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January 1st, 2009

What are you missing?

This is something that has been going around the internet again and was sent to me by one of my subscribers:

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and 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 till 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. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

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, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best 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 his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

 One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

So maybe now it the time to to pause and think about what you love… and do that. Call a old friend or relative you haven't talked to in a while. Go for a hike or walk. Read a good novel. Make a great meal. Listen to some amazing music that fills your heart. Love yourself.


  1. Persephone Underwood says:

    I love this story because it so accurately depicts how most of us go about living our lives. We never stop to accept and appreciate beauty giving freely without a price attached to it. If he had announced he was Joshua Bell I am sure the reply would have been, “Who you kidding? Man, Johua Bell don’t play in a subway station.
    On the other hand if one of those anonymous faces had to pay $100 for a ticket to her him they would have dones so, gladly. I guess the edict we only appreciate what we pay dearly for, is true. Shame!

  2. Ivette says:

    thank you for that inspiring story. Yes, we should stop and take the time to enjoy the beauty our environment has to offer us. Again, thank you.

  3. Doug Daniels says:

    This story doesn’t surprise me.
    In the radio business many a program director will dismiss anything that hasn’t been releasesd on a “major label”.
    NO ONE starts on a “major” anything! Few “start” in “major” motion pictures or play on “major” league teams. Talent is talent and it is found everywhere. It comes in all shapes and sizes…colors; genders; nationalities and faiths.
    Very few of the world’s most inspirational people started with the proverbial silver spoon.
    The best thing a person can do today (or any day) is to simply…stop…be still…look…listen…breathe…the magic in is the gap…in the space.
    Here’s to a great 2009 and beyond for one and all!

  4. Trish Chipchura says:

    I love this story as it depicts how the young are able to seek out the joys around us. Sadly as many of us age, we have muted ourselves to the abundant beauty of life around us…always rushing to get somewhere we don’t necessarily want to be.
    My sister met up with one of her daughter’s friends just before Christmas. She only had time for a quick but enthusiastic hello as she was prompted to rush off to her next errand. Happy to have been reunited with this college student as she was visiting home before the holdiays, she was deeply saddened to hear that the girl took her own life just days before Christmas.
    We never know of the opportunities we are given in life if we are too busy to stop and explore our gifts. Whether it is the Joshua Bell’s or the girl next door…We should remind ourselves daily that “Life is not a race and that we never get it done.”
    Thanks for the reminder that we need to be more intuitive like children and slow down to embrace the treasure hunt that life is…
    Blessings to you all. May 2009 guide us to take the time to find the treasures in our lives! xoxo

  5. I was walking through Central Park in NYC and came across a man playing the bassoon at the entrance to the tunnel directly behind the Museum of Natural History, and indeed most people just passed him by as well.
    He was not a nationally known performer, but amazingly talented nonetheless. The acoustics lent by the tunnel made for an incredible musical experience.
    I spent a very happy half hour listening to him but could just as easily have passed him by if I had not been aware of the present moment that we all live in.