Somewhere in The Hobbit, if I remember correctly, Gollum asks Bilbo a riddle in his cave. The riddle is to name something that levels kingdoms and dominions, slays prince and pauper alike and ultimately leaves no man alive. Bilbo thinks of the scariest monsters and dragons he can imagine, but it takes him too long to figure out, so he calls for more ‘time,’ and the answer, of course is Time itself. Memento mori. It’s on my mind every day these days. I just don’t want these two years of my life to end. Studying at Juilliard and living in New York, for all its difficulties, has really been the time of my life and pretty much lived up to be everything I expected and more. All the same, it’s so easy to just wake up, make some breakfast, pack a lunch, drink a cup of coffee, get on the 1 train, practice all day, come home alone and sleep, and let one more day go by. One more day of the two-year master’s program, of which over a quarter is already passed.
Graduation is really not a happy event for most people here. Being in school is perhaps the only time in our lives when we can focus on perfecting our art and making something beautiful without worrying about how we will eat the next day. It may be the only time when we’re surrounded by people who care about music as much as we do. Our loans are on deferment, and the future holds nothing but promise.
The ancient Greeks believed that life on earth was to live on the rind of a hollow world, and that after death, the soul descended into the underworld forever, haunting the living out of jealousy. From my Christian point of view, I obviously can’t believe this at face value, but sometimes I get on the subway and look around me, and I still can’t help but think it makes a lot of sense in this life.
I’m never going to look better than I do now. The same goes for anyone roughly my age. I have pictures, but they can’t freeze time. Maybe mental sharpness and memory even peaks now. There was a newspaper article I saw recently about how pro video gamers can’t play past their mid 20s. I hope I haven’t peaked yet in my musical performance abilities, but I know that it does happen for some people when they are in graduate school, or even earlier. We’re just like athletes and models, except we might last a little longer in our prime.
The point is to live like you’ll die tomorrow, and also like you’ll live another hundred years. I can’t afford to waste any more time in poor health, and I think I take better care of myself. I can’t afford to screw up my musical career; you always have to think one step ahead of everyone around you. On the other hand, I basically have two years to finish this stage of life, and there’s a year and a half left. If I want to do something and it doesn’t directly conflict with a responsibility of mine that I take seriously, then in general these days I’m more likely than not to just do it. Carpe diem. Yolo. In a very literal sense, this is probably why I’m blogging and texting several people, trying to make several different plans right now.
I’m also working on building up my youtube channel. Why do it now when I have the rest of my life to sync / trim all my audio and video files and upload them? Just ask my awesome chamber group. Some of us have literally lost sleep after our performance Thursday of Golijov’s Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind, wishing it could be uploaded already. It’s something we’re all immensely proud of and it deserves to be heard, not tomorrow but today. We have to wait till we get the studio recording, but in fact if I had only one more day to live, the first thing I would do would probably be to upload some of my fairly unique solo repertoire that I have very good recordings of. This is ultimately one of the ways I see myself surviving. These recordings, which all seem like yesterday to me, could ultimately outlive me on the internet. The memories I leave with other people, whether in person, face to face or digitally through them clicking a link, are in fact all that I can leave behind of significance. I guess that and having children lol.