Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Essence of Life/Connecting With Others

This is a story a friend of mine recently sent me via email.

Violinist in the Metro
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 a 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 averaged $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?

One of my intentions for the new year is to live more in the moment. When I'm mindful of the moment I perceive so much more beauty. I notice and appreciate so much more of what life is offering me. I'm also happiest in the moment. Along with the intention of living in the moment is being mindful of the opportunities to connect with others. The moment is when this happens. To me, this is the essence of life. What else could be more important? Rushing around here and there, hurrying up for nothing, missing out on what is right in front of my face? I think not.

Today Jerry and I were walking down State Street in Santa Barbara. We were looking for a Christmas present for our grandson and also, we were anxious to get to Oxnard see him and his mommy. On top of that, Jerry was hungry and we needed to stop for lunch before hitting the road. When the street musician asked if we had time to listen to a song for a donation, Jerry gave him a five dollar bill but told him we needed to be on our way. I told him we would catch him on our way back and then I immediately thought of the above story. We found our present and were heading back to the car looking for a place to eat along the way. We were on the opposite side of the street and we had both forgotten about the street musician. But there he was and he asked us if we were ready for our song. We were. We leaned into the concrete planter and enjoyed the song that he had written himself while traveling through Costa Rica. It was a fun song about taking the time to enjoy life and people. It made us smile. Connecting with Gil Paradise, the street musician was a real gift and we were lucky to be offered a second chance. That's not always the case and I'm counting my blessings on this one. It's my intention to not miss out on the beautiful opportunities of Joshua Bell or Gil Paradise that the universe offers me.

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