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 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.)