Passing by Beauty

There have been literally thousands of bloggers writing about this article entitled “Pearls before Breakfast” from the Washington Post this week, many of them probably far more eloquently than I. But I’ve thought about it so much that I had to comment on it.

joshua bell violinThe story, for those who might try unsuccessfully reading it after the Post takes down the link, goes like this: violinist Joshua Bell, considered one of the greatest virtuosos of our time, plays a $3.5 million dollar Stradivarius violin at a DC metro station anonymously as a street musician during rush hour. What happens? Nothing. A thousand people pass by, and only a few even stop and listen. Only one person who recognized him realized that they were in the presence of spectacular beauty and grace. This man charges $1000 a minute for a concert, and yet a thousand people just passed by.

Two things strike me: One, how many commentators have specifically mentioned how it would have been different in Europe, how people would have stopped, would have recognized the beauty and appreciated it. That doesn’t say much for the culture that I find myself immersed in, where millions of people take their time to vote for someone with a truly mediocre voice as their “American Idol” and yet can’t recognize a violin piece that has enthralled ears for hundreds of years. A culture where tens of millions make a banal parody of ice skating the most watched movie in America, and yet where the majority of Americans have not read a single classic novel in years. We truly are content with playing with mud pies, and do not even recognize it.

The second observation is much more personal: what would I have done? Would I have taken the time? Would I have listened? I’m not sure. And though it is a shame and a waste to miss the beauty of a violin, what I really worry about is missing the beauty of human souls and of God Himself. If we do not take the time, if we do not train ourselves, to see what needs to be seen and celebrated in the people we encounter, and if we do not intentionally live in the presence of God as we go about our day, where does that leave us? The answer isn’t a pretty one, but it’s one we all need to devote some serious thought to.

S l o w d o w n.

B r e a t h e.

L i v e.

L o v e.

L a u g h.

C a r e.

S e r v e.

W o r s h i p.

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