"If we can't take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that -- then what else are we missing?"So said the author of this article on Joshua Bell, one of the world's foremost - if not THE foremost - classical musicians, a violinist who took up the challenge of a classic psychology experiment. He played his violin in a busy commercial center near the mass-transit station to see who would stop and listen. The question on everybody's mind was, if the world's best violinist sat unknown in a subway station or a shopping mall, would the general public recognize his talent for what it was, surrounded not by the typical finery of concert halls and tuxedos and other famous musicians, but by the mundane ordinary things we see everyday and give little thought? Would they see the beauty of his talent?
Turns out no, most don't. In the hours he spent playing some of the most passionate, beautiful pieces known to the classical world, a total of three people stopped to listen; one actually recognized Bell, one was himself a former violinist (who gave up his passion for the mundane world of finance), and the last was a bellhop at work, who yearned to lean out of the lines of his business and go experience beauty.
"For many of us, the explosion in technology has perversely limited, not expanded, our exposure to new experiences. Increasingly, we get our news from sources that think as we already do. And with iPods, we hear what we already know; we program our own playlists."I admire my friend Sally because she is the sort of person who will stop to listen to street musicians. She recognizes beauty when she sees it and it is more important to her to stop and take it in than to rush towards the next appointment. To her, beauty in itself is more worthwhile a pursuit than the consumeristic trivialities of the postmodern western world. She'll stop and listen, she'll stop and look, she'll go out of her way to find and admire and take in beauty because it's a priority. I want to be more like Sally in that regard, to admire beauty when I see it, to take the time, to make beauty more important than business. It's important.