Rushing To Work — Missing The Beauty

Missing something?Ask yourself — if you were on your way to work and heard one of the world’s greatest violinists playing on the street, would you notice?

A brilliant piece in the Washington Post called “Pearls Before Breakfast” describes an experiment in which the authors asked Joshua Bell, a world-renowned violinist, to play his Stradivarius for 45 minutes in a commuter Metro station during morning rush hour. Out of the nearly 1,100 people who passed by, only a handful stopped to listen or acknowledge him. A musician who regularly sells out concert halls was simply…ignored.

The saddest part for me are the interviews with the commuters who didn’t notice him — most were government workers and mid-level business people more focused on getting to their jobs, thinking about their upcoming meeting or buying lottery tickets than on the incredibly beautiful music in this unremarkable place.

This article points to something I think is fundamentally wrong with us as a work culture. We focus so much energy and time on our work, planning our days and schedules down to the last minute, that we miss the surprises — the unexpected beauty that can be found in the most unlikely places, the spontaneous opportunities that pull us out of our routine. Innovation and inspiration don’t come from being on time or sitting behind our desks. Art can be found and appreciated in any context, but only if we take a second to stop and look.

I would like to believe I would have stopped and listened to him play, throwing a good tip into his open violin case. But sadly, I’m not so sure.

(Hat Tip to Signals vs. Noise and their post “Subway Stradivarius“)

This entry was posted in Career, Creativity, Perception, Perspective. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Rushing To Work — Missing The Beauty

  1. sarah r says:

    I like to think I would listen on my way out the door. Not so sure about the return trip.

  2. Toby Lucich says:

    A tough mirror to look into, isnt’ it?

    I know that I’m among those that hustle past so many beautiful creations in life, and too often ignore these amazing things that come without a price tag. Sad, I’m afraid.

    I have found that life with a 3 1/2 year old does much to alert me to the magic in the world around us. Not only does he take note of every passing balloon and street performer, but he also opens my eyes to the mysteries I’ve been walking past most everyday of my adult life.

    It is through his eyes and ears that I most often acknowledge the magic of subway artists around us. Thank god for my little man’s curiousity and joyous wonder.

  3. Thanks Toby – it was interesting how the article pointed out that every single child that passed by Joshua Bell tried to stop and listen, but each one’s parent dragged them on…

    My sister is due in July and I look forward to walking around the city with my little nephew and seeing the world through his eyes.

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