Stop, Look, and Listen

I’m reminded often – but not often enough – to take time to stop and appreciate the beauty and wonder of life: my children, an evening with friends, a fall day. More often I find myself complaining about the frenetic pace of my days, and then amnesiacally falling right back into the mælstrom euphemistically called “life.” I think we all need constant reminding to, as the Buddhists put it, “be present.”

It’s too easy to get caught up in schedules, meetings, bills, events, television, tasks, and obligations. Not that these are inherently evil, but too frequently we find ourselves slave to these masters. I believe it’s critical that we constantly work on being open and receptive to what’s going on around us, and always strive to be in the moment.

I was just made aware of a wonderful (?) example of this today. The Washington Post conducted a unique sociological experiment on January 12, 2007. They asked world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell if he would try something: pose as a street musician in a Washington DC subway stop. One of the world’s foremost musicians, playing some of the most beautiful music ever written, on a Stradivarius violin heralded as one of the finest musical instruments ever made, and what happened? Nothing. Almost 1,100 people walked by, with only a handful even stopping to listen for even a moment.

Writer Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for his wonderful story about this experiment and his reflections on it. I found it moving – especially the feedback from the two people interviewed that truly appreciated the music.

In the immortal words of the bard Ferris Bueller:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

YouTube of Joshua Bell at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in DC

Fascinating story of Joshua Bell’s Gibson Stradivarius (halfway down page)

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