I do strongly feel that among the greatest pieces of luck for high achievement is ordeal. Certain great artists can make out without it, Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he's in business: Beethoven's deafness, Goya's deafness, Milton's blindness, that kind of thing.
It was the quartets of Beethoven (numbers 12,13,14, and 15) which over fifty years, created and expanded the the audience of listeners to the quartets of Beethoven, thus achieving, as all masterpieces do, progress if not in the quality of artists, at least in the company of minds, which is largely composed these days of what was missing when the work appeared: people capable of liking it.
You'll have a good, secure life when being alive means more to you than security, love more than money, your freedom more than public or partisan opinion, when the mood of Beethoven's or Bach's music becomes the mood of your whole life when your thinking is in harmony, and no longer in conflict, with your feelings when you let yourself be guided by the thoughts of great sages and no longer by the crimes of great warriors when you pay the men and women who teach your children better than the politicians; when truths inspire you and empty formulas repel you; when you communicate with your fellow workers in foreign countries directly, and no longer through diplomats...
Modern man is full of platitudes about living life to its fullest, with catchy keychain phrases and little plaques for kitchen walls. But if you've never retreated to the solitude of a dark room and listened to Beethoven's Ninth from start to finish, you know nothing. For music is a transcendental exploration of human emotion and experience, the very fabric of life in its purest form. And the Ninth our greatest musical achievement.
A deaf composer's like a cook who's lost his sense of taste. A frog that's lost its webbed feet. A truck driver with his license revoked. That would throw anybody for a loop, don't you think? But Beethoven didn't let it get to him. Sure, he must have been a little depressed at first, but he didn't let misfortune get him down. It was like, Problem? What problem? He composed more than ever and came up with better music than anything he'd ever written. I really admire the guy. Like this Archduke Trio--he was nearly deaf when he wrote it, can you believe it? What I'm trying to say is, it must be tough on you not being able to read, but it's not the end of the world. You might not be able to read, but there are things only you can do. That's what you gotta focus on--your strengths. Like being able to talk with the stone.