Five years ago, Joshua Bell, the greatest living violinist on Earth, walked into a Washington D.C. metro station, uncased an historic 18th century instrument, pulled his ball cap tight down over his head, and began to play for the morning rushers.
What unfolded next still stands as one of the more intriguing little social experiments of our time.
It’s a fascinating story (dreamed up and pulled off by Bell and The Washington Post) of how so many of us really do zip right through so much of our lives.
And, as a result, it’s a story of so many of us hurtling through our days with hardly a passing glance at the world around us, and all that we’re missing because of that.
The whole tale of the wildly talented Bell and his morning spent playing a world-class concert to the oblivious masses is captivating for many reasons, of course. But for me, it’s in reading that no one seemed more interested in Bell’s music, no one appeared to be more riveted by the man with the violin than a young three year old boy being dragged away by his hurried mommy, still struggling to look back at the musician playing behind him until he was out of sight.
It is a simple observation of a handful of people who seemed genuinely attracted to the music being played in a busy subway station. And there is something to be considered when it’s noted that quite a few of them were children.
I mean, lately I will be in the middle of doing something entirely stupid and time-consuming, like looking at crap on Amazon or reading some complete stranger’s Facebook foolishness, when all of the sudden I am freight-trained in the chest by the fact that my year old son Henry has been pulling on my pant’s leg for a few minutes now and I have somehow just been ignoring the hell out of him.
So, I’ve been pulling myself away, in the middle of my big soul-sucking session, and I just slam the laptop closed and put it on the side table and get down on the floor and follow him wherever he wants to lead me.
And guess what?
I damn near always end up having a much better time: reading a simple book with him, or just banging a maraca on the metal cart in the kitchen. Being beside him, in real time, and watching him light up at something small and easy reminds me that I need to follow his lead way more than I have been. It reminds me that while there are indeed a bunch of lessons he is going to need to learn from me in the years to come, I have a boatload I will be learning from him as well.
And my from daughter too.
Because kids know where the gold is hidden.
Kids haunt the nooks and crannies where the really good stuff lives.
Kids know where the music lives and the where the Tootsie Roll center hides.
Throwing rocks in the crick out back; watching ladybugs crawl across a lampshade; pretending we’re Mickey Mouse and Goofy; laying down in the thick of the dust on the floor of this house and making plastic cows meet up with plastic octopuses out behind the Fisher-Price Barn: it’s starting to dawn on me that there is nothing that is ever going to be any better than that, for me, in this life.
Moving so fast, through so many stations, we start forgetting so many of the truly important things, the stuff we used to know back when we were young.
Because once upon a time, when we were just kids, we knew what needed knowing.