Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Listening to Joshua Bell

Life experiences have a way of sticking with us and making it difficult to Live in Truth unless we consciously make a decision to do so. Every moment in our lives is new, but because of past life experiences we often miss what is being given to us in the present moment. An amazing experiment done in January 2007 exemplifies this.

Gene Weingarten, a journalist with The Washington Post enlisted the help of the world famous violinist, Joshua Bell. Bell dressed like a street musician and played several violin pieces in the L’Enfant Plaza Metro subway station in Washington, D. C. for forty-five minutes. The proceedings were videotaped on a hidden camera (see it here) and revealed that of the 1,097 people who passed by, only seven stopped to listen and only one of those recognized him. During that forty-five minutes Bell collected $52.17 from twenty-eight people, twenty dollars of it from the woman who recognized him. The night before people had paid more than $52 per person to listen to him play in concert!

The question we have to ask ourselves is what would we have done if we had been one of the 1,097 people? Would we have assumed that since it wasn't a concert hall and since the man was dressed in rags this couldn't possible be worth listening to? Would we have let past experiences with “street people” taint our present experience? Or would we have been alive and alert to the present moment and accepted the gift of music offered to us?

In Seattle recently I realized that this is one area of Living in Truth I need to work on. While walking along the wharf, I encountered a Polynesian woman sitting on some stairs with several plastic shopping bags surrounding her. She was singing in her native tongue what sounded to me like a folksong, but as I passed she stopped singing and commented on how hot it was and offered me a bottle of cold water. Assuming that she was selling the water and probably for an exorbitant price, I smiled, declined, and hurried on. A few minutes later Mr. J, lagging behind me because he had been taking pictures, encountered the woman and stopped, engaged her in conversation, and took the water offered. He tried to pay her for it but she refused any recompense and sent him on his way with warm wishes for a good day.

Since it really was a hot, humid day, and not having any water with me I could have used the cold water the woman offered, but like the 1,090 people who refused to stop and listen to Joshua Bell, I refused the refreshment because of my prejudices and assumptions.

I'm working on it! Every moment is new and we will never know what wonderful things are being offered to us if we look at the present moment through eyes of the past.

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