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 at least a thousand or so 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 and the seats averaged $100.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The experimental questions were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
Conclusion: If we (as Americans) do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing one the best music ever written, how many other things do we miss every day?
We have all heard the quote “Stop and smell the roses,” which is trying to tell all of us that we need to slow our lives down and really take a look at what is going on around us. Our lives have become so hectic with all of the activities we participate in that we really don’t take time to notice what is going on right in front of us.
I must admit I too am guilty of rushing by at a fast pace, but I think we should all take a few minutes in the next week to take the time to notice what is happening to our County (I think you will like what you see).
The Roman philosopher Seneca put it well “There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living, and there is nothing harder to learn.”