Many years ago, in the back streets of Venice, hidden amongst the canals and the alleyways, there was a small workshop. In this workshop, surrounded by tools and wood and dust there lived an old instrument maker. He was very talented and made a whole range of instruments. There were cellos and violins, clarinets and trombones, all intricately designed and beautifully made. The thing that really made these instruments special though, was the magic that he breathed into them when they were finished. The magic which brought these instruments to life.
As soon as the instruments realised that they were alive, however, they started to admire themselves.
“Look at my beautifully carved neck” cried the viola
“And see my wonderfully polished tubes” said the trumpet, “see how they shine like the midday sun!”
Before long people gathered to marvel at these amazing instruments. They were captivated by their beauty and their charming behaviour. They became renowned throughout the world as the most astonishing instruments ever made. There were books written about them and the best artists of the day produced fine paintings capturing their every curve in exquisite detail.
But back in his workshop the old instrument maker’s heart was breaking, for he hadn’t poured all of his love and care and skill into these instruments just so that they would be admired. Rather he had created them so that they in turn would create beautiful music. So the old instrument maker came up with a plan.
He sent out his son, a talented musician, to gather together all of his instruments so that he could explain his original purposes to them. Eventually they were all gathered together in the old workshop and, once the chatter had ceased and the complaints about the dust and dirt had died down, the old instrument maker began to speak.
“I created every one of you, I poured my heart and soul into your design. I know every detail of every single one of you. From the etchings on your back, violin my friend, to the small nick inside your bell that you try so hard to hide young oboe. I am proud of you and delight in you but I am also disappointed in you. For I did not create you to be admired, or to boast and argue about your unique designs. I created you for a far greater purpose, to be played, to enable other people to create glorious music. I will not force this upon you, but I wanted you to know this. If you are willing my son is a talented musician and is able to truly bring you to life.”
The instruments gathered together to discuss this but very soon they began to complain.
“Let other people touch us? no thanks”
“Have someone put their grubby fingers all over my beautiful strings? I don’t think so”
“We are perfect already, why would we want to change anything?”
On and on it went, until suddenly a small voice called out; “I’ll do it”.
It was a little penny whistle who had been quietly standing at the back. He was not intricately designed, he was a bit chipped and rough around the edges, and none of the others had even noticed that he was there. As the little penny whistle stepped forward the old instrument maker looked at him with such love and compassion that the little penny whistle began to cry. His tears stained the wood and made him look even more messy. The little penny whistle went up the the old instrument maker’s son and the son picked him up, put him to his lips and began to play.
He began quietly, testing the range of the little penny whistle but before long the melody began to soar. As the old instrument maker’s son played on people outside stopped to listen to the little penny whistle. In that moment, as the son’s breath flowed through it’s body, the little penny whistle was more perfect, more complete, more beautiful and more truly alive than the other instruments could ever dream of being.