Does playing violin sometimes feels like it’s life and death?

Edited: December 25, 2017, 8:05 PM · Sometimes, we get caught up by the difficulties in learning, we forgot that being alive and playing violin is such a privilege. In Eric Sun’s case, it’s a matter of life and death. He was learning Paganini caprices and Bach solos, and performing Mendelssohn Octet during his end of life. His story reminded me why I play violin, and what I should and probably would do in face of physical declining and death.
Thoughts and comments?

Replies (46)

December 25, 2017, 8:29 PM · That certainly is a very tragic and frightening story. Life is fragile.
Edited: December 25, 2017, 11:20 PM · Gemma, I couldn't agree more. I think Eric Sun, an amateur violinist, got it right in terms what it is all about. One is truly great not because how much better he can play compared to others, or how famous he becomes in this ever-so competitive violin world. One is great because he can go beyond all the obstacles and noises in pursuit his dream, all the way to one’s end of life.

And to all the amateur fellow violinists, late starters or adult learners, when you begin to ask yourself "Am I good enough?" "Will I play like a pro?", say to yourself instead “That is not what playing violin is about. That is NOT IT at all!”

Paul, it is very sad that Eric Sun's life has been cut short, but I somewhat disagree with you in viewing this as a frightening story. I think it's a story of triumphant of music and human spirit. Life is very fragile and short. Because we all face inevitable ending, knowing what's important for each of us to pursuit can't be overemphasized.

December 25, 2017, 11:16 PM · I heard Eric play the octet in a master class at the seminar this summer. No words.
December 25, 2017, 11:49 PM · During the war in Iraq things got very bad and every day you would learn that someone you knew had been killed. I'm talking about civilian deaths both among iraqis and foreigners who were there. Eventually you had the complete feeling that you were in the Death Row and just didn't know the date. Today, tomorrow, next week. Your day was coming.
Past the frightening realization, it became liberating. Under the thought that you were already dead and just using some extra time, what was important or not changed radically. Thing such as doing something or not doing it because of other people's opinions, or being a slave of your career. All that is stupid when you are dead or about to die.
That time freed me from the life of what one is supposed to do and opened lots of doors.
"May death find me living".
December 26, 2017, 12:33 AM · I just read the article, and I found it moving. I felt for him and especially for his wife. I am so sorry for her loss; he was taken too young.

But I also found the article uncomfortable and even a little voyeuristic to read. I too live in Mountain View California. I didn't know the subject of the article, but I know the Silicon Valley tech culture. Such an emphasis on achievement, achievement, achievement, on awards and prizes and recognitions and climbing mountains and pushing oneself ever higher even until the very end.

If I knew I only had 14 months to live, I wouldn't be pushing myself to play the Paganini caprices or some cadenza written for Isaac Stern. It would matter more who I played with and whether I loved what I played, not how virtuosic the pieces were. I also wouldn't be trying to be accepted to an elite program where I would perform for famous strangers. I'd just be quietly playing music I loved with people I loved.

Edited: December 26, 2017, 8:22 AM · And to all the amateur fellow violinists, late starters or adult learners, when you begin to ask yourself "Am I good enough?" "Will I play like a pro?", say to yourself instead “That is not what playing violin is about. That is NOT IT at all!”

With due respect Yixi, and thanks for posting the link and comments on the thought-provoking article, I disagree -- while it certainly isn't about getting into a professional orchestra or stage, there is no reasonable performance standard that we can aspire to other than excellence. We do what we can, but we certainly aspire to play much better, and the playing of Paganini is little more than establishing to yourself and others that you can do it, in my view.

But, my apologies, this thread is not a good place for such an argument.

I am struck by Eric Sun's poise and courage. It's well and good to have a bucket list, but a completely different thing to act on it and execute it to success in the face of such a diagnosis, let alone the physical trauma and pain which come with the illness and its treatments. Many of us would withdraw into cocoons of sorrow for ourselves, attempt to deny and escape in various ways, and think little of how our passing could be made better, or even positive -- such as by providing the instrument, for others.

