DLW is an occasional blog about how people spend the time of their lives (every moment) to enable health, balance, meaning and fulfillment. As a blogspot about doing, it draws from personal stories and from studies of everyday living. It's main idea is that to be well, people must be involved fully in what they do. The activities that occupy our days help to connect us to the world, define who we are, and keep us healthy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The incredible subway violinist story

On January 12, 2007, Joshua Bell, one of the world's top violinists, strolled into the L' Enfant plaza metro station in Washington, DC, pulled out his $3.5 million Stradivarius violin and began playing. Joshua had, evenings before, played before a sold out crowd in Boston where people gladly paid $100 per ticket to hear him perform. But, on this morning, during rush hour, Bell was playing in this metro station for free.

During his 45 minute concert, nearly 1100 people passed by, and 27 paused to put money into his violin case ($32 and change was collected in all). Only seven actually stopped to listen, despite his world class performance of six extremely well performed classical violin solos.

This event was an experiment sponsored by the Washington Post. The Post was confirming what psychologists (particularly those interested in ecological or environmental influences on behavior) already knew. People's perceptions are greatly influenced by situational or contextual variables. We are apt to expect to hear a great concert in a concert hall, but not in a subway station.

You can see (and hear) a filmclip of Joshua playing his free performance here.

What lessons should we take away from this event, now over two years passed? Well, for one thing, there is the lesson that if we are attentive and in the moment, we are more likely to recognize what is taking place in our lives and to thus benefit from the beauty when it is there. Beyond this, it seems likely that another lesson is that good wine can be sipped and enjoyed from a paper cup, just as poor wine can be found masquerading in elegant crystal wineglasses.

Deception preys on assumption, but truth exists independent of its surroundings. Life is all around us to enjoy. Next time you pass by a performing musician working to supply the air with beauty, take a moment to enjoy them, feed their empty case, and thank them for making the world a more beautiful experience. Everyone will feel better as a result.

1 comment:

  1. This insightful post of yours has brought many thoughts and reflections. The blue zone has been an area of interest to me as my father read the book, went to a seminar, and met with the author. As a man in his mid-70's my dad is very active and occupationally engaged, yet too still chose to follow the blue zone in an attempt in enhance a life he already has spoken of as highly engaged and satisfying. In just one month after following the Blue Zone he lost 11 pounds and dropped his blood pressure. He was amazed. The percepts are very interesting. I too was interested in your discussion of happiness as the blue zone has actually posted a link on one of the happiest places in North America... namely a place in Mexico that despite its seemingly low quality of life, has been found to be one of the happiest. As I think back to a mission/ social service trip to the border cities in the 80's (one in which we worked with the locals to build churches and residences), I was struck by the fact that despite the blatent poverty and many folks living in cardboard boxes, that they were filled with such faith, love, hope and happiness. The concepts of resilience, social engagement, love, faith and hope came to mind. I have found this link inspiring and thought you and your readers may be interested:


    Thanks for your insightful blogs!


About Me

I am a writer, lifelong student, former academic and new blogger. My passion continues to be everyday living. I am interested in what people do, how, when and why they do it, and what it means for their their understanding of the world and hence, their well being.