On a January morning during rush hour in the Washington, D.C. Metro station, a non-descript young man wearing jeans, long-sleeved T-shirt, and baseball cap positioned himself beside a trashcan, opened his violin case, and began to play.
Over the course of an hour, close to 2,000 people passed by him. Only seven stopped to listen before hurrying on; 27 dropped money in his open case, totaling about $32. Only one person recognized him.
The street performer playing in the metro station that morning was Joshua Bell, one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing a priceless violin handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari.
It was a social experiment arranged by The Washington Post to see if we perceive beauty in commonplace environments at inconvenient and even inappropriate times. And if so, do we stop to appreciate it?
A hidden camera captured the steady march of an indifferent human parade. There was no applause and no acknowledgement; just the awkward silence after his music stopped.
So what did the experiment teach us? That if we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing as we rush through life? The world unwraps itself to us again and again. Do we pause to accept the gift? Do we invite beauty to transcend?