January 15, 2009
The Beauty of What's in Front of You

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 thousands of 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 -- then hurried 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, 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 tried to rush him, but the boy 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 best 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 his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and 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 an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The themes were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: How 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?

Want to be really innovative? Notice what's going on right in front of you and appreciate it.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at January 15, 2009 10:06 PM

Comments

Wow! It instantly makes me think of the potential we see in our everyday lives, but don't recognize it because of context. I can't help but think that you really don't know the story of people who you meet, but you may label them because of where you meet them. Thanks for sharing this story. I will never go back home to NYC and look at street performers the same again. My eyes and ears have been opened.

M.Bruny
Runthepoint.com

Posted by: Mike Bruny [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 17, 2009 03:13 AM

Wow. Personal context is everything. Slowing down and watching the small nuances of life is key. Slow food movement is another place to look. We end up noticing and enjoying food when we have time to explore color, texture and taste and smell... Thanks for the amazing illustration.

Posted by: kolari [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 20, 2009 04:12 PM

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