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Pearls before Swine?

Or did life choke the music out of them?



Back in 2007 the Washington Post carried out a social experiment with the help of one of the world’s best violinists named Joshua Bell. Typically Mr. Bell plays in sold out concert halls to audiences who are accustomed to paying upwards of $100 per seat. Well for this experiment Mr. Bell was asked to play incognito in a Washington DC subway station for about an hour so they could document the reaction (if any) of the people who passed by on their way to and from their various destinations.

What happened during this short period of time was quite enlightening both in terms of current human values but also in regards to a type of desensitization that I would like to discuss.

Here is how the experiment played out. It was a cold January morning when Joshua Bell entered the subway station and for 45 minutes he played six Bach pieces. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that over a thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work in government jobs.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was 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 some money at him and without stopping, continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone else leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch a moment later and started to walk again. The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tugged him along, but the child stopped to look at the violinist and listen to his music. Finally the mother pushed harder and the child continued to walk turning his head back all the while. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on. In the 45 minutes this musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while.

About 20 people actually gave him money but continued to walk away at their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, and excepting one passerby who was totally dumbfounded when they saw him because they had attended his concert just a few days prior there wasn’t any recognition at all. So, here was one of the best violinists in the world playing some of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars and essentially no one noticed. Two days before playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston.

So think about this: In a commonplace environment at an “inappropriate” hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context? Here's a question to ponder as we move on in our new year: 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 as we scurry about living our life?

It is interesting, though, that the children all seemed to appreciate his music. And I’ve said this before; children are much more connected to their Innate than we are as adults. They have not yet learned about stress, responsibility, making money, fear, doubt, and all those other wonderful qualities that permeate our lives. They are an amazing expression of Life and are connected to it – just as you were at that same age.

What happened? My hope is that in your daily rush, you will take the time to appreciate the beauty around you, to smell the flowers along your way, to live a life surrounded by beauty, to break down those walls so carefully constructed by you and to open your heart to the good that is all around. It is way too easy to allow just the opposite to occur. We are bombarded by a negative adversarial influence every which way we turn. These negative influences attempt to choke the life or “music” out of us. To see the good that life has to offer which is often missed simply because we are tuned out and in a rush will require first a desire for that childlike spark to return. We all had it at one time, finding it may require some effort but the result is the ability to truly live!

It is also my hope that you decide to make a conscious choice to elevate your health awareness and become the person you have always wanted to be. Our physical health is largely dependent on our mental health and as I pointed out in this experiment much of our mental status has to do with our own priorities and values.

Click here for the Washington Post article and video of this experiment.

Best of Health,

Dr. Dave Marquis
860 Oak Park Blvd. #202
Arroyo Grande, Ca 93420

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