Last night I heard a wonderful story.
I was visiting a friend, and the subject of my recently begun violin lessons came up. He began telling me about a famous violinist in the 1700’s, one of the most famous in the world. Many would say, in fact, that he was the best violinist the world has ever seen.
One day, hours before a concert, a pianist came into the auditorium to find the violinist practicing.
“Why are you practicing?” the pianist asked. “You don’t need to practice this piece.”
The violinist responded simply. “I’m still practicing because I’m still getting better.”
Wow. What a powerful statement.
I wonder what would happen if we applied that attitude to our own lives. I wonder what would change if we committed to whole-hearted excellence, even with the things most would say we’ve already mastered.
Would good marriages get better if the spouses committed to continuing to woo each other? Would individuals become happier, better adjusted, if they strove every day to get better at self-care? I wonder if that would carry over into other areas of their lives, if by loving themselves better they would be able to love others better as well?
I’ve heard many times over the past year what great hosts my husband and I are, how well we welcome people into our home. It’s easy to sit back and stop trying, to “check the box” on that particular area of life. But we can always get better.
I’d like to say that I already had the mentality of the violinist, that I’m always trying to improve – even in the areas where I already excel – because I know that there’s always room for improvement. That, however, would be a flat-out lie.
My natural inclination is quite the opposite. I do things because I have to, or sometimes because I really, really want to. Daily pursuit of extreme excellence is not an innate proclivity of mine.
The story my friend told me, more than anything else, served as a challenge. A challenge to actively live your life, not simply let your life be lived.
A challenge to, as Henry David Thoreau put it, “live deep and suck the marrow out of life….and not, when you come to die, discover that you had not lived.”