THE SOUL is shaped by words, images, & experiences.

THIS BLOG is about those things that have left their impression on me. I'd love for you to comment on what affects you.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Beholding Beauty

The street musician, dressed in a long-sleeved T-shirt and baseball cap, begins to play his nearly-300-year-old Stradivari in the arcade of a Washington DC metro station.

The music irritates the shoe shine lady, who works in the arcade, because it’s too loud and she can’t hear her customers. She usually calls the metro or mall cops to come chase the street performers away. Since this violinist is “pretty good”, for once, she makes an exception.

The violinist plays for three minutes. Sixty-three people scurry by before a middle-aged man pauses to listen. Then he hurries away. Although the violinist is, in his own words, “makin’ a lot of noise”, people in line for lottery tickets, a hundred feet away, do not even turn to look at him. He passionately performs one of the most intricate pieces of music ever written, yet no crowd forms. There is no applause.

A couple of minutes into his next song, a woman and her preschooler emerge from a nearby escalator. The woman walks briskly, tugging the child along. The little boy wants to stop and listen to the musician. He keeps turning back to look at him. But the mother is in a hurry, so she discourages her son by blocking his view with her body.

During the violinist’s forty-three minute performance, 1,070 people, many as close as three feet away, pass him by as if oblivious to his presence. One guy, sporting an iPod, denies the musician being there at all, although he has just passed within four feet of him. A total of only six people stop to listen to the violinist for at least a minute.

The violinist is concluding his solo, when a woman stops and listens in awe. She recognizes the performer and she's appalled that people toss him quarters, even pennies! She adds a twenty-dollar bill to his earnings of $32.17. Hard to know what to give an international virtuoso whose formal concerts sell out, seats averaging $100.

The violinist is the world-renowned Joshua Bell, and his incognito appearance in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities. The premise was: In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?” (For more details, read the Washington Post article and view the video clips at: Pearls Before Breakfast).

A writer for the Post watched the speeded up videotape of the experiment and called it “a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.”

The story is indeed a sad commentary on humanity today. It's pitiful when we allow the momentum of our routines to render us immune to the unexpected beauty in life. Sadder still is when, in the rush to our deaths, we ignore God's presence, tune out His voice, and pass up all the wonderful things He freely gives, including eternal life.

"Be still, and know that I am God:" Psalm 46:10

1 comment:

Lori said...

This IS a sad commentary! I wonder what I would have done?