Friday, July 1, 2011

Pay Attention.

My brain, as it happens, functions much the way my web surfing does.
Or perhaps, over time, it's become the other way round.
No matter.

I was on Pinterest earlier and stumbled upon a pin of Joshua Bell playing in L'enfant Planza Station back in 2007. It was a picture from the Pulitzer Prize-winning article Pearls Before Breakfast by Gene Weingarten.

It caught my eye because most everything on that site is beautiful, even when it's ugly. And this one start photo was blurred, out of focus, badly copied,plain. So of course I clicked on it.

I clicked my way through the pin, four or five layers deep, to where a 14 year old girl had snagged the photo from another blogger that had re-appropriated it (much as I've done here). And this lovely little angst-ridden child right on the cusp of adulthood had just discovered the article. Never seen it before.  And it reminded me of the first time I read the article and how blown away I was.

And how it had, for the next few months at least, sparked something in me. It was shortly after The Monkey had been born and I was running in a million different directions back then. I was rushing everywhere. And this article, based on a little social experiment that they Washington Post cooked up, made me pause.  They put world-reknown violinist Joshua Bell in street clothes and placed him in a subway station, an open case in front of him. For hours this man, who'd performed for royalty, who could command ticket prices in excess of $100 without blinking, played for free. And people ignored him. They kept walking. They forcefully avoided eye contact, in the way I do when skirting past the bums near the fountains downtown. They didn't expect something beautiful in that surrounding, so they didn't see it or hear it when it was right in their face.

How often do we stop for beauty? For music? Almost never I'd be willing to bet.
You know who did stop that morning in the subway? Kids. Kids pulled on parents' arms, craned their necks to see. Kids knew. Intrinsically.

There's the great quote buried in Weingarten's article:  "The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother's heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.."
How infinitely sad.

I haven't re-read this article in years. But having just done so again? I'm re-inspired to pay attention. I don't want to miss anything.

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