Would You Recognize a Master?

If Bono or Adele were singing in the corner of a subway station, would you stop to listen?

If LeBron James was shooting baskets at your neighborhood park, would you pay attention?

Would you recognize a master at work?

Gene Weingarten, a writer for The Washington Post, did a little experiment in January of 2007 to explore this question.  His resulting article, Pearls Before Breakfast, won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

Weingarten arranged for violinist Joshua Bell to play his violin (worth $3.5 million by the way) during the morning commute at a Washington DC Metro station.

Weingarten writes, “By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.”

He played his priceless violin masterfully.

Would anyone notice?

Over one thousand people walked by completely oblivious to the brilliance in their midst.  After six minutes one woman threw a buck in his open case.  In forty-three minutes of expert music making, Bell collected exactly $32.17, a fraction of the cost of just one ticket to one of his concert performances.  Only one woman recognized him as the famous Joshua Bell.

I recommend reading the entire Washington Post article, for Weingarten paints a vivid picture of the experiment and makes several astute observations about what the scene reveals about our culture. Actually, it reveals more of a lack of culture.

But, that’s not where I’m going today.

Bell’s is a virtuoso, a guy who is accustomed to filling symphony halls with people who have purchased expensive tickets for the privilege of hearing him play.  When he offered his artistry for free, no one noticed.

Weingarten recounts Bell’s understandable reaction:

“‘It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah . . .’

The word doesn’t come easily.

‘. . . ignoring me.’

Weingarten says the most painful moments were the conclusions of each of the three pieces that Bell played.  Instead of thunderous applause, busy silence was the only response.

It was as if he were invisible.

We wake up every morning to a world created by The Master, the beauty of his artistry is available to us all.  It’s free. Not only that, we also have access to his Word and his Spirit through his Son, Jesus.  Yet we hustle through life consumed with our own thoughts and desires and distractions.

Do you recognize The Master?  He is standing, often unannounced and without calling attention to himself, very near you.

Evidence of his brilliance fills the space around you.

Don’t miss Him.

“H was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” John 1:10-12

(Violin image is a photo of the Antonio Stradivari violin of 1703 as displayed in a museum in Berlin.  Photo posted to Wikimedia by Husky.)

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About Judy

At heart I am a student of truth, an observer of culture, and a communicator. Jesus is my teacher and my Lord. In pursuit of these passions, I read as much as I can, serve as Teaching Director for a Community Bible Study group, and write a blog in an attempt to synthesize it all. I take great delight in my relationships with family and friends, and I also enjoy long walks, bike rides and cooking. And did I mention that I like to read?
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9 Responses to Would You Recognize a Master?

  1. Pingback: Beautiful Blogger Award | The Volunteer Fringe

  2. Debbie says:

    I remember when this first happened and thinking two things:
    If it had been Jesus, I think He would have stood out in the crowd (He was pretty radical and I’m guessing He still would be).
    But what about me? Is there any light in me that’s bright enough to stand out in a crowd in a good way? In a way that attracts attention because the music is so sweet and soulful and grace filled?
    Too often, I expect I blend.
    Thank you for this lovely reminder of hearing the Master.
    Debbie

    • Judy says:

      Hello Debbie,
      You raise an interesting question. I hadn’t thought to ask myself what kind of life I’m living. Am I living a masterful life as a follower of Jesus? Thanks for stopping and for sharing your thoughts.
      Judy

  3. Judy says:

    Hi Cara,
    Yes, I fear I miss quite a lot. It will take all of eternity to explore all that God has created. By the grace of God, I won’t miss that! Here’s to enjoying and recognizing Him today! Thanks Cara!
    Judy

  4. Cara Olsen says:

    Oh, I’ve seen this! Amazing . . . I could hardly believe it. And would you know, that a child, a being not marred by hurry and schedules, is the only one to stop and enjoy this fine master for a moment.

    And if we are “missing” moments like this, overt and in our face, how much more are we missing time and moments with our Jesus, so busy is the day and distracted is the mind.

    “Evidence of his brilliance fills the space around you.” Yes!

    Blessings,
    ~ Cara

  5. Caddo Veil says:

    Judy, you have NO idea how this touched me today–thank you. God bless you abundantly.

  6. Larry Who says:

    Your post made me think how Jesus would have gathered a crowd at that same subway station. He probably would not have played a violin or dribbled a basketball. Yet, I believe crowds would have gathered around Him.

    Good post.

    • Judy says:

      Hi Larry,
      I also imagined Jesus at a subway station as I watched the video of people hurrying by the violinist. I want to be like the one woman who stood and listened and recognized him. Jesus always drew a crowd with his presence and his words, didn’t he? Glad to be in the crowd! Thanks, as always, for your thoughts, Larry.
      Judy

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