Watch and Listen

I first came across this story at the beginning of the year via David Montgomery on Facebook, concerning an experiment conducted by the Washington Post in a DC metro station, but thought I would save it up for advent, as we enter into another period of watchfulness:



 At 7.51 am on a cold January morning a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap started to play the violin. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by before anyone stopped. The 64th person to pass, a middle aged man, 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 open violin case and without stopping continued to walk.
A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but then 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 on, 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.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

The aim of the experiment? 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?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: 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?

Stay watchful...

Selah

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