What are you missing?

There are none so blind as those who will not see.
English Proverb

During the commuter rush hour on a morning in January 2007, a young man stood playing a violin in one of Washington D.C.’s metro stations. Roughly 2,000 people passed him as they entered the station. Most barely noticed him, though a few stopped and listened for a short time. At the end of an hour of playing, he had collected $32.

To the casual observer, he appeared to be a typical street musician in blue jeans and a baseball cap. But he was anything but typical. He normally earned $1,000 an hour. Just three days earlier, he had played to a sold out audience in Boston; the average ticket price was $100.

The young man was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest living musicians. He played some of the most beautiful and intricate music written by Bach for the violin. And his instrument was a Stradivarius valued at $3.5 million.

But hardly anyone noticed. No crowd gathered. People were in such a hurry that they barely paid any attention.

The Washington Post had arranged for him to play there. They had the most talented musician use an extraordinary instrument to play incredibly beautiful music — and they wanted to see if people would notice.

They didn’t.

I think there are two very valuable lessons we can learn from this experiment. The first is that we often let others tell us what we should appreciate. If there are no big posters, no announcements full of accolades, we often fail to pay attention.

There are rarely announcements for the most precious things in life. Amazing experiences are all around us, but we must be aware enough to recognize them and confident enough to judge their worth for ourselves.

The second lesson is that we’re often in too much of a hurry to get where we’re going and we miss the magic of the present moment. Those 2,000 people hurrying to work missed a rare and beautiful experience. Life is a journey. It’s not a destination. Slow down and enjoy the sights.

Make a point of observing the beauty around you. If you’re in too big of a hurry, you’ll miss a lot of life’s most wonderful experiences. Life isn’t how far you travel, but how much you enjoy the journey.

Haste, haste has no blessing.
Swahili Proverb

Copyright © 2019 John Chancellor

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