Life moves pretty fast these days, and it appears society’s pace is only increasing. At times we can be so focused on getting things done and rushing to our next appointment that we miss some of the beauty in life along the way. This aspect of life was illustrated in an experiment in a busy metro station in Washington, D.C. Here is the published account of what happened as told by reporter David Ord:
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 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 a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, 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 three-year-old boy. His mother tugged 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 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 that this was the world-renowned violinist 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 playing in the subway, Joshua Bell was sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.
I am told that Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and the priorities of people. The question is: 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?
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the finest musicians in the world, playing some of the best music ever written, just because we think he is “no one”—and yet we will pay a great deal to hear that same person if we think he is “someone”—what are we not noticing about ourselves?
(This story was told by David Ord, a Namaste Publishing author)
John's passion is in helping people get unstuck so they can experience their true potential. Before starting his own practice he spent 14 years coaching, consulting, and presenting to Fortune 500 companies, teams, and individuals on how to breakthrough their barriers and magnify their talents.