Thursday, January 6, 2011

Self Worth

I wasn't planning on doing a blog post this morning, but something came to my attention (sent to me by a friend-thanks, P&E!) and I couldn't keep it to myself. The lesson is too important and so I had to share.

In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 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 the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 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.

After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

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 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
*If so, 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 do not 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 things are we missing as we rush through life?

Click here for the article from the Washington Post.


My thoughts:

I love social experiments like this. They challenge our beliefs and really stop to make us think. I have to say, though, that my mind went a different direction completely. I agree that "stopping to smell the roses" is an important part of life, and sometimes we're too caught up in the busyness to recognize beauty.

But what I thought when I read this was: How does Joshua Bell feel?

From the video above and the article from the Washington post, he seems to have enjoyed doing this experiment. But I can't help but think how I would feel if I were a talented musician and barely anyone recognized me or stopped to listen. All of my hard work, my years of dedication, my popularity... they all vanish when I'm really tested on 'how beautiful is my work'.

To take the idea deeper, it's a test of self-worth. Does Joshua Bell have self-worth? Does he walk away from this experiment questioning himself, or walk away knowing that's its not important that he was noticed. He knows he's beautiful.

Do we really know that? Are we really loving of our own beauty? Do we take the time to recognize that even though no one may never notice our true talents, are we are still worthy?

Questions like that really come into play when you're on a journey like I am. Any type of lifestyle changing can really become an emotional and mental battle, far more than a physical. And ultimately it's important to recognize that despite the extra pounds, flabby arms, or even those days were you feel like you're a tiny speck in a big crowd. Forget the cardio, weight lifting, and all the other junk, if you can't love yourself for who you are - then your journey needs to start there. You are worthy. You are beautiful. And that, my friends, is most important.


  1. It's hilarious that the lady at the end mentions seeing him at the Library of think she could've atleast given him a dollar!

  2. what i think this kind of experiment exposes is that the majority of those people pay $100+ to see him in a context don't actually understand what they are hearing and seeing; they depend on the context to give them the veneer of understanding. i think joshua bell probably had a smile because he probably knows from attending dinners and receptions with those same people that they don't appreciate what he's doing in the same way he does.

    now to be thematic and draw this to your point about self-worth: no one who passes you on the street now or a year from now when (not if bc i know you can do it!) you've met your goal will know what you've been through to reach that place...but you will. it will be in every step and every breath and every jingle of your bracelets as you walk. and that internal knowing will matter.

    constant vigilance!