Hubby and I went to a mandolin orchestra performance this afternoon. We went primarily because the mother of a friend was a member of the orchestra, but also because we’ve never been to one. I didn’t even know that mandolin orchestras existed. Today’s exposure to a new musical experience, as well as new composers and music, was such a satisfying experience.

During the performance, I was struck at how tight an orchestra had to be. This particular orchestra, for instance, had about 60 members. Yet, they played like one fluid organism. Of course you can differentiate the instruments, but not one particular performer or instrument stood out, as none should. The conductor keeps everything together. I’m a great admirer of conductors. No matter how good each musician is, when you have 60 or more people together, like too many cooks in the same kitchen, things will go wrong unless someone coordinates and takes control.

I’ve never been a member of an orchestra, but I’ve been part of a chorus. In both an orchestra and a chorus, there are very few opportunities to stand out – being one of the few selected soloists for instance. But you do not want to stand out for the wrong reasons – being out of tune, or too loud, or playing or singing out of sync, or forgetting the notes or lyrics. If you’ve been to a performance where something went wrong, then you know that you can hear the mistake clearly.

When everything goes well, no one really notices any specific member’s performance. It’s quite like the human body. When our body functions well, we don’t notice anything. Usually, we become aware of our bodies or our health only when something is wrong because, like that singular voice that is out of tune, whatever is wrong with us sticks out like that proverbial sore thumb. Sure, we have some slight health hiccups, like a cold or a flu, that throw us out of sync every now and then, but once that disturbance is past, we return to our well-coordinated selves. But it may not always be a temporary disturbance, as we can be beset by a mortal condition such as cancer, or by a chronic condition such as diabetes. Achieving that balance and coordination in our bodies becomes a constant challenge. But it’s a challenge that we must face and overcome; otherwise, we deteriorate into a mass of discordant functions.

Our bodies need a conductor, much like an orchestra needs a conductor who is on top of things. Some say that the brain fulfills that function. But I think that we, not just our brains, are the true conductors. Although the brain orchestrates a lot of functions we take for granted, such as breathing, digestion or blood circulation, we make the conscious decisions that matter the most.

Take diabetes (whatever the type). Our body is out of sync because we can’t properly and efficiently make use of our blood glucose. Sooner or later, diabetics become acquainted with specific aspects of their bodies that they have most likely never considered before their diagnosis. We become more attuned to our bodies than most healthy individuals. To address our chronic diabetic state, we must gain control of our bodies, much like a conductor takes control when his orchestra goes awry. While a conductor cannot completely control how his members train and prepare for a performance, when things go wrong, he must make the decisions and take the helm to set things right. In the same vein, we, as the ultimate controllers of our bodies, must decide how we are to regain as much control as we could from diabetes. And, without a doubt, we can control our diabetes. Our control may not be perfect. It definitely differs from one individual to the other. We may not always agree with each other as to how that control takes shape or is to be exercised. But each of us does what we need to do so that our bodies can function as normally as they could. Apart from our bodies, we also take control of our medical team, and our family, friends and other support system, since no one knows ourselves, our needs, our capabilities better than us. For instance, while I respect my endocrinologist’s opinion, I, not he, make the decisions on my treatment. I cannot even fathom giving up that control to him, no matter how many degrees he may hold or how much medical experience he may have.

My treatment does not have to be perfect. An orchestra does not have to be perfect. I’ve seen more than my fair share of imperfect performances. But what I remember the most are not the mistakes, but the second attempts to get it right, and when they get it right, you can’t help but admire them just because they tried. The only thing that we can really ask ourselves to do is try – whether we are dealing with a chronic condition, or building a career, or establishing a family, or doing a job, or just trying to get by. And if we do not succeed, we keep trying. Because the worst that we can do for ourselves and our loved ones is to give up. As long as we keep trying, we will make good music and make the very best of our situation. Maybe we’ll live long enough to see the cure.


2 thoughts on “Orchestra

  1. runningwithoutsugar Post author

    It was mostly mandolin (including mandolin cello), a few guitars, a couple of basses, 2 drums, cymbals (and triangle) and harp. Thanks for reminding me that the mind needs rest too.


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