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What Are You Missing?

Let me tell you a true story…

Almost four years ago, the Washington Post decided to set up an experiment to prove a cultural point.  They wanted to see if ordinary people would recognize genius, and here’s what happened.  They put world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell at a busy subway stop, complete with a priceless Stradivarius violin, one hand-crafted in the year 1713.  He wore a T-shirt and a baseball cap. He played for a little less than an hour — hauntingly beautiful music that people paid $100+ per seat for recently in a nearby packed concert hall.  The people who passed by numbered almost 1100.  They left him a total of $32.17 in tips, not counting a $20 bill left by someone who recognized him.  Now, I will add here that he’s a really HOT looking guy — tall, handsome and plays on stage looking sort of like Zorro.  So you’d think a few more could have recognized him.

Wow, this left the social scientists scratching their heads.  Were people simply culturally ignorant – did they not recognize beautiful music? Was classical music dead in America?  The piece Joshua started with was Bach’s “Chaconne,” which he describes as “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect. Plus, it was written for a solo violin, so I won’t be cheating with some half-assed version.”  Oh my…and this drew no crowd.  A video camera captured the people  hurrying by in a seeming dance of indifference balancing their lattes all the while talking on cellphones.   Six minutes after he started, one person stood against a wall and listened.  That’s about as good as it got.  Incredible! The Washington Post thought they would have a problem with crowd control.

I wonder how many of those hundreds of people who passed by had perhaps paid big money to hear Mr. Bell in concert?  We’ll never know.  But, what has this to do with us? Consider this short line of poetry:

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

— from “Leisure,” by W.H. Davies

We’re just too busy.  It isn’t that we can’t recognize beauty, we just don’t take time to think about it, much less do it.  Anyone could recognize Joshua Bell in a concert hall and appreciate his music, but it was precious few people who weren’t so consumed by busyness they stopped to listen, because they heard something awesome, something beautiful.

What are we missing?  What are we not seeing, not hearing? WHO are we not seeing, not hearing?

May I hear from you, my friends?  What do you think?