Family Works: Speaking on awareness
by By ROB COOMBS ID. Min. Ph.D.
Mar 03, 2013 | 1123 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A man sat at a Metro station in Washington, D.C., 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 on 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 pulled him along hurriedly, 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 six 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.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where 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.

I have kept this story in my files for a few years. I no longer remember where I got it or even the originality of my notes on this event. What I do remember is what motivated me to keep it. I want to be aware. I want to notice. I want to stop. I don’t want the most important and the most beautiful realities of my life to pass me by because I am simply too busy or distracted to notice.

I understand how very easy this is for all of us. Most of us are busy, very busy. There are meetings to attend, places to go, things that must be accomplished. Sadly, our busyness can rob us of the simple and pure joy of living ... a violinist on a street corner, the setting of the sun, the laughter of a small child, holding hands with someone we love.

Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context? One of the possible conclusions of this social experiment could be that we do not.

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

This is a worthy question. Please take the time to stop and ponder this.