violinist is the story of all artists. We have a challenge set before us. It can seem easy -- we get to play around with clay, paint, music and words. We get to do something we love. We get to share our creations with others. But to do it well, to go beyond ourselves, to be able to reach inside of others to share more than thoughts, to share more than feelings, to give others an experience that in some small way changes their life for the better, is the hardest challenge of all. Is Uncle Jeffrey up to this challenge? Are any of us? Or do we do our best and let the chips fall where they may? Sometimes they fall into ecstasy. Sometimes they fall into the toilet. Most of the times they fall somewhere in between.
While writing this story I cried quite a bit. I hadn't realized how much I had been struggling over the years to reach -- something -- to reach a point with my art where it flows, where people appreciate it, where it actually begins to express what I want it to. There is a point in any artist's life when a watershed appears. Is the enjoyment and satisfaction of making art pleasing enough to continue? Or are the struggles too much? With all of life's struggles, many talented people decide "no, I cannot continue."
Uncle Jeffrey is an amazing talent and he has gotten to his position through grief and sadness. Can one continue playing year after year if one's motivation is founded in sadness, in the need to overcome a hurt or flaw or obstacle? Does one need a sense of enjoyment and lightness to carry a tune throughout one's life? These are hard questions that cannot be answered quickly, but once an artist knows the answer, there is no changing their course. They will continue or they will stop. They may not even speak it out loud.
For myself, I am desperate. I have enjoyed almost every minute of this whole project. I have enjoyed making art, learning web-design techniques, meeting talented compatriots and have especially enjoyed the writing of the stories. But I want to get to a place in my life where it all flows. Lately, I have been discovering that many non-art related situations in my life are creating barriers to achieving a "flow." I am not set-up to continue into the next phase of my making. I have a fear that I will not get there, I will not be able to make the changes necessary. This next year of Bartholomew will be a launching pad, or possibly a last gasp. When it is time for me to stand and play at my master's funeral, I wonder what will come out.
Come and read Uncle Jeffrey the Violinist at The Book of Bartholomew.
Uncle Jeffrey the Violinist will be published next week Friday, October 26.
In the meantime, enjoy the other stories in The Book of Bartholomew, then come back here and comment.