On a cold January morning, commuters passing through the L’Enfant Plaza Station of the subway line in Washington, D.C. were treated to a free mini-concert performed by violin virtuoso Joshua Bell. Bell, who gave no notice of his appearance, played for approximately 45 minutes, performing masterworks on his handcrafted 1713 Stradivarius violin, valued at nearly $4 million.
This was an experiment conducted by Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the story. The crux of the experiment?
“Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to busy people in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of the beauty of the music, but annoyed by the demand on your time and your wallet?”
Three days earlier, Bell had played to a full house at Boston’s Symphony Hall where good seats sell for $100. But for this public appearance, with an estimated audience of more than 1,000 passing traveler, he collected just $32.17, which was contributed by a mere 27 people. Only seven people stopped to listen, and just one of them recognized the performer.
Beyond the question “Do we recognize beauty in an unexpected context?” It might be fair to ask, “Do we know how to recognize beauty? Period.”
This story is amazing–and it makes me wonder–how much beauty do I pass by, so hurried am I to get things done, to get where I need to be? Joshua Bell is amazing–and few people stopped to recognize him or the beauty of the creation he was playing.
God is even more amazing–and few people stop to recognize him, or the beauty of the creation he has made. How much do I miss? How much do you miss?
And if we truly stopped to look, to listen, to feel–what would happen to us then?
Read the whole article, and get a video of it here: Pearls Before Breakfast