The articles is there, and gives you the full story: background, etc. for what I am about to talk about. It’s worth reading if you have the time. The author won a Pulitzer Prize for it. I have read the article more than once, and…..enjoy it.
Josh Bell is one of the most famous musicians in the world. He was a child prodigy, and now, at 45 still commands the attention of music lovers everywhere. The violin that he almost always plays is a Stradivarius worth about 4 million when he purchased it. Now, with at least a decade of being played by the world’s most famous violinist, it is probably worth quite a bit more.
Gene Weingarten, the author of “Pearls before Breakfast”, took this man, and his violin, and placed them, incognito, in the crossroads of Washington DC’s busiest metro station. During rush hour. Bell played for about an hour, working his way through several of the pieces in the world that have been played by violinist’s for centuries. The night before, he had given a concert, played the same pieces, and no one in the audience had paid less than $100 for their tickets. After his hour of playing, he had a little over $32 in the open case he had laid in front of him. One person out of the thousand-odd had recognized him. Only five or six had stopped to listen.
And Weingarten turned that into a bit of a dilemma. His article is well thought out, full of the opinions of experts, and the problem that, with their help, he dived into is “What does that say about us?” As a society, are we too busy, too rushed, too stressed to notice the little things in life? Or, in an even more frightening scenario, do we not appreciate beauty anymore? He does not answer it, either, leaving it for us to ponder. Maybe it is our focus, our priorities, is a theory he throws out by way of a quote. Maybe it is context–a metro station is not the place. We all know, and can justify in our minds that rush hour was not the time. Or is it really us? A culture so steeped in…..ourselves–our busyness, our tastes, our stresses, our technology, that we do fail to appreciate some of the best things in life. Or we just miss them.
I try not to. I make a conscious effort to look at little things. The flower that really is not a weed that somehow popped up in the yard. A piece of mail that is not an advertisement or a bill. A small child telling a story with the delight and joy only a small child can. Watch, feel, listen. Even if, weed or no, you hardly want that flower in your front yard. Even if that piece of mail is a letter from a family member you have not spoken to in years, and still do not want to. Even if that child is your son or daughter re-telling that story for time one-hundred and seven, while you try to cook, or clean, or make it through the grocery store.
Maybe it really is not about appreciating beauty, or greatness, or even the little things. Maybe it is about appreciating life–when life gives you beautiful music, or when life gives you a snotty-nosed child. Maybe it is about stopping for a second, and being grateful for the intangibles. Maybe it is not about “pearls before breakfast” but about picking up and cherishing the one, single pearl you are given, whatever it may be.