In the spirit of the last Living the question post, and inspired by a recent Facebook meme,

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

In 2007, the Washington Post organised a social experiment about people’s perception, taste, and priorities. At a metro station during the morning rush hour, for 45 minutes, the paper video-recorded the world-famous violinist Joshua Bell playing six classical masterpieces on his Stradivarius… and the responses of the passers by.

The Post had contingency plans to deal with crowds, but in the event only six people stopped and stayed for a while. A few more gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. When Bell finished playing, it was only to silence; no one applauded.

Only the passing children responded without fail, until their parents pulled them away.

And so the Post asked two questions: “what about [people's] ability to appreciate life?” and “If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?”

One of the six that stopped had listened to a street musician for the first time in his life. He said: “it made me feel at peace”. Another said: “It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day.”

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

 

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