What Else Are We Missing in Life?

A crazy story is told of a man playing the violin at a Washington DC metro station.  If it is true, it shows just how caught up society has become in appearances and how, as a result, we could be missing out on so much in life. 

Anyway, the man played the violin for around 45 minutes, covering six pieces of Bach.  Thousands of people passed him (it was rush hour), probably on their way to work.  A man did notice him playing, paused a few seconds, but then carried on his rush to wherever he was going. One woman threw in a dollar without stopping. Someone else did stop to listen, but then, on seeing the time on his watch, started up his pace again.

It was a three-year-old boy who paid the man the most attention.  His mother was trying to hurry him along but the kid was really interested in the violin player. Finally the mother pulled so hard he had no choice but to go along with her, but not without turning his head back so he could keep watching the man.  Other kids then started to do the same; but all the parents pulled them along regardless.

During the time the man played, only six individuals stopped and stayed for a while.  Around 20 gave him money but didn’t take any notice of him (he collected $32).  When he finished playing, there was no applause or recognition of his music.

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But why should there be?  It was only one of the world’s top musicians – Joshua Bell – who had been playing the violin for free in the  metro station, including a rendition of  one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.  A mere two days earlier he played in a theater that was sold out for seats that sold at an average of $100 per piece.

This experiment was conducted by the Washington Post as part of a project on perception, taste and priorities of people. The question being addressed was: “in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?”

After this we really need to ask ourselves, what else are we missing?



James Fishman has been involved in the world of online magazines for more than 15 years. He helped launch Sunstone Online and continues to improve the magazine as site editor and administrator. His writing focuses primarily business and technology. To be in touch with James, feel free to contact him at james[at]sunstoneonline.com.

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