Do We Recognize Beauty in Our Midst? 24

I purloined this story from another source (namely Facebook) — they won’t mind, I’m sure.

“A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real 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 priorities of people.

Don't mind me, I'm just here to brighten your day.

Don’t mind me, I’m just here to brighten your day.

The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?”

In a comment below, friend and fellow blogger, Just Turn Right shared the following article that contains a video of Joshua Bell playing in the subway station. I urge you to check it out!


      • You’re most welcome, James.

        If reading about this makes us hesitate a bit more, and appreciate, and THINK, and even THANK; if we stop letting everything just whiz by as we try to get somewhere or do something…it will have been worth it.

        And I say that with MYSELF in mind, first and foremost….

    • It is a good reminder in the dead of winter, when we get back into the regular grind, that Beauty is all around us, if we only stop to take it in and contemplate it. If you think about it, there is a greater beauty present with us all the time. And we can breath it in at any time. God bless you LHW!

  1. No surprise to me. People leave the house so late they can’t always even drive safely. We all need to allow for travel time in our schedules instead of panicking our way to work and back. Where to begin?

    • Where to begin? Good question. I think it is a reminder that we need to take some time each day to appreciate the beauty that is present with us all the time and at any moment He is there, freely giving of Himself. Our lives are hectic. That is why we need to find time to rest in the Lord, when we can. God bless you Rainey View!

    • So nicely said, Lilly! The creative God is with us always. I know you must catch this in every photo of every bird, flower, landscape you take. It is a blessing to have Beauty with us at every moment, and an even greater blessing to see it.

  2. Our chronic busyness and our chronic discontent go hand-in-hand, I believe. If we slowed our pace and enjoyed the moment we’re given more, we would not need to so desperately race toward some future moment which we THINK we’ll enjoy more. I remember reading about this story when it first happened. So sad.

    • It is kind of sad, God’s Book Lover, yet it suggests something beautifully real. If we stop and think or at least slow our pace, beauty is there for us to enjoy and enrich ourselves. God is all around us. As a take away, we need to set aside established times to stop and rest in God. Maybe a silent retreat, maybe a decade of the rosary, maybe a good spiritual book.

      Thanks and God bless you!

  3. This reminds me of when I moved from PA to the hills of GA and worked in a small county hospital there. The nurses’ aids were always saying to me: Mz N SLO DUNN. And I have.
    Wonderful post.

    • Most people may not recognize beauty anymore. Whether their eyes and ears are closed or there is just too much noise to concentrate, or they are just not aptly formed and educated to appreciate it. But Beauty and Unity, Goodness, and Truth are ever-present and they reign supreme as one in Christ — always there for those who are attentive, and even for those who are not.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Just a couple of items I thought you’d appreciate, James.

    (1) This event happened back on Apr 8, 2007, & the original article (with VIDEO) is here:


    (2) QUOTE: –“A collection of Weingarten’s long feature stories will be published this summer (2010) by Simon & Schuster under the title “The Fiddler In the Subway — And Other Great Pieces You May Have Missed.”
    The title refers to his story about violinist Joshua Bell, which won the PULITZER PRIZE for feature writing in 2008.”–

    (…you’ve got an eye for good material, my friend…!)

    • Who’s got a good eye? I wish I’d seen this before I posted the article. The embedded video says it all. I am annexing this to the post, JTR, so that late droppers by will see it. Thanks a lot!

  5. Pingback: Beauty as Spiritual Food | Two Heads are Better Than One

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