Sunday, November 20, 2011

Swimmin in Skittles

Didn't I see that violin on Antiques Roadshow?
On a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin, played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes at Washington DC's Metro Station,. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest 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, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:
*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . ..

How many other things do we miss as we rush through life?  Lord, I know I have.......

"Damn, I knew the answer to that question!"
That trend will only continue as smart phones & tablets continue their advancement with folks fixated on some version of Angry Birds (& even scarier......some will be behind a steering wheel doing 60) and not the more simple joys of life......which are open, tactile and often free!  On Saturday afternoon....... I watched from the bluff, for several minutes, the wonder of a slow moving coal barge chugging down the Mississippi on it's journey to New Orleans.  Can't you just see it???  It was quite delightful!
Frampton Comes Alive now & 35 years ago

Even better was the sound of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra later that evening.  While I'm a rock & roller at heart, almost nothing beats that sound & those Rock Stars! Think about it.......almost every Hollywood movie has an orchestral background but to see & hear an orchestra up close & personal..... Oh Lord!

Each one of us is on a roller coaster ride through life.  Granted some are a little further along than others & some soon pulling into 'The Station' (maybe with a sudden stop & before they wanted to).  As adults, we're all past the Big Hill.  It's just how many loop de loops & twisty curvies you have left because tomorrow is promised to no one.   So promise yourself this:  Even as the world whips by at its frenzied pace, enjoy the simpliest things that life has to offer:  the beauty of a sunset, the wonder of a bird in flight, a walk in the park or by the river, the joy & innocence of a small child  (even better if their yours 8-) & that lone virtuoso in the subway station.  If you take the time to listen to the sound and enjoy the moment, you'll be swimmin in skittles!


  1. This blog really got me thinking. I'm going to get off this computer and call all 4 of my grown boys just to hear their voice, get up earlier than usual in the morning and watch the sun rise with my dog and a cup of coffee. You're right, the simplest things in life can be the best!

  2. My latest favorite small thing is watching my god daughter growing up. She's almost one now. She stretches out her little chubby arms to me when I reach for her, and then she smiles that two-tooth smile...each time is like the first time I saw her. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

  3. Great insight Lou. I too remember reading about Mr. Bell and thinking about how often and easy it can be to overlook the simpler things in life. I guess I am fortunate in that respect. Looking back, I know now that I grew up poor, but I never knew or even once considered myself to be because I had always been taught to appreciate the simple things life had to offer. I always had a roof over my head (and my own playroom in the attic); nice, clean, good smelling clothes to wear (that my mother would hang outside to dry in the summer); and food to fill my little belly (even though roast was a monthly regular dish on Sundays). We were a simple family of people who didn’t believe it was important to rush out on Black Friday to get trampled on or over to purchase items (that still weren't worth their price) on credit and would take a full year (plus interest) to pay for. We knew, but did not try to keep up with the Joneses and we were not jealous of their success (real or otherwise). I am happy that I was taught how to live a simple life early on. I think that is why it is so very easy for me to feel successful today. After all, success is and should be whatever you personally designate it to be shouldn’t it? I believe we must learn to stop and smell the roses and to be sure to take the time to give the people that we love their flowers while they can still smell them.
    Dr. Yvonne D. Nelson

  4. Lou, Your latest blog was very touching but let us get back to reality. If that guy had been recognized and the value of his violin known, how long do you think he or it would survive in one piece at the Metro Station. People don't go to places like that to relax, they go to catch a train so that may be why most people didn't stay around long. We all need to enjoy life more and stop and smell the roses but maybe a train station isn't the place to do that. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

  5. I'm thinking that is just the point.... if you were on vacation enjoying a sunset & a juggler at Mallory Square in Key West, you've put aside that time (or maybe not...if you're on a rush to the next destination)but do we build time enuf or stop to enjoy the little things in our normal day to day??? Most of us do included!
    This was a social study of course but what it proved....said about us...was that we all choose to miss things in our hurry through life.
    You are exactly right! The majority of us speed thru reality & another DC's system he was alright in New York's.....maybe a different story despite the value of the violin. Have a great weekend my friend!

  6. Dr Y
    I couldn't agree with you more... Looking back at my own childhood, our family was both rich & poor at times(& several variations of those) which gave me a very balanced & healthy view of life. Most children do not have tinted glasses & see things one way or the other. Loved your last sentence!

  7. Great commentary of the ignorance of the common man, I've seen shows where they take a super model and dress them up to be obese looking and then send them out to the streets of NYC to see if people will help them...... you know the scenario, they are " largely " ignored and treated awfully. But when they go out as themselves dressed scantily they have men tripping over themselves to help her.
    I was raised in Huntington Beach California and there's no greater display of power and beauty than that of watching the sun disappear into the Pacific Ocean while listening to the Beach Boys sing " The Warmth Of The Sun", none.

    Mike from Blyvegas