Friday, July 31, 2009

The Moments

I received the following story in a newsletter from the yoga studio I went to last winter. It's great timing, because this week, after literally months of ignoring my yoga practice in favor of running (something I tend to do in the warm-weather months), I went to a new yoga class with a friend. It had been a typically hectic day, but it was a gorgeous summer night. The studio opened onto a courtyard garden, and during the hour-and-a-half class, there were moments of concentration, complete focus, spontaneous clapping, and total silence while the dusk fell outside. Afterwards, we drove home with the windows down, laughed about parenting, and promised to get together more. I stepped back into the house determined to be more intentional in my focus, more patient with myself and my family, more aware of each small moment and its weight.

Last night, I took the girls to the pool around dinnertime (fed them Fig Newtons in the car, if you must know), and because the skies were cloudy and it was a weird time of day for swimming, we were the only ones there. We splashed and swam for a while until Jason met us there, straight from work. The girls were overjoyed to see him, and Annie was so proud to show off her increasing confidence in the water. At one point, Jason was throwing her up in the air as high as she would go, then letting her fall down into the water and go under. She'd emerge, and we'd hear her giggle before we'd really even see her face. Meanwhile, Jemma had gotten cold, gotten out, wrapped a towel around herself, and was dancing with total abandon on the pool deck - spinning around, making faces, dipping her little butt down to touch the ground. I took in the moment, wished I could freeze time, and, in lieu of that, made sure to remember it.

Later, we honored our annual summer tradition of eating sushi in the front yard by candlelight with some of our favorite friends. More laughter, good beer, and a tall tree to shield us from a very few late-night raindrops. Too late at night, we cleared the dishes, hugged good-bye, and felt lucky for the friends in our life.

In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

Violinist at the Washington Metro station

A man sat 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 hundreds 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 a buck in his case 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 pushed him along, but the child stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child 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 six people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but they continued to walk at their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. 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. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before he played in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a Boston theater where the price of admission was about $100 a seat.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito at a Metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. Among many other things, the experiment questioned: 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?

But maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is this: If we don't have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

1 comment:

  1. gorgeous post- thanks for reminding me to breathe and love the moments.