Sometime back, I got an email forward – A Violinist in the Metro, about the world famous musician Joshua Bell, who, in 45 minutes, played 6 Bach pieces, with a violin worth $3.5 million, at a metro station in Washington, and collected $32 for the effort. A couple of days back, he had sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats had averaged $100. The incident was a social experiment by Washington Post to check out whether we perceive beauty in a commonplace environment and whether we stop to appreciate it. The findings are a testament of the fast paced life we live, and the things we miss out on.
But a few other facts in this incident interested me. For one, the crowd segment that paid the most attention to the musician were children. Their parents had to forcibly tug them away. Even if we are cynical and claim that its just curiosity, and not an appreciation of music, I still wonder about our life graph, and the part where we lose our innate curiosity. And its not just curiosity, its innocence, its a lot of other things that we lose on the way.
When I meet friends from school or college, I sense they’ve changed, and so have I. Attitudes,mindsets, behaviour, all transforming themselves according to the experiences that life throws at us. And because of this, I am not able to relate to them the way I used to at an earlier point in time. A part of me that is perhaps lost forever. Even if I tried to re create it, it would be resisted by the current me.
The other portion in the incident that interested me was that after the performance, there was no applause or recognition. People just moved on, oblivious to the phenomenon they didn’t perceive. I wonder if Joshua Bell was disappointed. Perhaps, if you’re a musician of that caliber, you would have passed the stage where you needed a stamp of approval. Or is he just like me? An unconfident performer of life, who looks around apologetically if he has upset any balance. Perhaps if i could perform like a carefree child, I could get back the curiosity and the other things that I’ve lost.
This stream of consciousness reminded me of something I’d read about in the novel Space – a space shuttle’s flight. As it ascends into space, at different levels it discards different parts, parts that were useful to get it to that point, but useless after they’ve served this utility. And after completing the mission that it was sent for, it blazes a path back through the atmosphere, burning all except its core. It lands in a place far away from the place of its origin, and time has passed while all this is happening. In a strange way, it reminded me of the way lives are lived – at massive speeds, too fast to notice the beauty of the vast expanses of space around, to achieve something which is relevant only in a very small context, burning up with the hope that all that is being done is worthwhile, and perhaps in a lost, melancholic way, deciding that since anyway the life is to be lived, might as well live it with a mission, however inadequate it seems.
until next time, touchdown