Perceiving Beauty


Image via Wikipedia

My daughter shared a link with me about a social experiment the Washington Post set up in 2007.  To summarize, a man with a violin played for over 40 minutes in a Metro station.   During that time, approximately 2,000 people passed him.  Most ignored him or glanced at him with pity, then looked away.  A few slowed their pace to listen and drop money.  When the musician finished, no one noticed; no one applauded.  He had collected just over $32.

The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.  Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 to sit and listen to him play the same music.

The experiment raised several questions.  Can we perceive beauty in a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour?  If so, do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

Not wanting to spread anymore untruths over the internet, I looked this up to see if it was real.  It was.  The link to the Washington Post story, “Pearls for Breakfast” is HERE.  I found these points intriguing:

  • Children—no matter race or gender, consistently tried to stop to listen to Bell as they passed; Continue reading