Saturday, April 14, 2007

will beauty transcend?

last september i did a little post about how we often miss beauty around us because we are not looking for it. for a long time i've been fascinated with how much goes unnoticed simply because we lack the fundamental curiosity to pay attention to the world around us. this is compounded by our busyness, drivenness and cultural value of "focusing on the task at hand." curiosity will always decrease "productivity." anyways, a friend recently pointed me to this brilliant experiment in which "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" stood performing in the metro station in washington during the morning commute. the question was "In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?" the experts predicted it would. he would play for 45 minutes and about 1,077 people would walk by. the prediction was he would draw a crowd of at least 75 people and make about $150 in his hat. the result? "seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. that leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look."
the only group who always had the capacity to notice beauty out of context were the little ones. "every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. and every single time, a parent scooted the kid away."
so, will beauty transcend? will you notice? probably not... unless you have the eyes of a child.

7 comments:

cris said...

wow. this really moves me. I need to stop to think about why...

the eyes of a child...one of my favorite things about being a parent.

Swift said...

Phil,
This is a really wonderful post - a great reminder not to let life run away with me.

pedro said...

Amazing article - thanks for the lead . . . and for the reminder.

Lian said...

I think this is one of the reasons that children are important in life. As illustrated in "CHildren of Men" the movie, the world becomes a horrible place to live as everyone waits to die. Children draw our attention downwards to the amazing, delicious little crumbs that normally we'd just vaccum up.

elnellis said...

well put chad. so often i catch myself killing my son's curiosity. how do i allow that to be preserved and still get from the car to the house with all the groceries?
sometimes we go on "discovery walks" where we take as long as he wants to go around the block, looking at every flower, picking up sticks and noticing oddities... but even then, he does not share my agenda of "getting around the block." (i've been able to check a lot of my own frustration just by naming that simple reality- that we don't often have a shared vision for how an activity will go... very basic, but most parents yell at their kids because of that...)
we absolutely need children to pull us out of our pragmatic, practical, and driven adult worlds...

chuck said...

i wonder what would happen if you placed a priceless pearl on a department store manaquin, a beautiful exotic bird in a city pigeon nest, an original van gogh in wal mart, the son of god among men? our context drives our perception. how then are great things possible in the movement of routine? how do we gain eyes that are not only attuned to beauty not in just rarity and flukes, but then seeing them in the very fabric of the mundane.

great thought provoking blog phil. thanks for being attuned.

x said...

Hi Phil,

I've been a distant observer of your work via the web and Park Pub (and via Jen, my wife and your classmate).

I know this is an old post at this point, but it reminded me of another public music performance that DID get noticed. In this case, though, the audience was captive... but it still gives me hope:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=NXWwOY_ydv4