Those who appreciate art

… will find beauty everywhere.

Sometimes in the palms of two little hands.

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At others, in grubby feet.

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Maybe in painted arms and knees.

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And definitely in a little boy patiently painting within the lines and then graciously and gallantly allowing his baby sister to go over it with a wild brush and mess it up.

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Edited to add: Minutes after I pressed publish, I got this forward from a friend. It was so close to my post that it freaked me out and I decided to add it here.

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

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4 minutes later: the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk..
 
6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
 
10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

 
45 minutes: The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

 
In Sunday’s Washington Post, Gene Weingarten asks an interesting question: what would happen “if one of the world’s great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?”  As it happens, Weingarten and the Post arranged to perform this experiment with the aid of virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell, playing his $3.5 Million Stradivarius. 
No one knew this, but 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.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
 
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:  If we don’t 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 beautiful things are we missing by not taking time to “smell the roses?”

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33 thoughts on “Those who appreciate art

  1. There are too many cliches going on in my head..I shall stop by saying this: some of us live in big cities which reward us with anonymity, which we cherish and put back into our environment. Everybody who wants to be a nobody – can be.

  2. Mm, this post took my breath away. Both parts. And it was just yesterday I drew my breath making a hiss sound looking at cherry blossoms in the neighbourhood. The husband continued punching on his blackberry .. But my 3 year old exclaimed- maa peenk flowells, see see. :))

  3. Whenever I sip on a glass of wine, I wonder if my occasional sigh of contentment is because of the deep rose liquid that I’m drinking, or because of the company that I am in… that’s why I can never tell if a bottle is worth $5 or $50.. kind of reminds me of Susan Boyle in a way

  4. Wow !
    /how many other beautiful things are we missing by not taking time to “smell the roses?”/

    Very true…

  5. It is no doubt sad that most of us lead a life that doesn’t seem to let us enjoy the present. We seem to always run from the present to save a few minutes. We gather a bunch of those minutes without a clue what we could really use them for.

    I am glad you stop to pen, that’s possibly the best way one could reflect on both the past and present and save them for future.

  6. I think it’s heartening to know that kids appreciate beauty instinctively, or at least have it in them to be surprised by what’s out of the ordinary, even if we adults spoil it for them by hurrying them along.

  7. Very well written.

    I often wonder why we don’t take the time to appreciate everything not just art in life. Why do we take things that we have for granted?
    What are we trying to achieve by rushing thru life, without enjoying the simple pleasures?

  8. and my first thought on seeing those pictures was : damn! how does she manage such beautifully manicured nails!!!!

    Please do share 🙂

    Me: nazar lag gayi. I spilt a tube of quick fix on my fingers yesterday and my hands and nails are a royal mess now! 😉 as for how I manage it – I think I posted about it once. Once a week or a fornight I lock myself into the loo for a long bath and I sit with a face pack and repaint my nails and scrub my heels and condition my hair. Works like magic, costs nothing and isn’t much of an effort – just about 45 minutes or so.

    yep, its all about perception. and whether you give your mind the freedom to percieve.

  9. Adorable babies 😀

    I often wonder why am I always rushing into everything? Sigh. I need to take a breather and enjoy each and every moment that life has to offer. I do take things for granted – this article put things in perspective for sure. I have something to ponder about now 😀 Thanks MM!

  10. Hey nice little hands with colours! so cute! tell me something, as a mother does your interest wake up naturally in the little things your kids do?? I think I just asked a rhetorical question 🙂

    I really loved the story of Joshua Bell and his music, and marvel that children naturally, instinctively get drawn to beauty, anywhere.

  11. You made my heart sing.

    Love the post, the sentiments, the kids, the forward, the painted body parts, your finely painted finger-nail… life is beautiful.

    I can ask for nothing more.

  12. Loved the pics and the painted feet and grubby hands reminded me of a long distance train journey I took alone and had a kid of 5 traveling in an adjacent seat and we had so much fun playing with ‘transformers’ toys and coloring books. I colored at least a few pages on my own and that too Ben 10 !!

    The kid in us never leave us except that it shows up when we have time to spare, that event showed it correctly..kids don’t have a schedule to keep up to and enjoy whatever they see and perceive..

  13. ok…er…*embarrassed look*..what shade of nailpolish is that?? its gorgeous!

    Me: Its a colorbar shade. i cant believe you guys like it. i only wear pale silvery shades and the OA forced me to pick this up. he is SO going to win this round

  14. I think that’s why we need to have kids- to remind us to LIVE!!!!!!
    I love their hands and feet and knees, and will have to go back to look at your nail paint:)

  15. It’s all very well to talk about stopping and smelling the roses. I’m sure if Joshua Bell was in a park, lots of people would have stopped and listened because they had taken the time out to come to the park and so had the time to listen. If he is playing in a station, the only reason people are there is because they have to get somewhere else. Not many have the luxury of affording to miss their trains and getting in late to work because there is beautiful music around. Sad but that’s life. I would have found the study more interesting if he had played in the park and no one had bothered to listen.

