Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beauty in Unexpected Places

I thought that I would share this true story...what an important lesson about how our priorities and preconceptions effect our perceptions.

Here is the link - the story follows.

A man sat in a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin. It was a cold January morning. He played 6 Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people made their way through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later the violinist received his first dollar tip. A woman threw the dollar in the till without stopping and continued on her way.

A few minutes later someone leaned against the wall to listen to him. But the man checked his watch started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a three year old boy. His mother, hurried, tagged him along, but the boy stopped to hear the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the boy continued to walk, turning his head back all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All of the parents, without exception, forced the children to move on.

In the 45 minutes that the musician played, only 6 people stopped to stay a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk at their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the top musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out a performance at a theatre in Boston where the prices averaged $100 per seat.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing in the subway was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment looking at people's perception, tastes, and priorities. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate time, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate beauty? Do we recognize it in an unexpected context?

If we do not have a moment to stop to listen to one of the worlds best musicians play one the the best pieces of music ever written, how may other beautiful things are we missing each day?

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