“To what can I compare this generation?” That was the rhetorical question Jesus asked his followers. The answer: “They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” (Matthew 11:16-17, NIV)
I was reminded of that Bible passage this week as a church member sent me an article describing a social experiment conducted by the Washington Post years ago. They set up a man with a violin in the Washington D.C. Metro Station on a cold January day during the morning commute. He played six Bach pieces for about forty-five minutes. During that time, over one thousand people walked by him.
After five minutes of playing, one middle-aged man slowed down as he passed. A few minutes later, a lady put the first dollar in the violinist’s hat.
A young man leaned against a wall and listened for a few minutes. A child stopped, but was dragged away by his mother. After forty-five minutes, the musician was done. A total of six people (out of 1,000) had stopped to listen for a bit. Twenty had given money but had walked their usual pace. A total of $32 had been collected. No one applauded at the conclusion.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, world-renown as one of the great musicians on the planet. The pieces he played were some of the most difficult in the world. The violin he played was worth $3.5 million. And only two days before, Mr. Bell had sold out a theater in Boston, tickets costing $100 apiece. He played the same music in the subway he had played in the symphony hall.
The experiment begs some questions: Are we in too much of a hurry, as a culture, to stop and appreciate beauty? When in common, mundane settings (like a subway), do we even perceive beauty? If we don’t recognize one of the best musicians in the world, playing the most beautiful music on the finest of instruments, what else have we missed in life?
This isn’t a modern American problem, it is a human problem. Jesus had some of the same questions. Here was the Son of God, right here with us…in the subway as it were. John the Baptist alerted our attention – he’d called out and played the flute – Jesus himself left heaven to walk among us. We paid no heed. In a hurry, off to work, mundane settings. Most missed the beauty that was before them. Do we?
Take the time this week to slow down and enjoy the beauty God has placed around you…even in the most mundane of settings. And join us on Sunday as we take a moment to enjoy God’s presence together.