As to playing as if it's life and death. Yes; more of us should, and then we might better reach our aspiration.

Edited: December 26, 2017, 9:02 AM · I agree with Karen's post. Very sad story (and we all as adults getting older have a few of those) but I also find it uncomfortable, not just because of death but also there is a discernable 'hollywooding' and voyeurism.

Carlos, this is going to be a bit strong but I cant let this by without commenting: that time might have freed you but it put a lot of others, and specifically the others who werent the conquerors coming in to plunder and kill under false pretenses in a very dark place that continues to this day in this region of the world. So, the fact that you deem it liberating to your good self, that war was a liberating existentialist tool to help push your boundaries and free you, puts up questions about how empathetic you might be as a person given the hundreds of thousands if not more (estimâtes of 1,000,000+) who were killed in this war. Furthermore, even from the side of the US soldiers, it seems the overwhelming evidence is that such expériences marr them for life.

Edited slightly.

Edited: December 26, 2017, 9:43 AM · Voyeurism? I don't get it. I had to check the dictionary to see if I understood the term correctly and still don't get it. I see courage and heroic actions in fighting to live to one's fullest in facing death, but nothing sexual about it.
December 26, 2017, 9:48 AM · Lydia has taken up this thread in a separate post at .
December 26, 2017, 9:53 AM · J Ray, I actually agree with you about aspiration and in pursuit of excellence. I didn't make myself clear and thank you for giving me a chance to explain what I meant to say. As you well said, "we certainly aspire to play much better." I would add that, while we need to be inspired by the greats and those who are ahead of us, we certainly don't need the fear and self-doubts to compare with others, as the latter is frequently displayed among amateur players and late starters. Compare and compete against ourselves makes a lot more sense and more productive than against others.
Edited: December 26, 2017, 10:14 AM · No not in the literal sexual sense Yixi :)
In the sense that his private life is being used for the sake of eliciting pathos, he becomes a subject of our curiosity and emoting. Personally, I find it uneasy to turn that into reading material if its sole purpose is that.
Was it heroic? I dont know really. The guy had the common sense, the will and the means to use the time in a way he that heroic? I dont think so..but that does not diminish the fact that it makes me feel sad for him and for his family and to respect the strength of his will. I hope saying this does not make me come out as harsh. I know what cancer is like especially for one's family. It is a very cruel way of exiting this rather sad world.
December 26, 2017, 10:18 AM · As a former oncology nurse, I've seen a lot of cancer patients dying under a different light. Eric Sun is certainly a hero in my mind as he didn't let the illness and death stop him living to the fullest: keep learning, practicing, performing music as if life depending on it. That alone would be enough heroic for me, but he also engaged with friends and family and community, distributed his wealth by endowing scholarship and financial aid for health research and chamber-music, donated his Vuillaume in support of young artists, etc. This is extraordinary in my book.
Edited: December 26, 2017, 10:21 AM · Perhaps you're right Yixi. Thank you for making me see it your way.
Edited: December 26, 2017, 10:38 AM · I think all such journalism is voyeuristic in a sense. We are getting a deeply personal glimpse into the life--and approach to death--of another person. I personally was deeply moved and inspired by Eric's journey. What would you choose to do if you knew you had a year left, maybe? I had a chance to play in his group this year. A friend asked me if I'd be interested in playing violin and viola in the octet for the seminar. I demurred for three reasons: I'd been asked by a different group first, and said no (partly because I was invited to play the violin part in the Trout, which is beyond my performance capabilities). It felt tacky to commit to another group. I was also worried about my ability to learn the viola fast enough. But finally, the underlying reason for saying no to either group: my mother has glioblastoma and at the time I wasn't sure if I'd need to be at her side during the week of the seminar. I didn't want to commit and then bail at the last minute.

As I write, my 76-year-old mother is playing Christmas carols on the piano, 15 feet away from me. She has improbably survived a year longer than she was supposed to. And there's a message in there somewhere about not putting one's life on hold, because we never know which day will be our last--or the last day of a person we love.

