Thought of the week – 19th Feb 2012


Have a read of this true story, originally published in The Washington Post, 8th April 2007.  I found it rather poignant after my trip to Australia. Sydney is such an incredible city & yet so few people actually take the time to absorb its magnificence.

In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about forty-five minutes. During that time, approximately two thousand people went through the station most of them on their way to work.  After about three 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 four minutes later;
The violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw money in the hatstand, without stopping, continued to walk.

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

At ten minutes;
A three-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 forty-five minutes;
The musician played continuously.  Only six people stopped and listened for a short while.  About twenty gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After one 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 are we missing as we rush through life?
[Gene Weingarten]



  1. ‘ how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?’

    OH Boy! This is so true…

    And how much talent do we overlook? How much talent do WE underestimate? And who decides what is real and what is not anyway?

    thanks for posting this!

    Peace, Jen

    • I couldn’t agree more Jen. Unfortunately we are all guilty in some way of missing the most simple but incredible offerings from life.
      I believe I have discovered more talent & beauty in the few weeks I have been blogging & the 2 years since my accident than that of my entire adult life. Not that I would change anything about my life thus far, after all it has bought me to a place of enlightenment 🙂

      Thank you for reading my post 🙂

      • that is so true! My TBI forced me to do what Buddhist mentors had been suggesting for decades: slow down

        It is amazing to me how a Bad Day with my brain can end up being such a Good day for Noticing things and Taking my Time. When the ole noggin is struggling I need to SLOW DOWN and do one thing at a time (sometimes one thing a day) THAT is a Gift oddly.

        This thought has crossed my mind before on ‘those days’ but then the thought vanishes (thus making it ‘one of those days’)

        thank you for reminding me of what is too easy to forget: that there is oddly a gift inherent in my TBI and that I DO know this on the days I can’t remember things by the end of the day.

        enlightenment TBI as agent of CAlM and S L O W

        Weird. True. Weird.

      • AGREE AGREE AGREE 🙂 You have hit the nail on the head Jen. Living with a TBI does force you to SLOW DOWN. It took me a whole week to recover from my ‘hectic’ holiday (although it would have been classed as tortoise like, pre-injury days!). I know I pushed myself to my absolute limit & beyond. I didn’t rest nearly as much as I should have, consequently some of my trip is a blur…even photographs fail to ignite my memory!

  2. veronicahaunanifitzhugh

    when i first read this in the post, i was inspired to practice art without a frame and see how it could affect the larger society. my performance art has been applauded, cursed, misrepresented, and ignored. i am having a lovely time.

  3. I love ‘experiments’ like this – huge eye openers!

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