Insights on business -- and life.
Where and How Do We Perceive Beauty?
Are we open to unexpected
by Unknown (January 3, 2011)
(Note: Our industry is filled with
creative people who create beautiful things that enrich our homes
and our lives. But are we receptive to beauty around us? This was
sent to CLN by a subscriber.)
In Washington DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning
in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about
45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people
went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After
about three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was
a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a
few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.
About four minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar. A
woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to
At six minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to
him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
At 10 minutes: A three-year-old boy stopped, but his mother tugged
him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist
again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to
walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated
by several other children, but every parent -- without exception
-- forced their children to move on quickly.
At 45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people
stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money
but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected
a total of $32.
After 1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one
noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the
greatest 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, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the
seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the
This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the DC Metro
Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a
social experiment about perception, taste, and people's priorities.
This experiment raised several questions:
1. In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour,
do we perceive beauty?
2. If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
3. Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best
musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever
written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made….
How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?