A man stood at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the child stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the boy continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32.15. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. This Grammy Award winner and Avery Fisher Prize winner for outstanding achievement as a classical instrumentalist played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Bell’s instrument is a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin called the Gibson ex Huberman, which was made in 1713 during what is known as Antonio Stradivari’s “Golden Era.” Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100. He regularly undertakes over 200 international engagements a year.
This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: Would people distinguish between a world-class instrumental virtuoso and an ordinary street musician if the only difference between them were the setting? In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the conclusions from this experiment could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing? When life seems monotonous, it is usually an indication that there is something we need to change. Boredom can easily lead us down the path to despondency. Acknowledging our feelings and then setting the intention to alter just one small thing in our life can give us a much more affirmative outlook. This act of change allows us to step outside of ourselves and discover new and exciting things that are often already present in our everyday lives. Simple things like eating a healthier diet, taking a new class or joining a club are all ways in which we can go beyond our comfort zone and explore the wonders that exist all around us.
Keep in mind that the moment that we do something different from our usual routine, the more fresh energy, hope, and blessings we will manifest in our life. What this means is that we’ll no longer see things as being tedious but will instead realize the preciousness of everything.
Being able to integrate these subtle changes on a daily basis allows us to recognize the miracles that are our lives. Even though we may think of change as doing something life-altering or drastic, gentle transitions from our habitual ways of doing things and an appreciation and awareness of all life offers us will truly bring about positive and lasting transformation.
-You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the roses along the way.