Do You Have Time For Beauty?
On the 12th of January 2007, world-famous musician, Joshua Bell, donned unassuming clothes and set himself up next to a trash can at L’Enfant Plaza station, Washington.
He then took out his violin and played with all of his heart for the next 43 minutes. It was part of an experiment by the Washington Post looking at context, perception and priorities. It was rush-hour. What happened next was both interesting, and sadly somewhat predictable. Few noticed the rare beauty before them, entrapped as they were in the business of their days.
What was interesting, though, was that those most captured by Bell’s music and talent were children. Children whose gaze and minds were drawn to the unknown man playing his multi-million-dollar violin. But it was not the worth of the violin that drew them, but the sound, and their appreciation of it.
Which is not that surprising, really, given that children, whether they are aware of it or not, still hold within them a sense of awe about the world around them. Music in particular offers the soothing and rhythmic memory of the lub-dud of their mother’s heartbeat whilst in the womb. A soothing beauty that calms the soul and reminds us we are not alone. Such a synchronicity with nature, alas, is something the passage of time, society and convention choke out of us.
Or attempts to.
Regardless of cause, the effects are the same. A dulling of our senses, our compassion and our appreciation for the beauty of world. The most damning side effect is the emotional one. The one that see us disconnected from one another, and those with whom we share the world – for it as surely harms those who bear the brunt of our insensitivities.
But beauty unites.
And the prompts are all around us every day to appreciate, whether in context or not. From something as simple as the intricacy of a spider’s web, the formation of birds flying overhead, the serenity of a picturesque day, the kindness found in the smile of a stranger, or the celebration of human talent and creativity in the arts.
Animals feel this, too.
Have you ever watched animals staring intently at the sunrise or sunset? It is hard not to credit that they have found the beauty here, too. Something which leads me to ask: what if the animals of this world are not here for us but with us?
With us to experience the world and all of its magic. For in seeing them running, playing or basking in the sun with their family and friends, it is readily clear they do so for the same reasons we do. They are awed by the fact they are alive, succumbing to the beauty of it.
Many would go as far as to say this is a spiritual experience that flows through us all. One we all seek, the quest of which keeps us alive, and inspires us to plough on through the hardships life sends our way.
That people and animals find beauty in different things is a poignant reminder, too, that beauty does not lie in things, but in the way we look at those things. Sometimes all we need to do to appreciate this is take is a different angle to see another’s point of view.
And whilst the capacity to appreciate beauty may at times escape our busy minds, it never leaves our hearts. It is always there, just waiting for us to reconnect. So what better time than now to press pause, even for a moment, stroke the cat, walk in nature or visit a sanctuary for formerly farmed animals, for you never know what hidden magical beauty may be right there waiting for your heart to hear its serenade.