“A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was 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 money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.
A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston. The seat price average was $100.” Urban Legends
Many have disregarded this story as an urban myth. In fact, it is a true story. The Washington Post set up this scene as part of a social experiment to find out if people perceive beauty when it is presented in an unexpected context. And if they do recognise it, do they stop to appreciate it? In other words, do we stop to smell the roses?
I don’t know about you, but I think the premise behind this experiment limits the definition of what is beautiful and worthy of mindful appreciation.
There is no doubt that concert violinist Joshua Bell is a legend… urban or otherwise. His ability to evoke the full range of emotional responses using only a violin and a bow is extraordinary. But if I had been in the Metro with my four children on the day that he was playing, the truth is I would probably have done nothing more than throw a wistful gaze his way … possibly some coins as well … and then walked on. And my children are likely to have responded in much the same way.
At that moment in time, it’s likely that my 4-year-old son held a greater appreciation for the beauty in the rhythmic sound of the train as it departed the station, because anything railway related makes his heart sing. I may have appreciated the beauty of that all-too-brief sound of silence that followed my travel weary, crying toddler finally falling asleep in the sling. My daughter may have appreciated the beautiful words of a stranger admiring her dress, because she had been anxious about what to wear that day. Our appreciation of beauty can be contextual and individual. And that’s ok. As long as we see beauty in something. Anything.
“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it” Confucius
Maybe it’s not that we don’t stop to appreciate beauty, but that we continue to let other people define what beauty is.
Today I’m linking up with the flippin’ awesome Jess from Diary of a SAHM, because she makes everyone else feel like they’re flippin’ awesome.
And in my intro to Love New Blogs this week I’ve discovered the controversy corner. Intrigued?