I wish I'd said yes, practiced feverishly, and gotten to complement Eric's sweet Vuillaume. I'm glad he went out having accomplished so much of what he wanted in life. How many of us could say the same?

December 26, 2017, 11:09 AM · LINK:
December 26, 2017, 12:02 PM · One can have a healthy drive to be the best violinist they can be at any age. Life is short. Be the "best"; learn all you can, and "marry" your instrument-you never know when you'll be together again.

I personally see a dark existence without the violin in my life. For me it IS a matter of Life and Death. I am NOT competitive, but my Violin is my Friend. I got to nurture our relationship every day. What would happen if I couldn't play anymore? It is a question that haunts me.

With that in mind, I see the (or this) violinist's life as a "permanent" journey, not merely a career you throw away to enjoy the proceedings when you get old. I wish to die with my violin held to my chest. Money is worthless-violin-playing is where it's at, as far as I am concerned (that, and being a fair, honorable, and compassionate human being.)

Don't let anyone tell you it's OK to be mediocre (age, already "made it", etc.) Even if you've learned most of the repertoire, you can still grow more "together". The Journey never ends, until it all ends. Be it Capricci, difficult Concertante works, or "simpler" achievements, fall in Love and enjoy your Relationship-never take for granted the amazing Privilege of being able to play your Beloved Violin.

Sorry for the loss of the violinist in the article. Glad he was doing what he loved the most, to the end.

December 26, 2017, 12:07 PM · Wow, Katie! I am speechless. Please give your mother a big hug from me and tell her that when I grow up, I want to be like her.

Yes, Eric Sun has achieved a great deal during and even after his life. But what's really significant to me is not his achievement but his spirit of not putting his life on hold, as you wisely put. Achievements ultimately is something beyond our control: time, money, opportunity, etc. What's within our control is our will to choose, every day and every minute, how to live our life and how to move into that good night.

Edited: December 26, 2017, 2:43 PM · Thanks Tammuz, for explaining what I meant by "voyeuristic" better than I could. I was moved by the section about his playing Fiddler on the Roof not long before he died. It made me think of this, perhaps the musical's most well-known and beloved song:

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers
Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears

In my opinion, that musical, Fiddler on the Roof, is only peripherally about Tevye, the fiddler, or any individual "hero." It is not about performing a virtuosic candenza. And it is not even about achieving greatness, however defined. It is about the flow of time and the universal human experiences of love and loss. That is what I found moving in an article that I otherwise thought was written by an author with misplaced Silicon Valley priorities.

I can't play fancy cadenzas, but I can play Sunrise Sunset.

December 26, 2017, 12:51 PM · I agree with Adalberto, having a healthy drive to be the best one can be is a journey and it is beyond money, fame or any other worldly accomplishment. It's about the meaning of one's own life. I think Eric Sun is a good example of what Viktor Frankl said in his Man’s Search for Meaning:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.

Edited: December 26, 2017, 2:20 PM · Karen wrote: "I know the Silicon Valley tech culture. Such an emphasis on achievement, achievement, achievement, on awards and prizes and recognitions and climbing mountains and pushing oneself ever higher even until the very end."

I think there's a certain kind of temperament that thrives on setting and achieving goals. I don't live in Silicon Valley any longer, but I've always felt that inner drive -- before, during, and after living there. It's part of what made me feel like I fit in there.

I think part of it is a drive to have certain peak experiences, as well. It's notable that Eric Sun apparently stopped working when he got his terminal diagnosis, and started trying to have the experiences that he wanted to have before he died. A lot of people choose to travel. Eric chose to play the violin.

Personally, I was strongly struck by how much what he wanted to do, matched things that have been important to me in my violin life, and so I found reading the article to be almost eerie.

(Tevye's not the fiddler, by the way. The fiddler is there almost as anonymous commentary; he has no name and lacks a speaking part. I've been the concertmaster for a production of Fiddler -- though with the current standard orchestration, not the movie's cadenza.)

