So on Sunday morning, I was listening to WBEZ because that’s the only radio station I listen to when I’m home. (My old stereo that I bought at Fred Meyer ten years ago is still programmed for all of my favorite Seattle stations. But of course in Chicago, I don’t get KEXP, I get static. I can’t figure out how to reprogram the thing, so I just keep it on Chicago Public Radio. I’m not mad.) I was listening to Bob Edward’s Weekend, which is such a pleasant way to ease into a Sunday. Besides, Bob Edwards was born and raised in Louisville which only makes me like him more.
On Sunday, he was interviewing some Pulitzer Prize winning journalist named Gene Weingarten. Of course, I don’t keep up with journalism at all, so I’d never heard of the guy. But there was a section of the interview that enthralled me. This Weingarten gentleman talked about being in the subway while a musician played. No one seemed to notice–actually, folks seemed to outright ignore the busker. The musician wasn’t bad, he just happened to be playing in a subway amidst lots of busy commuters. This made Gene wonder…if a famously talented musician were to play in a busy subway, what would happen?
So he got Joshua Bell to play in the DC subway one busy morning–which Mr. Bell did fantastically. But over the 45 minutes that he played, only about seven people stopped what they were doing for any length of time to listen. Over 1000 people hurried by this virtuoso (who played the same way he would to a captivated, sold-out audience at 100 bucks a seat), not taking the time to notice. You can read the full article here and also watch a video made with a hidden camera.
The writer of the article brings up the point that many of these same people who hurried by don’t necessarily dislike beautiful music–they just weren’t expecting it. It was “art without a frame” he states. This is fascinating to me. We get so caught up in our routine, the way things should go, and the way we need them to go, that we run the risk of shutting off our awareness of what’s really happening all around us. In other words, if we’re not expecting a beautiful moment on our way to work, we might just walk right past it.
How tragic when we get lost in our own heads, schedules, and presumed destinies that we miss the very thing many of our souls crave….moments here and there of peace and beauty. Yeah, I took it there.
Another parallel for me is in theatre–specifically improvisational theatre. Because of our tendency to not be ready for the unexpected (and therefore not always acknowledge it when it shows up), being truly spontaneous is a difficult thing for us. Actors often find the familiar sanctuary in their own heads, neglecting to be truly open to the moment at hand. It’s the ongoing lesson for all improvisers and actors alike: staying awake and alive and open in each moment so that we can be fully affected and then honestly react. But it’s never mastered, because there’s always a new moment.
Art is just better when we’re open to the possibility of beauty in every moment. So is life.