Blind Eyes of the Beholder

Joshua Bell… virtuoso violinist and one of the precious few true musical geniuses of our generation, a performer that sells out venues across the world, a musician whose recordings sell millions worldwide… but if he were not decked out in formal evening dress under the burning limelight of a grand concert hall, would the artistic beauty still be appreciated or even recognized?

In April, the Washington Post newspaper posed such a question… and, rather than leave it to some sort of abstract rhetoric, pursued the matter in earnest.

Joshua Bell, renowned the world over, wearing a baseball cap and his regular street clothes, performed six pieces over a span of forty-five minutes on his 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius in the Metro station of L`Enfant Plaza, Washington DC.

There is a part of me that believes so ardently in the power of music to move the soul that I am convinced that even those unlearned in its finer points will nevertheless appreciate the sublime beauty of a master performer, such that no disguise could hide the brilliance of his talent.

Yet in all of the forty-five minutes that Mr. Bell performed, only a handful of passers-by seemed to really notice him… a notice deeper than simply seeing “some guy” playing a violin in a subway station.

Now some might mention that it is indicative of Bell`s particular “mediocrity” as a “busker” (that is, a street-musician) where one`s social gifts play nearly as important a part as the skill of their performance… but they would also be somewhat missing the point.

Joshua Bell is someone who plays the violin with a proficiency that very few musicians in the entirety of the world possess, that rare master whom is able to combine both technical mastery with a depth of passion that is palpable to even the casual listener… the outcome of this social experiment notwithstanding.

One might also consider that such an inquiry was doomed to fail, attempting to compete with the attentions of hastening workers at the epicenter of American Democracy during the madness of morning “rush hour” commute with a form of music that is often relegated to quieter and more contemplative times of one`s life… but isn`t that sort of the point?

There are many that have weighed in on this story… some bringing forth ideas upon the sociological and/or cultural connotations, with others speaking to the religious and philosophical underpinnings.

For me, however, it is a crystallization of almost all of these. A deft and concise picture of a harried and deluded people, who need to start slowing down a bit and thinking about the bigger picture… and focusing more upon the beauty that is found within the minutiae, the beauty that is derived from its Creator and LORD.


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