December 26, 2017, 2:52 PM · Lydia, thank you! I can't express any better than you did about difference in temperament and what makes one thrive but not the other. I too found somewhat eerie when reading the article, not only because I shared some of his dreams (like working on these solo repertoires and playing at Stanford SLSQ seminar), but Eric Sun also reminds me of the passing of my late husband in 2014. He was an extremely driven, kind and private person. All he wanted during his last a few months (shortly after the diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) was doing what he always had been doing, which chiefly consisted of his academic works, reading and writing. I gave a lot of thoughts during the past three years or so about him and dying. I've no doubt that being able to choose and doing what he had chosen to do, among other things, was what enabled him to be remarkably at ease with death. Not everyone has such clarity when face death. Eric and my late husband did. That is their good fortune.
December 26, 2017, 2:56 PM · Yes, I agree, and you put it well, there's a certain temperament. I lack that temperament and it can be hard to live here in Silicon Valley when you lack it. It's also rather hard to be a violinist, lacking it. That may be why I became a violist ;-)

I did find the story moving. As I said, I really felt for his wife (also named Karen) who talked about having to rebuild her life. And thinking of him playing Fiddler on the Roof, aware of the nearness of his own sunset, brings on tears.

What I think is missing from these Silicon Valley achievement/peak experience/goal-oriented stories in general (not this one in particular, necessarily) is the human cost to enabling the privileged few to gain those achievements/peak experiences/goals. The tech giants (Facebook, Google, Apple, et al) and their employees have pushed affordable housing out of reach of families who would be considered middle class anywhere else. There are students who attend Mountain View High School whose families live in their cars. One in 10 families in Silicon Valley relies on Second Harvest (a food bank) to get enough to eat. There is human tragedy, pathos, and bravery all around. You don't have to go to the pages of the New Yorker to find it.

December 26, 2017, 4:33 PM · For the curious, there's (several) YouTube videos. Here's one: LINK. (He's a very good amateur.)

It's not the young employees of the tech giants (or the giants themselves) that are creating the Bay Area's housing crisis -- most are renters who won't be able to afford to buy unless they luck into a jackpot IPO. It's the persistent refusal of existing homeowners and local Bay Area government to build more housing, especially affordable housing, that's driving prices up to crazy levels. (Indeed, I left the Bay Area almost 15 years ago, specifically because even on dual tech incomes, buying a house was out of reach even then.)

Edited: December 26, 2017, 6:49 PM · Thank you Lydia. Indeed he was very good. There's another his video (his solo starts at around 3:33)

In another article that Gemma found, he was quoted saying:

I like to use the violin as a tool to inspire, to bring people together these days. It’s not even about the music. I realize I can use this thing to inspire people and to bring people together, to introduce people who have never met before...

He has definitely inspired me.

December 26, 2017, 5:41 PM · I am not blaming any individuals for the problem; there are larger forces at work. And I'm not talking just about the housing crisis although that is pretty dire, and as you say, has multiple causes including (especially) the political. There is also the water crisis (aquifers being depleted; the central valley is sinking), the traffic. Many resources are being strained past their limits. Traditional industries and jobs are also being disrupted in this economy. Even if the political obstacles contributing to the housing crisis were removed tomorrow, those factors and disruptions would remain, and the consequences would still fall hardest on the poor and vulnerable.

I admire that Eric Sun set up a scholarship for young musicians and donated his instrument. I think that shows a wonderful, generous spirit and the world is poorer for his having gone so young. I also think that Stanford University, with its $22 billion endowment and 4.8% acceptance rate, is one of the last places that needed such a gift. Whereas San Jose State, 30 minutes to the south, has a string program for low-income students who have never held an instrument before.

There are never going to be enough places at Stanford, jobs in tech, or peak-experience opportunities for everyone, no matter how goal-oriented everyone becomes or how many housing units are built. In my opinion the tech elite have a responsibility to serve the communities that enable their success, not just to pursue their own individual goals and dreams, and they (we--I still live here) need to do better at that.

December 26, 2017, 6:03 PM · He didn't donate his violin to Stanford. He established a foundation that will competitively loan his violin to young players, presumably aspiring soloists.

