Unexpected Beauty

Over at Generation Exhausted, Shelley posted a link to a fascinating story from the Washington Post. What do you think would happen if one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made disguised himself as a street musician and opened his case and played in a Metro station in the middle of morning rush hour? They conducted just that experiment to explore the question “In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?”

The story has been almost haunting my thoughts… Would I stop? Would I, at the very least, have realized the significant beauty before me and mentioned it when the reporter called later? Or would I have been so wrapped up in life and the responsibility of getting to work on time that I would not have given a second glance to the gifts before me? What if my children were with me? Would I have paused with/for them?

I went to Joshua Bell’s website, because I admit I hadn’t even heard of him before the story, and was deeply moved by how beautiful the sounds were floating out of my computer. Surely music such as that would have stopped me in my tracks? And then I started to think about the many tourists I see here in the summer. At how it is sometimes amusing to see someone working so hard to take just the right photo of some landmark or other that I might pass every work day without even looking at twice. Might that be another case of being so wrapped up in everyday existence that we fail to see the beauty around us. (While I admit many tourist things are just gitch of sorts, and not a virtuoso as was present for the commuters on that day, surely life and nature have thrown treasures in my path that I have failed to see.) How very sad is that?

But almost as haunting was one line in the article: “If a great musician plays great music but no one hears… was he really any good?” Because really, even more important that what am I not seeing, is who am I not seeing. Who should be hearing applause yet I am failing to listen? What am I not appreciating or acknowledging?

While I do not know what I would have done if I had been a commuter on the morning of Bell’s performance, I hope that as I go about my days in future I am a little more cognizant of the treasures that cross my path.

So here is my challenge to you, dear readers, if you are up to it. Find me some unexpected beauty in your life. Is it that fountain outside your office building you never really notice? Is it the kid next door you haven’t gotten to know? Is it a street musician virtuoso who happens upon your path? My challenge is to pay attention to the beauty in your life and tell me about an opportunity where you find unexpected beauty. You can post it in the comments or write about it in your own blog (please share the link!) or just email me. I can’t wait to hear your stories.

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4 Responses to “Unexpected Beauty”


  1. 1 Anonymous April 16, 2007 at 11:45 am

    There is a great response to the Joshua Bell article by a NYC subway musician in her blog: http://www.SawLady.com/blog
    She interprets the situation differently from the Washington Post reporters… I thought you might find it interesting.

  2. 2 Robin April 16, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Very interesting and thought-provoking post. I might take you up on that challenge (if I ever get out of the house again!).

    I’m off to follow your links.

  3. 3 Tanya April 16, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Hey, just last week I rolled my window down to hear a musician on a corner who was playing a haunting rendtion of “Whiter Shade of Pale” on a harmonica, accordian and drums (yes, just him, all at once on all three instruments). I saw people throwing things to him from their car (four way intersection so they couldn’t reach him) and people coming from the parking lot behind him to give him money. It was BEAUTIFUL!

  4. 4 Christina April 20, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Ah, one of my favorite things to think about. Thank you. I shall make a point of writing up a list over the next week.


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