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July 23, 2009
by Davey Wavey
45 Comments



Bitch-slapped by beauty.

Back in January of 2007, I was living in Washington, DC.

At a subway stop near to my home, a violinist played four Bach pieces for 45 minutes. Some 2,000 commuters hustled and bustled by the artist – few paid any attention to the performance, and even fewer stopped (except for a handful of children who were all quickly reprimanded by their guardians).

Of the 2,000 people, 20 gave money and then hurried off. 6 paused.

The whole situation was a social experiment orchestrated by the Washington Post. The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most gifted musicians in America. Two days earlier, he had sold out an entire theater in Boston. His instrument was worth some $3.5 million. The pieces he played were some of the most intricate ever written.

And only 6 people paused.

If we can overlook such obvious and rare beauty, can you imagine the more subtle things we’re missing? Even when beauty slaps us in our face, we tend not to recognize it. There are no excuses.

We need not wait for a talented musician in disguise. Beauty is here and beauty is now.

Take a second to look around you. Look at the shadows that crawl across your room or office. Look at the folds of your sheets. Look at the raindrops dancing across your window. The gentle creases in your hands. The dust on your bureau. The socks on your feet. The air in your lungs. This is beautiful.

Can you see it?

45 Comments

  1. Oh man! How could any walk past Joshua Bell!? We used to talk about him all the time in band class.I would have killed to see him perform like that! C’mon people!

    My grandma always tells me to notice the beauty around me. She lives in a small little old house and she thinks of it as a mansion,and always says to notice the beauty. I need to do that more often. >_<

  2. I see beauty everywhere………

  3. Sometimes we’re too busy commuting to actually stop and smell the roses. Maybe, had that been a Sunday or a holiday, when people are more free to linger, they would have stopped.

    however… are our lives so filled with frenzy that we never allow ourselves the moment to breathe and take in the small things in life, where beauty truly lies? Are we living without truly living, thinking that we’ll “live” later? Are we working our asses off to save for that expensive concert, when the musician was playing right in front of our noses?

    Hm…

  4. We saw that story here in Montreal some time ago. In the Montreal Metro system there are kiosks (areas) for performers to sing, dance, play instruments. And each year there is an event at the Central Station where all of the best performers in the city get showcased in a gala event.

    There are great performers who frequently sit in the Westmount Square tunnel and play some really beautiful music.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Jeremy

  5. Very true.. people often walk right past beauty and never know it was right there infront of them.
    I try to see the beauty in others and ive come to a conclusion..

    Someone who is ascetically beautiful on the outside uses this as a shield and makes it difficult to see who they are on the inside..
    Those who are not so ascetically pleasing are not so hard to find the beauty from within..
    Its not a perfect science, and there are those who do not use their looks to shield their true self and it might not even be conscious but I often find this in many people.

  6. I’m not quite sure what to say, though I’m sure there’s something profound in terms of a comment somewhere out there….

    I just know I would have been enamored with such beauty emanating from such a place…

    Ciao!

  7. I am the only opera singer ever to be licensed by the Toronto Transit Commision as a subway musician. I sing for about an hour at a time because my voice cannot handle more than that amount of time singing full-out tenor arias. I’m actually surprized at the number of people who do stop to listen and appreciate it. I’m even more surprized at the number of people who want to know everything about me, where I learned to sing, how long I’ve been doing it, if I do weddings, funerals, etc. I love singing for people and find it extremely rewarding – gratifying, even. I always thought Toronto to be a somewhat cold place until I opened up to people. As soon as I opened up, everyone started to open up to me. It’s beautiful.

    Davey – what would it take to have you go out of your way to come hear me singing? I invited you last year, shortly after I discovered your blog and the invitation’s always open so long as I’m in town.

  8. This is my favourite post so far Davey… Thats all. PNL Joel x

  9. oh my gosh.. that’s so crazy davey. but to be completely honest, even though the pieces he played were undeniably beautiful, if i had somewhere to be… i probably wouldn’t have stopped either. after reading this, i’ll probably be trying to find beauty in simpler things though :)

  10. Some of the most wonderful moments of my day is when I pause to look at the beauty around me and the moments in nature that add awe to my busy life. Thank you Davey Wavey for reminding us to take the time to pause and enjoy who and what is around us. Hope your weekend is full of beauty.

  11. OMG… how very very true…

  12. It’s called the human Condition…I think it is a shame people are more interested in rushing from Home to work and letting the beauty of the world go by. But if they are stupid enough to let that happen then those
    people do not deserve the full richness of live/love and beauty.
    This is where we as TV program makers have to take responsibility in making programs to educate and enrich/Educate people.. As most just sit in front of the telly and don’t get out there.
    Martin

  13. I grew up in New York City. One is trained and conditioned to keep eyes straight ahead and not interact with anything in the environment, especially street people or beggars in the subway. Just the way it is.

  14. Excusing these people on the basis they were in a hurry with their “important apointments”, it remains that most Americans are totally ignorant when it comes to classical music and opera. Our culture is totally crass and pays its homage mostly to glittery performers like Michael Jackson, Madanna, hip hop, etc. Not that I am totally against the outlandish, but Americans should have a better understanding of “real” talent and accomplishment.