Even if he were donating it, it would make far more sense at Stanford, which has experience caring for such instruments, than at SJSU, which does not (and lacks the kind of music program that would be able to make effective use of that violin).

Edited: December 26, 2017, 7:36 PM · I was talking about the scholarships, primarily, not the instrument.

My larger point is that the SF Bay area is a land of massive inequality--of wealth, of talent, of opportunity, of everything--that has only gotten worse in the 15 years since you left.

I don't think it is my place to judge how Eric Sun lived. I applaud that he thought of others, that he set up scholarships, that he donated his instrument. I like Yixi's interpretation, that he was seeking meaning for his life at its end; I believe he found it. And I'm glad.

Nonetheless, I still think that the New Yorker article about him, as written, is overly and inappropriately laudatory of goal-oriented, achievement-oriented, and peak-experience-oriented behavior. The culture here is steeped in it; this is what I called "misplaced Silicon Valley priorities." Lacking that temperament, I don't value such behavior over its opposite; I see its dark side and its limitations, especially when time and resources are limited and/or the end is near.

I am getting the sense that you disagree with me. That is fine with me; I am not attacking you, or him. I am just disagreeing. I think such behavior can (doesn't always, but can) just as easily get in the way of the search for meaning as enhance it.

Edited: December 26, 2017, 7:15 PM · It's not scholarship but financial aid for applicants of SLSQ chamber music seminar with financial needs. The seminar is an excellent chamber music camp, which attracts chamber musicians from all walks of life.
Edited: December 26, 2017, 7:50 PM · Yes, it's another Stanford program. I'm sure it's very worthy, and, of course, excellent. It's for people who are already very privileged and accomplished, as is anyone who is applying to and accepted by a competitive program at Stanford. It's not for anyone who has been left behind by the Bay Area juggernaut.
Edited: December 26, 2017, 8:25 PM · The whole point of articles like that is to elicit strong reactions. Strong reactions often differ. We should embrace the range of our responses as a natural outcome of intellectual diversity.

As I read this thread, and Lydia's, I started to wonder what Eric Sun might have done other than devote the rest of his days to the violin? As violinists we naturally see his efforts as noble. But surely there are others who got sick and decided to do something equally noble but perhaps less "surprising." For example, the scientist who doubles down on finding a cure, like my friend Dan Dyer:

December 26, 2017, 9:41 PM · Paul, Eric Sun also endowed a scholarship at Stanford for women in STEM fields. But that's beside the point. You use the word "surprising". I am surprised, not by Eric but by what I've read here. The whole point of sharing for my sharing this story was the hope that people would be inspired by the courage and positive contributions Eric and his wife have made to the world during the most difficult moments of their life. I've been a widow and I know a bit about those moments.

Is it just me who feels hard to see that healthy living people are asking so much of a dying person what he/she might have done other than what he did? You probably didn't mean that, but it sounded like you are second-guessing some of the most important choices a dying person made for himself under circumstance of imminent death, the circumstance we neither yet to face nor have a clue.

Help me out.

Edited: December 26, 2017, 10:58 PM · My answer to the original question is NO!

There a lot more to life than playing the violin. Watching one's children grow; spending time with friends and family; making contribution to one's chosen profession. Violin playing is just a hobby.

Frankly, I don't get this whole business of talking about someone's tragedy as a way to turn amateur violin playing into some kind of noble enterprise. It is very strange. As amateurs, we play for ourselves! It is inherently a self-centered, if not selfish, activity.

Edited: December 27, 2017, 8:47 PM · Nobody is trying to turn amateur violin playing into some kind of noble enterprise. Running is ordinary activity but run for cure is something else. It's not playing violin per se, it's how we contribute to others via playing violin that can make difference.

Eric Sun reminded me of another inspiring guy, Randy Pausch.

Some people are capable of turning tragic situation into opportunity to inspire and help others. I admire greatness in these people.

