Thursday, September 10

True Beauty, Passed By?

Adapted from an article by Tom Beauton

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

  • 4 minutes later: the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
  • 6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
  • 10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
  • 45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
  • 1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest 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 Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.... How many other things are we missing? Are we hurrying past what is most important and truly beautiful in life?

The Lord said to His disciples: “Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen them, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard them.” In Jesus Christ, the God-Man, we have not only the revelation of Who God is – the Source of all true beauty, wisdom, goodness and love, but we also have the revelation of man is called to be – how we are to live, what our priorities are supposed to be, where we can find true fulfillment. The Lord reveals to us the very meaning of life, both in this age and in the next: “and this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”

Life is busy. We each feel ourselves constantly pulled along from one thing to the next. There never seems to be enough time. Yet, unless we are able to slow down a bit, we will miss what is truly beautiful in life, what truly matters, what the Lord calls the “better part”, “the one thing truly needful”. Take the time, or better yet, make the time, for God and each other. In so doing, you will experience the true beauty of life, you will be granted a taste of the Kingdom to come. Joshua Bell sold out theaters because of his beautiful music but few listened in the busy subway. Jesus Christ offers us the free gift of eternal life, the beauty of the Age to come, but few make the time in this busy world to receive the gift. The question for us is: In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive true beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it?


Michelle M. said...

That is a really good point. Thanks for sharing.

Jen said...

Is this article available on line at all? I'd love to share it with some friends of mine :)

MamaBirdEmma said...

HI Jen!

I used the adapted article fro my husbands church bulletin this week and can't find the original online. Here is a Washington Post one about what happened though:

Xenia Kathryn said...

Wonderful post, thanks for sharing!!

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