    Me: umm… i’m not sure. I know I’d stop in the subway and listen to AR Rahman! even if i got to office an hour late. people will not stop unless they’re told its someone good. unless they KNOW its someone big.

  16. are you sure you’d do it even if you didnt know it was AR Rahman 🙂

    Me: nope. and we’re talking the same point actually. all i am saying is that the venue wouldnt matter. people wouldnt stop even in a park – if they were there for a jog or a purpose. if they were lolling around anyway – they might. so we’re actually pretty much in agreement. i agree- we’d only stop if we knew who it was – regardless of venue and time

    I agree people dont bother to listen unless they think it is someone much celebrated.I just thought that even those people who truly appreciate great music might have found it a little difficult to stop and listen for longer than a few seconds.

  17. I am one of those people who always ALWAYS stops to listen to street musicians. Perth city centre is full of them. Everyday there is someone new. So whenever you hit the city, there is someone there. And not only musicians. Once there was this guy who stood there as a live statue. With a hat on, and his face painted white, wearing gloves and all. And whenever someone put in some money into his money box, in a very slow robotic movement he would give them a hug and change his pose. He would change his pose everytime someone put in some money. It was such a sight!

    But the most heart-breaking street act I have seen so far was a bunch of kids, around seven of them, all siblings from the age of maybe 5 till 12, 13 or 14 (can’t remember!)..dressed really cutely in coats and pretty frocks..and each one of them had a violin in their hand. Even the 5 year old. And in front of them there was a placard that said, “We want to pursue our music career but our parents don’t have enough money to fund our music education. We are all brothers and sisters”. And it said some other stuff too, I can’t remember. But this was just soo touching. And all seven of them were playing the violin very beautifully!

    Me: okay – that got me all sobby 😦

  18. I am moved by the beautiful bond that your children share .. I have always wanted an elder brother and was blessed with a younger brother whom I had to take care rather than he taken care of me and when I see how the Brat takes care of the Bean I fall for it again and again ! lovely !
    Cheers
    R

  19. Will you be angry with me if I tell you that the colour of your nailpolish isn’t the you I had in mind? I’d have thought you were more into grey and silver – or do I say this because they are my colours?

    Me: nope – i shall just love you more! I cant stand dark colours and if you’ve seen my hands before, I only wear silvers and soft silvery pinks. The OA got sick of them after 8 years and insisted that i use this. phew! *hugs sumana*

    Also, MM, if you have the time, do read this one:
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203550604574358643117407778.html

  20. The pics of the baby toes and knees and arms are oh so beautiful!
    I’m one of those people who stop and force my kids to stop, and listen to street buskers etc-I just feel that if someone has taken the effort to do something for another’s pleasure,we owe it to them to stop and listen/watch/clap/give a small token…hope it’s rubbed off on them and they will stop to appreciate a beautiful sunset with their kids 🙂

  21. Lovely post. Not sure if Ive written comments to ur posts earlier… but this one really made a great read. And I have just one thing to say.. I think it all boils down to priority for all of us. Im a music lover and had it been somea artist Id known Id probably have stopped a couple minutes there but if I had to rush to work, I have to peel myself outta the place!

  22. This actually makes me feel very good about myself. I turn my music off every time I hear someone play a tune (with whatever instrument) on the tube or anywhere else on the streets of London. I believe people need to be listened to, I very rarely have money to give, but I listen and sometimes smile to make sure they know they’ve made somebody’s day.

    One night an elderly man played a tune from the Sound of Music on the violin and I was the only one standing and listening to him. When he looked up and saw me watching, he tapped his feet and did a little jig. The world fell away and it was just us then. In the end, he said thank you, and I said thank YOU back, and smiled and went away.

    All you need is a minute to appreciate somebody else’s art, someone’s passion. That was a brilliant experiment. Thanks for sharing.

    (sorry about the long comment!)

  23. Pingback: Say hello to the new Picasso… « Mimi's Mommy

  24. The kids are so cute with all the paint on them. Oh yeah, I appreciate their effort with those beautiful little hands. Bless them. May they find all the beauty in the world and enjoy it.
    Even I had got the mail forward. Didn’t help my already cluttered mind. Too many questions, too few answers.

  25. I loved that grubby foot so much, I could eat it. Call me mad, but I do get the urge to eat up my kid’s hands, nose quite often.

    ‘Kaccha kha jaaoingi.’ I threaten him.

    And, I am not alone. Saint Tukaram writes in his poem,

    “Babies are sweet, but you cant eat them!”

  26. This article is one that touches my heart. Beautiful art by the children and a touching article on the artist.

    Not a freqeunt commenter, but a frequent reader – I love your blog – insightful, thoughtful, fearless and open minded.

    Me: frequent enough for me to instantly recognise you! thank you so much for the lovely things you’ve just said 🙂 you make me feel useful compared to all you people who take flights and have laptops. and i mean that seriously.

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