December 27, 2017, 12:17 AM · To be fair, violin playing IS a hobby-at least for many. But for some, it's way more than that-"life" itself-and it should be respected as such, even if incomprehensible/irrational to those who would disagree. Call them crazy/strange/selfish/whatever-nothing will change the fact that the violin is not merely a hobby for them, even if they were amateurs.

It's OK to be different. "Making a contribution to one's profession" would be fairly "worthless" to me, unless it involves "curing" acts of evil and hatred in the World. Though if it's valid for you, I respect that-truly nothing wrong with what you see as more important.

Don't know why it's seemingly so wrong to peacefully disagree with each other. No need to jump on others so strongly just because they see or feel things differently.

December 27, 2017, 12:39 AM · Not only is he spending his last days doing what he loves, but he's actually managed to be selfless enough to make it about bringing joy to others. It's nothing to do with showing off or trying to appear noble.
Edited: December 27, 2017, 3:59 AM · David Zhang said, "Frankly, I don't get this whole business of talking about someone's tragedy as a way to turn amateur violin playing into some kind of noble enterprise. It is very strange. As amateurs, we play for ourselves! It is inherently a self-centered, if not selfish, activity."

Violin careerists can also be self-centered. Other musicians, including some very fine ones (?Beethoven) do make a connection between music and the biggest questions of life. For a memoir of a serious professional violinist moving, after a life-threatening illness, from seeing music as doing a job well, to feeling music is intimately linked to much larger issues in life, see the memoir of the late Paul Robertson, Soundscapes.

I am not saying either of these perspectives is 'right', or coming down on one side of the fence. However, I will come out and firmly agree with Szerying who said in a masterclass, 'I say this as an assertion and a reminder: we do not need to be exceptionally brilliant on the violin to make beautiful music.' (in German, in the last 30 seconds of This is why, for me, if Eric Sun and colleagues' Octet was more moving for whatever reasons than a performance which is more professional, then as a member of the ticket-buying public that is the performance I would have picked.

December 27, 2017, 7:49 AM · People tend to make bequests that relate to things that were meaningful to them in life. Leaving a scholarship fund for a beloved adult chamber-music program -- SLSQ's summer session attracts a national audience of players -- is very fitting for someone like Eric Sun. People leave bequests to pet-related foundations, and professional orchestras, and art galleries, and many other "elite" charitable pursuits.
December 27, 2017, 10:50 AM · I don't worry about death, but I do worry about my bucket list in terms of age- what I can reasonable accomplish before my body starts to fail.
December 29, 2017, 3:48 PM · Yixi, when gauging peoples' responses here, keep in mind that most people are very, very afraid of death. By attaching something familiar (violin) to a story involving death, it makes the inevitability of our eventual demise all too real. So some of the responses you see here are simply fear-based.

With that said, I'm a person that probably thinks about death way too much compared to the average person. I would say that it goes through my head at least 100 times a day that not only am I going to die, but everyone I know and love will probably die before me, and I will have to see that. Before my mom died, I used to think one day at a time. Now it's like I see into the future, and I know that someday that same grief will hit me when my spouse dies, when my brother dies, and when my dad dies (and whomever else I learn to love along the way, although I avoid friends partially for this reason).

So, music in general is heavily centered around death for me, because my entire life and thought process is centered around death. But it's also centered around life, because in accepting my eventual death, I've realized that it's beautiful to be able to make music in the meantime. I don't think of music as some noble pursuit that I can share, but simply as something that is pretty damn amazing by itself, even if no one ever hears it except you. It's not a "bucket list" type of thing for me, but simply a process that I can explore and discover as I grow older and learn more about the existential conundrum that we call "life." To me, music shares the same thought-space as looking at stars, seeing the massive ocean, or seeing the aurora borealis. It's a physical process that we can measure, but the effect it has on us goes far beyond mere physical reasoning. It's a window to something else.

December 29, 2017, 4:13 PM · Yixi I am not second guessing or criticizing Eric Sun. What he chose to do with his remaining time and his money are both just fine. You obviously have strong feelings about this, which I totally respect, but I am apparently just seeing things very differently. I think it's probably best for me to just leave it there.
December 29, 2017, 5:08 PM · Most people do not spend their lives engaged in noble enterprises, much less the last days of their lives.

