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Friday, January 30, 2009

Stop....And Hear The Music

A Violinist in the Metro

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip. A woman threw the money into the violin case and, without stopping, continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a three year old boy. His mother tugged him along, hurrying, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pulled hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only six people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it.

No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best 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 his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theatre in Boston and the seats averaged $100.

This is a real 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 priorities of people. The outlines were - in a commonplace environment - at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

May you spot life's many beautiful moments. And may you stop and enjoy them.

P.S. I was hoping to embed a link to a YouTube clip of the actual experiment but I've forgotten how - and I don't have the time to investigate. So, if you wish to see/hear it, a search within youtube for 'Joshua Bell subway video' will pull up a list of options.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

One Year On

One year on, today, as I sit here looking out my window at a beautiful sunny, clear blue sky, I remember looking out another window half a world away. The sky there was low and oppressive, a deep grey, and snowflakes were falling. I was by my mother's bed in a hospital in the Scottish Borders, knowing she wouldn't be with us much longer.

I've thought a lot about my mum over these past 12 months. Thoughts which have led me to a quiet acceptance of our difficult relationship. Thoughts which have helped me admire her spirit in her youth, travelling from Scotland to Hong Kong in pursuit of my dad, no mean travel feat in the 1950s. She caught up with him and they were married here in 1955, just after they both turned 22.

Some thoughts have had me wishing we'd been able to share more in our mother/daughter relationship, and some have been understanding that she carried through her life, a scarred relationship with her own mother. I know there were moments when she was proud of me and I know, too, that she trusted me to deal with issues my brother and sister might not be inclined to handle, or even able to handle. During our final days together, I knew for the first time in my life that she also loved me. She said so, finally.

She had a very hard end to an amazing life. A life that started off in adventure and daring to be different. A life filled with love for her husband and a strong independence. A life where she struggled so hard to show us love and affection, it made us question so many times if she had any for us. I wonder if not being able to show us love, hurt her more than it hurt us.

One year on, I remember my mother with love in my heart.

Photo: My sister with my mum, taken in 2007.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Goodbye 2008

Today, I closed my 2008 desk diary for the last time, pressing so many memories between the leather-bound sleeves of the cover.

What a Smörgåsbord of a year I've had. At times it has been good and there were a few occasions when it was astoundingly amazing in a life-changing way. It has also been bad, achingly sad and again life-changing, in a godawful way. I've gone from being a daughter to being an orphan. Shortly afterwards I dropped the mantle of single, aging woman and married the man I love to the length, depth and breadth of my entire being. I embarked on my 50s in November and watched my net worth crumble around the edges before the end of the year.

And here I am on the second day of the New Year, looking through the pages of 2008, at dates when I took trips to Edinburgh, Tenerife, London, Phuket, Macau and several places in the USA. Remembering people gone and people found. Relationships lost or floundering, or magically solidified into my future.

Changes in the world, such changes as none of us could have imagined. Some good, some great, some terrible.

What a year it has been. And what a year it will be.


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