On days filled with plumbers and toilets, caulk disasters and puke, sometimes its hard to see past all of the shit (literally) to the beauty that I try so desperately to draw out with this blog. I have been mining my days and thoughts lately trying to seek out positivity, not just to write about here, but to adjust my own mindset and derail the doldrums. So far, I can’t seem to find many gems, but at least I’m digging.
In the mean time I wanted to share an article that I recently came across on Facebook. The article, a Washington Post piece entitled “Pearls Before Breakfast,” generated international discussion about how we perceive and appreciate beauty, art, and music, and eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2008. It addressed the idea that context can play such a huge roll in how we discern beauty. That outside of the contexts in which we expect to find it, beauty can be elusive and our appreciation or even awareness of it can be minimal if we do not train our minds to take note.
Here is a brief summary, verified by Snopes, of the extraordinary story:
“A man stood in 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 musician playing. He 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 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 tagged 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 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.
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 dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.
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. The outlines were: 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?”
Perhaps we should all take a little more time to stop and smell the roses . . . hear the music . . . watch the sunset . . . be drawn in.