What Are We Missing?

Joshua Bell

Recently I chanced upon a very interesting post about human perception at Bitsofwisdom. Below is a quote of the whole post from the blog.

Something to think about….

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

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

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 all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

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.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

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.

This is a true 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 people’s priorities.

The questions raised:

*In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*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?

We live a hectic and busy lives, often so busy we do miss important things along the way. For most of us (excluding students like me), a tight schedule of work keeps the roof over our head, food on our table, electricity flowing through the house and still have that extra money in our pocket to indulge in something we want or simply save up for that unforeseen day. In a sense, we live somewhat in our own individual shell of a world. The people outside these perimeters may not see eye to eye with us, agree with what we have to say and understand what we are doing.

Often too many times, we fail to see what already exists just outside the reach of our individual perceptions. In my opinion, everyone could do justice to themselves and use the time to enjoy the excellent music, the long bus rides, smell of freshly brewed coffee and baked breads along the way. Unfortunately, it just so happens not many of us have it.

On the contrary, the music played by Joshua Bell may not be one of the most appreciated music in the world just because it takes much more effort and training to play an instrument such as the violin. Impressive however it is, the bulk of the people zipping through the subway on that morning may just not be the crowd that values Bach’s pieces as shown from the $32 he collected. I for one enjoy classical and contemporary music; actually any kind of music will do except Rap. Each has their own beauty I must say.


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