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Playing through the Pain

Passover starts at sundown on April 8.  We’re supposed to “leave the House of Bondage.”  I think about the things/feelings I’m in bondage to–my fears, my obsessions–and wonder how I can leave them and enter the House of Freedom.  

I just attended a concert by Leon Fleischer.images  Fleischer, who’s 80 now, lost the use of his right hand when he was about 35, and spent the next 30 years performing the left-handed repertoire, conducting and teaching.  When he was almost 70, a cure was found for the neurological disorder that afflicted him, and he’s now back to performing with two hands, and playing more passionately and beautifully than anyone else I’ve heard recently.

He says he never was bitter, and I wonder if that’s true.  I wonder what the process was.  I imagine panic, followed by some years of agony, and then moving to a new place in his career.

I have a friend in Houston, a poet and a woman, who was diagnosed with late-onset MS.  Her first two years with the condition, she tried to work out in psycho-therapy what fears made her fall over.  I wonder if a psychiatrist suggested to Mr. Fleischer that he was afraid of appearing in public and so had lost the use of his right hand.  Or do those suggestions only get made to women?

Every time I sit down to write, it’s with a renewed sense of inadequacy.  I just read D T Max’s portrait of David Foster Wallace in the March 9 New Yorker.  Do only great writers get to be depressed about the quality of their work?  Should someone like me just put on my big-girl underpants and move on?  What is the exit from the House of Bondage?

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