Thanks to my good friend, Ed Yager, in an email today I found myself asking, “What am I missing every day of my life?”, “Do I rush through life not taking time to enjoy the beauty of each moment that is right before me?”, “What can I do to be more aware of the blessings continuously raining down upon me?”.
Ask yourself those same questions as you read this message. This was a social experiment conducted by Gene Weingarten, a Washington Post writer, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his article published in April, 2007. You can read the entire article by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. Below is my summary:
HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L’ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED 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 a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that rush hour period it was estimated that more than 1,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
After about three minutes a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the violin case 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.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother pulled him along hurriedly, but the kid kept straining to look at the violinist.
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, and only one person recognized him.
Of all the people rushing through their day, only one recognized the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best known musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a Stradivarius violin estimated to be worth 3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston with seats averaging $100.
In my view, the old adage “Stop and smell the roses” was never more applicable than in this case.
The Washington Post won a Pulitzer in the feature writing category for Gene Weingarten’s April 2007 story about this experiment. Click here to see the entire article.
Click here to see comments by Joshua Bell.