Good Intentions…Casting pearls before swine…

Parents have good intentions – to provide a loving, secure and stimulating environment and opportunities for their children to develop into well-functioning individuals. To fulfill this goal, they do a great deal. They study the individual character, interests and capabilities of their children. They plot and act, apply hard-won resources and invest personal time and energy to create the conditions necessary for these intentions to be realized. However, there may be times when parents must feel that their good actions seem to be nothing less than casting pearls before swine.

“Hello!  My name is Suburbanlife, and I am a member of that tribe known as Swine.” ( This is my A.A. moment….)

My Mother and Father, very competent amateur pianist and violinist, provided a home for us kids where the opportunity to develop familiarity with and appreciation of music, among many other offerings of a culture, daily presented itself. Our life was a plentifully laden smorgasbord where possibility abounded.  We feasted, daily.

My sister developed a taste for the sounds made by the piano. She loved the instrument, learned intimately well how to coax music from its keys and delighted in the dextrous play of her increasingly skilled fingers.  There may have been times when she was distracted from her devotion to playing the piano by other worldly attractions, however its hold over her interest has proved to be strong and persistent.  Not only is she a very skilled musician, but also teaches these skills to children now, with great humour, ingenuity and pleasure. She has made a lovely pearl necklace for herself, which she keeps lengthening daily.  She is definitely not of the swine tribe!

As a small child I pestered my dad to let me hold the violin, to wipe the rosin from under the strings after he played it, to apply rosin to the bow and to put the violin into its hard case and shut it with a satisfying click. I admired the violin’s russet gloss, wondered at its unique form and studied its beautifully scrolled head with the silky tuning pegs.  Every material used to make the various components of a violin held a special fascination.  The bow, also, was a marvel of sculptural beauty – horse-hairs aligned just so to be tensioned and relaxed as desired.  The sounds that issued from the friction of the bow drawn over the strings, as I learned, ranged from an irritatingly demented screech (caused by careless and awkward movements) to smooth glissandos. Time passed. I practised, sometimes with great concentration and keenness and other times under duress. However, while my bowing technique improved over time, the fingering dexterity of my left hand remained stiff and awkward. To my great dismay I couldn’t get the hang of making vibrato happen, no matter how hard I tried. Skilled and patient teachers encouraged – I felt perpetually frustrated and disgusted with my lack of capacity.

When I was 12 years old, father gave me a Storioni violin to encourage me to persist. It was an absolute gem of an instrument. In the right hands it made the most beautiful music. Unfortunately, not in my hands. My frustration and discouragement came to a head on a snowy winter evening.  My parents insited that I enter a violin competition, for my grade level. I begged to not have to compete, because I knew that my skills were sub-standard and were bound to disappoint any expectation my parents may have had from me in this regard. They prevailed, so off I trudged in the snow to meet my fate at the adjudication. It was a trial! Afterward, disgusted and humiliated, I took the long way home to work off my anxious feeling of failure. Angry, I whacked the hard case containing the Storioni against every tree I passed. There were many trees to walk by that evening; the only witness to my transgression Orion, overhead. After numerous bangings of the violin case it finally ocurred to me that I may be harming the violin.  Under a street-light I set the case on a snow-bank, opened it and much to my relief, found it unscathed. On arriving home,  announcing the results of the competition and telling my parentsof my reaction and actions on the way home I said that from that moment on I would no longer take violin lessons, or pick up the violin, ever again.  Much persuasive argument and insistence ensued to no avail.  Wild horses could not drag me back to the violin.

Glad to say, the violin survived my brutish ministrations and was eventually gifted to a young violinist who fell in love with it and used it to sublime effect. 

No matter how much a pig may desire to collect pearls, string them and wear them to their and others’ delight to achieve this goes against its natural capacity.  Now, this does not mean that the pig is unable to experience a love of and pleasure in pearls, it merely means that wearing them is not an option for it.

I still love to hear the violin being played and have a cheap, student-grade violin found at a garage sale. It sits in a closet here, and sometimes when I am alone in the house I bring it out to play some reels.

6 Responses to “Good Intentions…Casting pearls before swine…”

  1. Deborah Barlow Says:

    Your posting is lyrical and moving, and it has caused me to ponder on the role of amateurism in a celebrity addled culture. There is something to be applauded for playing that student grade violin, even if you are playing it alone in your house. I think we miss out by not being given permission to do things poorly, since the doing is sometimes its own reward. Play on!

  2. Dejan Says:

    Your post brought me so much joy! thanks so much! I am totally uneducated when it comes to violins and I had to google up a bit, and when I found that your violin is made in Cremona, perhaps at the end of 18th century – I only had enough strength to gasp – Oh, my!

    Uh huh. But I like the happy ending – that violin is not broken. It is not that you are like a pig who was given pearls. It is not like that. In children world values are completely different, and it is natural. When I was a child I was angry that I had golden fountain pen, and not ordinary one which I fancied to be much more beautiful. Also I liked more my friend’s Spectrum ZX81 computer that was cheaper than my father’s pocket HP41CX, for which my father gave astronomical price (we were poor, he just bought it to show that he can have better programmable calculator than CEO of company in which he worked. go figure 🙂 )

    I like to hear that you are still playing – even when alone (I do the same with guitar, but my music is punishment for my neighbours’ ears – so I am never alone), and there is challenge now for you to try to see violin from the true angle – angle of which you were aware of in those years – angle of competition not with others, but with yourself, nay, way of revealing your inner music. I would like to learn one day to paint in oil like that. To experience such aspect of freedom.

    There were many trees to walk by that evening; the only witness to my transgression Orion, overhead.

    I would paint a picture of silent Orion above the woods. Everything is blue, moonlight snowy blue around. To our earthly transitory woes, beauty of the starry sky is always a silent witness, often unnoticed antithesis.Thanks again for your childhood story, it brought smile to my face this evening.

  3. galvanized Says:

    Aww, I so identify with this post! My bane was the piano, which I took lessons for alongside my brother, who is naturally gifted. I so wanted to excel on the it (as well as guitar). I am sure that I appreciate its sounds even more than many who play it well. I have always pondered why God would give me this adoration of instruments that I am unable to manipulate. It’s like an itch that I can’t scratch.

    As for your story, your sister may have gotten the musical ability, but you definitely string together your own pearls with your superb articulation and your thoughtful stories! I’m sure your parents and sister would be proud to see how vivid and fluid your writing is, and sometimes it’s more like poetry than just a story. Your musical upbringing clearly played a large part in developing your mastery of words to create mood and tone, and to paint pictures in the reader’s mind.

  4. yolayola Says:

    I like to buy some Pearls jewellery, nacklaces and earrings. Any recommendation? A lot of pearls are from China, pretty good and not expensive at all.

  5. suburbanlife Says:

    Sorry, I don’t think I can help you. As you can read from my post I have very limited experience in recieving pearls, and very little in buying them buying them. The Shopping Channel is for you, check it out!

  6. Especially for G « Dreams Corner Says:

    […] say that I developed a great admiration for your writing style ever since I read the post about incident with Storioni violin […]

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