Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Things We Miss

He emerged from the Metro at the L'enfant Plaza Station and Position himself against a wall beside a trash basket. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, [2007] the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L'Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?

Now, what if this simple musician was not so simple but the world renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, who many of these passersby had paid a minimum of $100 to see play just 3 nights before. What if the violin was not just any violin but a rare Stradivari called the Gibson ex Huberman that was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master's "golden period?" Approximate worth: $3,500,000.

People would recognize him right? I mean this IS Washington DC - one of the cultural centers of the US and Joshua Bell is a big deal - right? Wrong. Roughly 30 people out of the thousands that passed by stopped to listen and donated a whopping $32.17 during Bell's 43 minutes of playing (some leaving only pennies).

This brings up the questions - what do we miss because of our busy schedules? Our fast paced lives? Our go, go, go society? Would we recognize such greatness if we passed it on the street? For me, probably not. Cool Dad brought up the point of ignoring the people that we pass on the sidewalk. What else do we ignore? What are we missing? How about Christ? I think that we miss Him all the time in the people and situations we pass each and every day - because we don't have time to stop - listen to the music - and recognize the greatness that is in front of us.

It's funny. As I write this I remember that I have a Joshua Bell CD sitting right next to me here at my desk. It has probably been a year since I have listened to it - I will fix that today.

You can read the rest of the Washington Post Article Here


cool dad said...

Thanks for this article, Matt! Wow.

I wonder if i would've stopped. Definitely not if i was in a hurry. I think i would've looked though. I don't listen to an iPod and don't talk on my cell phone (pre-paid: $0.18/min!) while walking.

And obviously, from my post, I like to people-watch and see what's going on.

cool mum said...

whoa. awesome article. maybe you and cool dad can get Tebow to toss the football around with you guys and see if anyone stops to notice. =) thank you for sharing this!

Justmatt said...

Cool Mum I think you are on to something. Cool Dad can you make that happen please?

Casey Muller said...

Wow! Great post. As I was reading it I was thinking to myself, "it would be funny if he was famous."

Justmatt said...

You are always on top of things Levi. It must be the Force!

Chet Harvey said...

if axl rose were on the street, threw a hat on the sidewalk, and started belting out Hair of the Dog, i bet he would have made a lot of money. i mean, i'm just saying.

Justmatt said...

Good Point Chet! I mean WHO wouldn't recognize THAT greatness?!

Amy said...

I'd have noticed. Because I'm easily distracted. I'd have stopped, watched, and then asked you for money to put in his case. Might not have recognized him, but...hey look! A bunny!

Justmatt said...

I was waiting for that punchline! Well done...if you hadn't said it I would have. Ha!