    • AS an opera singer I appreciate your sentiments and I do agree that Americans seem a little preoccupied with superficial and even ridiculous things but Do you really think that Madonna and M.J. are not truly talented people?

    • Perhaps I was I little too harsh in my comments since I recognize that some of these popular entertainers do have talent. However, much of this talent is hype and is over promoted by the media and others for finnancial reasons.

  15. Only one thing has to change for us to know happiness and beauty in our lives: where we focus our attention

  16. I live in Ithaca NY (Davey, you know this town well, having stopped here many times to visit friends) and we have such a large talented population here, between the Ithaca College Music Department, the Community School of Music and Arts, and just local residents who exhude talent. I was walking to visit a friend who lives above the Commons the other day, and as I got closer and closer to the center of the Commons, I could hear violin playng. At first I thought it might be one of the local “bohemian” characters playing for money. As I got closer, I could see it was a young boy, all of 12 or 13 years old, playing intricate notes and melodies. It made me feel a sense of pride, as this was me in my younger days. I was lucky enough to be born with a talent for music, started playing violin in 2nd grade, and eventually went to Ithaca College for Music Education. AND, I had the great fortune to meet and listen to Joshua Bell. He came to IC and did a performance, held a Master Class, and even let us all look at his Stradivarius. What a treat it would have been to see him performing on the streets of NYC……although I must admit, I probably would have ruined the experiment by informing other people who passed by who this person was and that they should take amoment and stop and listen. Back to the young boy on the Commons……I went to retrieve my friend, and as we left his apartment building, we started to go toward the back door exit, but I made him accompany me out the front way so I could take him past the violinist playing on the Commons. He was surprised at the age of the boy playing, to which I replied “That was how it was for me at his age, the level ofmusic that was coming from my fingertips was weird for people to see”. I enjoy the fact that I live in such a town as Ithaca where talent and beauty can be found in unlikely places, but it’s always there in front of you, if you just take a second to stop, look, and listen.

    • If you check out the actual video of Joshua Bell, you will see that he was playing his violin at a Metro Stop in Washington, DC, not NYC.

  17. “What is this life if full of care
    we have no time to stand and stare”

    • How true and how eloquently put. We seem to commit so much significance to all the events and issues in our lives that we lose sight of what’s truly important because the minutia gets in the way.

  18. “What is this life if full or care
    We have no time to stand and stare

    No time to see in broad daylight
    streams fill of stars like the sky at night

    A poor life this if full of care
    We have no time to stand and stare”

    W.H. Davies

    _ this whole poem says it all.

  19. sometimes the music you hear in the metro is the best there is-and its free-provided you buy a transit ticket.

  20. Cookie! Davey “never-mentioned” NYC. He “plainly-indicated” Washington as the location. Go- << & re-read, you’ll see. ___davvi

  21. Davii, I was replying to Scott’s post, dated July 24th at 7:48am where he writes “What a treat it would have been to see him (Bell) to see him performing on the streets of NYC”.

    My reply was not directed to Davey Wavey who, as you say, plainly indicated Washington, DC as the location. Scott is the one who wrote the location was NYC, not Davey Wavey.

  22. Certainly, there is truth here. The aptly named rat race conditions in which many live do not enable them to, as the saying goes, stop and smell the roses. Rather, in their perpetual haste, individuals either rush past them — or in some cases, trample them. The greatest tragedy brought about by this lifestyle is not a failure to recognize beauty in the outside world; but rather, the failure to see it, and cultivate it, in one’s self. If there is not an introspective love in an individuals heart, their ability to recognize – much less appreciate – external beauty, must be extremely compromised.

  23. It is so sad that most of of the people can’t see the amount of beauty in this word.

  24. Davey you may only have to work 20 hours a week. Possibly some of those hours are “working from home” without a top on and after a dreadfuol commuter journey across the hall. Life is not quite so easy for other people. You can enjoy your leisurely life because they struggle with their less easy life.
    All art, culture, philosophy and the “higher” things of life are only possible because somewhere deep underground other people work in pretty unpleasant conditions. Without the hard graft of farmers you would starve.
    I am certainly grateful for their hard work.
    Just as you should be grateful for taht chaps music…. a skill he developped from hard work.

  25. When the event happened and was reported in the media, I immediately thought that the Wash Post set up the wrong circumstances. It was bound to fail during commuter morning rush because people simply had to get to their jobs on time.

    Joshua Bell is unquestionably a great artist. I once went out in 20 below weather in Feb in Madison, WI to hear him play, and the experience was wonderful. He’s also very hot, even in his 30s and gaining a little weight from eating at good restaurants on the tour circuit.

    Nevertheless, Davey’s point is well-taken. All of us fail too often to stop and smell the roses.

  26. WOW..that’s amazing, Davey. I had the privilege to see him in person in Minneapolis. He was just amazing. This was about 25 years ago, and I thot he was cute, but a KNOCK-OUT in talent!

