[Yesterday, May 15, I delivered the Commencement address for the 2021 class of graduates at Claremont McKenna College. Interspersed with my remarks were violin performances, in a kind of musical kintsugi.]
It is indeed amazing grace to be with you all today.
In the 15th century, a shogun — a lord of the samurai — broke his favorite porcelain tea bowl.
He sent it back to China to be repaired — but as was the custom at the time, it was returned to him remade with metal staples. Perfectly usable, but ugly.
The shogun was unsatisfied, so he…
Sometimes, without knowing it, we open a door for our future selves. At the time, we can’t really imagine what it will be like on the other side — in fact, it may be utterly terrifying. At the time, all we can do is utter a quick prayer and keep moving.
Today, 11 years ago, I gave my first TED talk. I was 22. I had never given a talk in public before. I was terrified.
At the time, I didn’t have a writing practice. During the 2009 holidays, I remember exchanging frantic emails with the TED curator who stressed…
[On June 23rd, I delivered the 33rd annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy for Americans for the Arts, introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Below is a transcript of my remarks. The video link to the address can be found here.]
Can forgive the past
It starts singing.
When the violin can stop worrying
About the future
You will become
Such a drunk laughing nuisance
Will then lean down
And start combing you into
When the violin can forgive
Every wound caused by
The heart starts
— Hafiz, translated…
There are many ways to practice being alone.
There is the restless spectrum of FOMO, a fear of missing out on a world missing out on us. We consume comfort in redundant, high-glycemic answers. We spiral into numb scrolling and autopilot, soothed by algorithms.
Then, if we’re lucky, there are moments where we break open. We reach out from within like some tender octopus, our fraying edges holding up a frail offering of ourselves. We search for communion with some soul which might hold up a mirror to ours. …
I’m a violinist and speaker living in LA, and I direct Street Symphony, which engages communities affected by homelessness and incarceration through music.