What would happen if Nickelback, Pavoratti, Justin Timberlake, or Alan Jackson decided to perform without notice inside the mall in Florence, Alabama? Before you read any further, click here to learn about Joshua Bell (Pictured left). This is a MUST to understand the rest of this post!
The Washington Post decided they wanted to see what would happen if this modern day virtuoso dressed down and played as a street musician near one of the busy subway connections in Washington, DC.. You can click here to read the whole article which includes several video clips of what actually took place.
Bell is the pre-eminent violinist of our times, under-forty, charismatic, and the ladies love him. He plays a Stradivarius worth $3.5 million. He commands $1,000 a minute performances all over the world. When noted conductor Leonard Slatkin speculated on what the result of this concert might be, he thought a large crowd would surround him and he’d pull in about $150.
So what happened when he played his Stradivarius in a subway in Washington, D.C.?
Less than 12 of 1,097 people who passed by even noticed his presence. Fewer paused to listen to the finest music in the world played by a famed artist. Of those who stopped, a couple knew enough about the violin to recognize the one playing for tips was on a level far beyond what could be expected from a street musician. One woman recognized Bell and stayed around simply because she couldn’t understand what she witnessed. She tossed in a measley $20, making the total take for 43 minutes of stellar playing $32.17! In case you wonder… a few people only gave pennies…
What is wrong with us that we are so busy… so hurried… so pushed… and so self consumed that we don’t recognize beauty when it stares us in the face?! I couldn’t help but think while reading this that we all blow by God every day just like those people did with Bell in the subway. It’s a good thing Moses wasn’t like us or he would have ignored the burning bush!
If we’ll virtually ignore the world’s best violinist, it’s no wonder people who are really hurting and need our help can’t garner our attention. That may be why even those who know Jesus don’t see the need to worship him regularly (Only about 45% of any Southern Baptist Church’s members worship on a given Sunday).
I suggest… or maybe I should scream to the top of my lungs… SLOW DOWN! Listen for God’s whisper. Look for the ways God is tapping us on our shoulders and tugging our coat-tails. Maybe… just maybe… if we listen we’ll hear something significant that can/will transform our lives. Or at least make it a little more meaningful.
Good blog today and good advice. The videos from L’Enfant Plaza in DC were unfortunately not real surprising. As you know, I used to live there and have been through that subway station many times as well as others in the metro area, some even busier. It is a great illustration of where we all seem to be today – too busy for what’s important… too busy for what is beautiful. I frequently feel like I am no different that those folks in the subway.
I have been very fortunate in my like to have had the opportunity to visit many of the great cities of the world – Washington (used to live there), London, Seattle, San Francisco, Nassau, Rome, Paris, and many others– all before I was 30. I used to frequently stop and listen to street musicians. I have been back to DC many times in the last few years and, in fact, I will be there again next week. However, I can’t remember the last time I stopped to listen. If I see a street musician, I am going to stop and listen. With God’s help, maybe that will be a start to something bigger.
Thank you for your kind words. Now if we can all DO what we know we should… slow down.