  27. This can easily be related to our so called Gay culture. I have been around long enough to know that Gay men Rarely look to see what beauty may lay beyond the surface and yes I understand attraction however here is what I mean. I am 45 considered good looking in good shape however I believe who i really am is a caring loving romantic passionate guy who most of the time can’t get the time of day from other guys I believe for many reasons first due to this awful economy I can’t find a job therefore I don’t wear the labels or drive the right car or flash cash around which also compounds not meeting anyone lets face it in the gay world the first strike against you is age if you are gay and over 35 you may as well be dead. the only saving grace is to be wealthy and personaly I find the whole Daddy thing disgusting. Then there is the looks thing more times then not if you are an average good looking gay man you don’t stand a chance as every guy wants their perfect little arm trophy Sean Cody Model boy no matter what they may look like I like to refer to it as a world full of 6-8′s looking for 10′s. Everyone says that want to find that one right guy but no one sees the whole picture. Looks will fade not to mention when was the last time you saw 2 pretty boys really stay together, Not often of that i am sure. I think it is sad that so many times we pass by what may have been what we were looking for all along all because we could not see the beauty within.
    Regards Keith

    • What a refreshing entry. I think it is watershed time for Davey.
      There comes a time in life when we have to accept that youth is not forever.
      What is cute at 26 can look plain ridiculous at 30.
      Whether we like it or not we need to change.
      **
      Don’t be too sour about shallow Gay relations.
      Yound people are entitled to a slightly irresponsible
      young life.
      BUT it is for a period.
      The admiration lessens as we age.
      To build your world around being young or having a youthful appearance only
      - is to drive your life straight over a cliff.
      I wonder how many admirers of Davey’s wisdom would take any notice
      at all, if he were balding and 40!
      You have to admire the guy.
      But I do wonder whether the whole thing is just very clever “marketting”
      Be happy .

  28. Probably a lot of people noticed the sound but in the noise and rush they simply couldn’t stop. When you live in a neighborhood full of street people, especially if you don’t have a lot of money yourself, you may become aware of several facts:
    Panhandlers and street musicans are quite separate from “the homeless”. Homeless people don’t panhandle and panhandlers usually aren’t really homeless.
    Empirical investigation consistantly reveals that over 99% of panhandlers have serious “substance abuse” problems. The majority are heroin addicts, most abuse other illegal drugs, drink alcohol, and smoke cigarettes.
    Everything a street person tells you is probably a lie.

    • … what a refreshing entry.
      I am fed up with childish starry eyed stuff that can be found here sometimes.
      ONE thing though.
      Even if they lie such people still deserve chances in life.
      We all do.
      We all fail at times.
      And if nobody gave us chances as we grew then we would all have ended up in a horrible mess.
      So be acid perhaps – but not toooo sour.

  29. I stop at almost every street performer, because they are often wonderful and I like the concept of street performing (no matter if music, painting, juggling, magic, etc.). I would have stopped.

    And I agree totally: See the beauty in everything that daily is around you!!

  30. Cookie: “my-Bad” on that! ___davvi

  31. I sometimes become particularly aware when I’m out running in the city. One second I’m running down the street – I blink – now I’m running past spectacular architecture, trees shimmering with rain and spectacular people (who may or may not know they are spectacular) as they busy about on the streets.
    Sometimes not being able to see the beauty of the world makes those moments you do shine brighter.

  32. I just lost my Job.
    I still sometimes struggle with accepting who I am.
    I sometimes thinks God only gave me a pretty face to tempt others.
    I’m afraid what people think of me even though I say I don’t.
    I hate the thought of not knowing what will happen to me in 3 months.

    But. . . If you just stop and look around you. The world really is a beautiful place. I can’t believe how “Blind” I have been for all these years always focusing on “MY MY MY needs” but wow… I Love my life! I Love being me! I love the world around me! And I love that Im alive and well! I Can still do marvelous things with my life! And I know I have much to work on… But at least its a start!

    Davey… your posts are a huge help in my life. Being A gay, 19 year old, living in Los Angeles, is still somewhat new to me. I do fear what could happen if I allow myself to become vulnerable. But reading your blog and taking action on what you say really gives me hope. Thank you.

    -Joseph M

  33. I would like to think that i would have stopped.

    But deep down i know would not.

  34. This is the first post I disagree with. How many people who appreciate this type of music take the subway? How many people heard enough to say, “Wow! That’s intricate!” How many times have you heard professional music played by a street performer? You learn to ignore it. This was actually an experiemnt in popularity. If his instrument would have displayed a price tag, people would have stopped. If the number of people who have paid to hear him perform would have been displayed, people would have stopped. If Britney Spears were to have performed in some remote area of Australia, would people stop? Ooops, I don’t think she’d do it again. ;-)

  35. your amazing point of view never stops amazing me and make me think. Davey you your eys your skin your lungs your very essence being and soul are all a thing of beauty that is pasted up just like Mr Bell. But you will help those around you of even across the world from you discover the not so hidden but over looked beauty which just gives you more beauty to look at once its truely noticed by those who know how to look

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