Most of us are lucky enough to do something useful, but rarely is it noble, per se.

Eric Sun managed engineering for the social graph at Facebook -- another example of the best minds of the millennial generation spending their lives trying to figure out how to get people to click on more ads.

December 29, 2017, 7:11 PM · Erik, very good advice as usual. Thank you!
Like you, I’m thinking about death everyday as well (probably not 100 times/day), but ever since when I was an oncology nurse in my early 20s. These thoughts become more intense in my recently years after experiencing passing of people who have great impact in my life. I’ve learned from this thinking process like nothing else did.
Also like you, violin playing in and of itself has nothing to do with life or death to me, but it’s a way of life, as such, its significance changes as life happens, such as death. Like you said, it’s “simply a process that I can explore and discover as I grow older and learn more about the existential conundrum that we call "life."” Incidentally, I believe that death is not the opposite of life, but it’s the opposite of birth. Death and birth are natural process, but life is somewhat a mental construct. But I’m probably have gone too far philosophically speaking.
Still, for some of us, playing violin is kind of sacred. I don’t consider it’s just another hobby (which I’ve got a few); it’s everything for me. Playing violin and processing everything I’m dealing with in life work in tandem. The process of life-long learning this difficult instrument provides a great platform for my personal growth. Playing/learning the violin centers me and humbles me in ways like nothing else I’ve tried, as you nicely put, “It's a window to something else.” The ability to put my fingers on the rich violin music repertoire is just icing on the cake.

Paul, I know. Thank you for your understanding that I feel strongly about end-of-life people who worked through the process in loving and meaningful ways. I did get carried away a little and I respect your perspective too.

Lydia, so true. Being noble is not something one worries about every day. Oftentimes though, we see certain calamity brings the best and worse of people. Whatever exactly Eric Sun did for Facebook I don't know enough to comment on, but I see nobility in his final acts. For that reason, he reminds me of Randy Pausch.

Edited: December 29, 2017, 9:14 PM · Yes! The violin can bring people together. There are well known individuals and organizations who have brought the violin as a ray of hope to children whose childhood has been disrupted if not destroyed by conflicts and poverty.

In addition to the "Last Lecture", lectures are given everyday, not just in CMU or UVA, but in xxx community college or xxx jurior college to kids whose mothers take the early bus to work in the morning and for whom an education is the only ticket out of a life of crime, drugs and prisons.

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January 21, 2018, 8:05 PM · This is a very moving story, and one can clearly see the diversity of emotions and attitudes it invokes for us. As a physician, I have seen many “styles” of those unfortunate enough to be in Mr. Sun’s position, but until recently I never thought I’d get a glimpse of this myself.

Last spring I had emergency surgery for a life-threatening illness. I am fortunate to have survived and recovered, but that was by no means certain at the time. In hospital, my recorded violin music was my very comforting “sound track” for the entire experience. While very painfully waiting for my surgery, I listened to the Bach Chaconne, and newly connected with its powerful commentary on both hope and mortality. As I recovered in the ensuing weeks, I then became obsessively focused on playing in an upcoming community orchestra concert, rehearsing with the score in my mind (no violin in hospital!) with a focus and determination that surprised me. It took all my strength to go to play in that concert, and was so thin I thought my pants would fall down when we stood for applause, but I did it, and it felt wonderful.

Without a doubt, violin gave me both solace, purpose and determination as I faced illness and possibly worse. Violin “got me through”, and perhaps helped me come to terms with whatever must be. Though Mr. Sun’s story ended far more tragically, I think I can to a small degree understand his motivation in the face of illness.

As for achieving more, until we no longer can, maybe Ghandi said it best -“ Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”. Regards all - C.

Edited: January 22, 2018, 8:14 AM · Ghandi's words ring true. When at age 90 my dad had only a few months to live, he used that time to learn and memorize a Rachmaninoff piano sonata.

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