Are You Rushing Through Life?

In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 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 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 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 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 the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 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.

After 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.
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 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

* In a common-place 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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About jta

South Carolina grandmother who loves to write, dance, and visit with friends and family.
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7 Responses to Are You Rushing Through Life?

  1. Joan Adams says:

    Yes, I think I had read before too, Kim. But today when it arrived in my email, it somehow hit me harder than usual — probably because of Kate’s recent prayers about time. As we think about time, and how we spend it, and then realize how many beautiful things we miss because of our hurry, it really strikes me like a hammer!

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  3. MiMi says:

    What an excellent question. And it goes back to that old “lying on the deathbed” thought. No, none of us will regret that we didn’t work more. We’ll regret that we didn’t stop often enough to kiss and hug our children, or take the time to answer their wonder-filled questions. And probably most of all, we’ll regret that, by our actions, we taught them to work toward the same regrets.

  4. BevsPaper says:

    Some real food for thought as I read this morning. Does make you wonder what else we might be missing doesn’t it. Would we recognize beauty if we saw it or heard it? I would sincerely hope that I would.

  5. puzzlemaker says:

    Great story Joan. Just the sort of “nudge” I’ve been getting lately about how I spend my time. Thank you for sharing this particular story.

  6. barbsbooks says:

    I had not read this before, but it doesn’t surprise me. I wonder if the result would have been the same had he picked a local Farmers Market or busy sidewalk instead of a place where people probably had a train to catch so they would not be late for work. Sometimes people have to do what they have to do, when they might prefer to stay and listen. Of course, there might have been people getting off the train who did not need to hurry so much, but I wonder if the result would have been the same in the evening as people were on their way home and getting off the trains.

    On the other hand, since I started taking a camera almost everywhere with me, I’m always looking for beauty I can not only see, but get recorded to share. I have learned to always notice the sky, the flowers, whatever is there. And there is always something.

  7. rachel says:

    I have heard of this story, but it still touches me each time I hear it. When I first heard it, the idea of “priorities” seemed to hit me.

    Now I wonder: is it about making assumptions about other people? Or is it about taking the time to give to others (stopping to listen to his music, and visibly enjoy it, is perhaps an even greater gift than giving money).

    I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s all of those – and more.

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