Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wake Up to the Common Beauty

For lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day. - Evelyn Underhill


Brooks from Shawshank Redemption couldn't have put it any better when he said; The world has gotten itself into a big damn hurry”.  Mindful awareness of our surroundings is killed as we rush through our environments, completing  task after task without getting the chance to reflect. This is the super saturated reality many industrialized capitalist societies experience. We look for beauty when we get a break from the everyday, but fail to notice the beauty confronting us while we are in it. We often discredit the common artist or musician in favor of those we consider distinguished and honorable.

Like the classic philosophical idea of the tree falling in the forest; if a great musician plays well and no one hears, was he any good?

Beauty can be seen as a matter of ones perception and personal opinion on one end of the spectrum, while as something that can be measured on the other. The logical position would be that beauty resides somewhere in-between these two extremes. Whether we see it or not, beauty exists in the places we pass by without even taking notice. Our perception of common situations is tinted with a grey fog of monotony and disinterest.

The Washington post illustrates this perfectly in their social experiment “Pearls for Breakfast” on the perception of common street musicians.  They put one of the world’s best violinists, Joshua Bell,  into the Washington Metro Station with a 3.5 million dollar violin for one hour and watched what happened. Considering he had recently sold out the house at Boston's stately Symphony Hall at $100 a seat, one would expect he would receive plenty of attention for his 6 Mozart pieces. This couldn't be further from the truth.  Within the hour he managed to gather some pocket change and a handful of  half-interested pauses from busy city-goers, only to be met with an awkward silence in place of an applause after each brilliant piece.



If we can so easily walk past a violin performance from  Joshua Bell, what other beauty may we be missing?  We need to learn the importance of opening our consciousness and realize the beauty that may be eluding us everyday.

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