What are we missing out on?


I am currently in the midst of de-cluttering my office. I have files of interesting articles that have taken my interest and I have kept them upon knowing that one day they might prove useful supporting a training session or workshop.

I have had the following article for years. I don’t know its title or author (please let me know if you do?), I just know this resonated with me before ‘Mindfulness’ arrived on the scene.

A wonderful reminder for us to pause, take a breath and experience the gift of being present with our senses.

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 two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After three 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 later:

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

10 minutes later:

A three 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. The 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 six 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 valued at $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $200.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organised by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

What else are we missing out on?

The questions raised:

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

Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognise talent in an unexpected context?

One 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?

What do you think? Leave a comment below…

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