Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 3, 2018


Would you have stopped to listen?


            Not long ago an unusual thing took place in a metro station in Washington, DC. One winter morning a young musician stood against a wall in the station, opened his violin case and took out his violin. He tossed a few dollars and pocket change into the case as seed money and began to play. It was about 8 am when he began playing.

            The young violinist played incognito in the subway for 43 minutes, performing six classical pieces. The violin he played is worth 3.5 million dollars. While he played, 1,097 people walked by him. A few stopped long enough to toss in a few coins, a total of $32.17. Only seven of the 1,097 people who passed by paused longer than one minute to hear the man play. Only one of the seven recognized the famous violinist Joshua Bell, one the world’s finest musicians.  

            Three days before Bell had performed before a capacity crowd in Boston’s Symphony Hall. The seats cost an average of $100 each. The accomplished violinist is usually paid more than $1,000 a minute to perform.

            The event in the subway was arranged by The Washington Post as a social experiment about perception, taste and the priorities of people. The idea was to see how ordinary people would react to beauty in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour. These were the questions being asked: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context? The experiment revealed that for the most part, people did not react at all. Those who passed by were too busy to pay attention to the violinist.

            One disturbing conclusion might be this: If we do not take a moment to stop and listen to one of the finest musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

            Would you have stopped that morning and listened to the violinist for a few minutes? I have wrestled with that question and to be candid, I think I would have glanced at Joshua Bell and kept walking. But it saddens me to admit that. It pains me to realize that I have made it a practice to be “busy” all my life, evidently supposing that my busyness would impress others.

            I realize now that my busyness caused me to miss a lot of beauty along the way that I could have stopped to enjoy. So in these days I am striving to avoid being so busy that I fail to recognize the beauty that is all around me daily – in the flowers, the birds, the rainbows, the music, the animals, the stars and the faces, the smiles, the kindness and the voices of the people I love.

            So I leave you with this question: If you must admit that, like me, you are too busy, what do you plan to do about it? + + +