Joshua Bell, Violinist, Playing in the subways of Washington D.C. Beautiful music unnoticed. Children seeing the details.
Good morning! The sun arises through one window wearing bright orange. Raindrops falling through the opposite window. A small bluet bouquet in the hand of my morning angel as she welcomes me to her gift of this new day. Warning me with her words to use the jewel of this day she places into my hand carefully and with gratitude. I reread this week about an experiment held in the subway of Washington D.C. The Washington Post invited world-renowned classical violinist, Joshua Bell, to play his Stradivarius violin that was handmade in 1713 and valued at $3.5 million to play at the Washington, D.C. metro subway station.
The question that the Washington Post wanted to explore was, …“In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”
Bell then dressed like an average street performer, stood near a trash can during a Friday morning rush hour in January 2007 and played several classical pieces on his Stradivarius as commuters came up the escalators on their way to work.
Here were the results: In the 43 minutes that Bell played, 1,097 people went by. Only seven people stopped to listen for at least a minute. Twenty-seven people dropped money in his case, mostly without stopping or looking at him, for a total of $32.17. What was the most fascinating result to me was the following from the Post article on the reaction from children.
“There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. EVERY single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away… The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too…
It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the known about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant).
This article is so long and fascinating I don’t know how to even summarize it for you. Following is the link that will take you directly to the Washington Post article on this story. You can listen and/or view the actual footage. The article gives much to ponder on what we have become as people, as a society. What is beauty? Are we taking the time to observe the details? That’s why I love to remind us, “Don’t forget to listen to the birds.” We get so caught up in our whirlwinds that the little gifts from God that are right at our fingertips are the easiest to overlook.
“The years glide by…” Let all continue to try to find little details that can bring us small joys, for then we are truly alive. Thank you for letting me enter your Thursday morning & for helping us have this beautiful store. Susan