We have no time to stand and stare.
-- from "Leisure," by W.H. Davies
Church doesn't start for us until 1pm EST so we've gotten into the habit of watching (or at least listening) to Music and the Spoken Word at 11am on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday, Lloyd Newell referenced a story I had never heard before. Here's the text of his message:
What else are we missing?
It was a busy workday as commuters rushed headlong toward their busy schedules. But on this day in Washington, D.C., something different happened: a 39-year-old man dressed in jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap took out an old violin and began to play.
Few people noticed. Most kept their eyes on the ground or looked straight ahead. A few, talking on cell phones, raised their voices in order to be heard over the music. These were, after all, busy people. They had work to do and appointments to keep.
And so they did not stop. And they did not listen. And what they missed was a rare performance by one of the greatest violinists in the world playing his Stradivarius violin, worth more than three million dollars. He chose to play some of the most technically demanding, elegant music ever written for his instrument, and he played with all the passion and perfection that he had become known for throughout the world.
His metro-station concert was part of an experiment proposed by a writer for the Washington Post. The question was “How many people would recognize beauty in a place where it wasn’t expected?” During the 43-minute concert, nearly 1,100 people passed by. Of those, only 7 stopped to listen even for a moment.
The writer, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his article about the unheard violinist, summarized the experience with these words: “If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that—then what else are we missing?”
Here's the piece written by the WP writer. It's really, really great. The artist was Joshua Bell, and here's a video of the metro station while he was playing.