Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, November 2011
Violinist Joshua Bell Playing in a Washington DC Street
By Paul Balles
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, November 28, 2011
The Violinist is a true story about a man in a metro station in
Washington DC who played six Bach pieces on his violin for about 45 minutes.
The story illuminates the warning of Socrates to "Beware of the
barrenness of a busy life."
Beware the barrenness of a busy life. --Socrates
Following is a true story that evolved out of a social experiment about
perception, taste and people's priorities.
It was organized and conducted by Gene Weingarten of the
While the story has enjoyed nominal circulation, it deserves a larger audience. The full original story can be seen online here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html
In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, a man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.
During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
After about three minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a
musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then
he hurried on to meet his schedule.
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be:
There’s more to this story than a question of whether we can appreciate beauty anywhere at any time.
The question of whether we appreciate talent in an unexpected context is more relevant to most of us.
How many of us take the time or have the inclination to read or listen to great thinkers and writers?
How many people are even vaguely aware of what’s going on in the world? How many of us attempt to justify ignorance with clever statements?
Perhaps Mark Twain was right when he grumbled, “To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.”
We move through life absorbed in ourselves, in our jobs, our obligations, expectations, hopes, yesterday's problems, today's anxieties and tomorrow's dreams.
How much do we miss as we rush through life?
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