Stop and Listen!

Filed under: Just for You, Expert Advice: Just For You, Expert Advice: Health

Credit: Andy Kropa/Getty Images

A friend of mine forwarded me the story below, which I found amazing. It reminded me of a time when Phil and I stopped in our tracks to listen to a street musician who was completely immersed in his music, and whose sound was so beautiful and pure he practically brought tears to my eyes. To this day the memory of it can make me smile – and I wish some of the hurried Metro passengers in this story had only stopped to listen. Read the story below (and read the original report from the Washington Post for more), then let's talk about it. Have we really become so rushed in our daily lives that we can't experience a moment of beauty?

The Story

On a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes in a Washington, DC, Metro station. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About four minutes later, the violinist received his first dollar when a woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At six minutes, a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes, a small boy stopped to listen, 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 the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

By 45 minutes, with the musician playing continuously, only six people had 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. When he finished playing, silence took over. No one noticed, and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew it, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He had played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, using a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days earlier, he had played the same music in a sold-out theater in Boston, where the seats averaged $200 each. This day, though, he was playing incognito in the Metro as part of a social experiment organized by the Washington Post about perception, taste, and priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

• In a commonplace environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

• If so, 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 as we rush through life?


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.