An Erhu Player
Short Take: Living Life Lessons
Every day, when I walk to the bus interchange on the way home, I’ll cross the road from Northpoint Mall. And on the other side, there is an old man, perhaps 70 years of age, playing the erhu, a beautiful and melodious Chinese instrument capable of producing the most moving and soulful tunes.
The erhu (二胡) is not an easy instrument to play. It takes patience, determination, and if you’re serious about it, lessons. In the olden days, most people would seek out an erhu master as teacher and mentor, and I’m guessing that’s what this elderly man must have done, so many years ago.
I can’t help but think:
What was his history?
What did he aspire to be when he was a young boy?
What hopes did he have?
What goals did he want to achieve with his music?
What was the future he saw for himself?
And inevitably: Did he ever in his youngest dreams, envision that he would be playing by the roadside as an old man, for a few coins each day, to earn a living?
When you’re young, everything seems great.
You figure that the future will sort itself out whatever you do.
You may be focussed just on your studies.
You may be busy with your passion.
You might be learning, doing, experiencing something, and you do it without thought of the future because you believe that whatever you do, it will all work towards something.
But as time goes by, and you reach your 30s, 40s, and beyond, you realise that the future is actually what you actively make of it. You’re not going to have the luxury of trusting to Fate or the Gods, because you don’t get to say “One day…” One day is already here. And if you haven’t done anything to ensure that your one day is what you dreamt it to be, your “One day…” will be random, unpredictable, and not always happy.
Here’s another sad situation that really struck a chord with me, also involving a musician. If you know anything about salsa, you will have heard of the band Grupo Niche. They were popular in the 80s and famous for such hits as Etnia and Gotas de Lluvia. When I started salsa about ten years ago, I couldn’t go to a club without dancing to one of their songs.
Edgar Espinoza, once a keyboardist for the group, now lives in poverty, addicted to drugs, and is homeless. A while ago, this video surfaced of him playing a piano through the bars of a music store. It is so poignant. His playing skills is still there, his voice is a little strained, and there is a strong symbolism in his playing through bars. Separated from even the piano by a physical barrier, you cannot but help feel for the man and what he has lost, and what he may yet lose.
You cannot know what will happen in the future unless you plan for it. Unless you CREATE it.
You cannot control where you end up, but you can stack the odds.
The sooner you do this, the better.
Like exercise, you’re never too old to start. You’re too old not to.