Please just give Gene Weingarten this year’s Pulitzer for journalism and be done with it.
And please take ten minutes to read his thought-provoking article Pearls Before Breakfast from the 4/8/07 Washington Post Magazine.
Gene wondered, “What would happen if you took a renowned violinist, (whose latest album has been called “unfailingly exquisite, a musical summit that will make your heart thump and weep at the same time”) and positioned him inside a D.C Metro Stop on a workday during the morning commute?
What if you asked him to play six compositions, each considered “masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls?”
What if you took this experiment one step further and asked him to play these musical works of art on a rare, multimillion dollar Stradivarius?
Would anyone notice? Would any of the hundreds of people streaming by take a minute to listen to a free concert by “one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made?” As Weingarten posited, “Would beauty transcend in a banal setting at an inconvenient time?”
In the 45 minutes that Joshua Bell played, (yes, the Joshua Bell who played the soundtrack of the movie The Red Violin and who packs them in at concert halls around the globe), only 7 (!) people paused long enough to acknowledge his performance.
The other 1070 people? They all rushed by, oblivious, not even noticing or caring about the miracle in their midst.
Weingarten’s point? There are several. One of which is to quote W.H. Davies who said, “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stop and stare.” At what cost are we so busy, so driven, that we have lost the ability to see, hear and be grateful for beauty?
Another intriguing insight, “There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the few people who stayed to watch Bell from the vast majority who hurried past, unheeding. Whites, blacks, Asians, men and women were all represented. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.”
Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Kudos to Gene Weingarten for his absolutely brilliant writing and for this thought-provoking social experiment. Please take the time to read his article (and view a video clip of Joshua Bell’s “D.C. Metro Concert”) at http://www.Washintongpost.com/magazine.
Then, get back in touch and let me know, “Would you have stopped to listen to Bell if you had been rushing to work?” Why or why not? What does it say about our society that people were lined up at the lottery machine, punching in their numbers and hoping for a payday, but wouldn’t even turn around to note this phenomenon?