I was reading my Snopes newsletter thingy that I get once a week so I can cut off stupid hoaxes at the pass when they get emailed to me, and came across something that deserved mention because of its stupidity. If the study’s authors were trying to make me feel guilty, they’ve epically failed, and probably will fail with anyone with a functioning brain.
The article talked about a Washington Post reporter who enlisted famous violinist Joshua Bell to play his violin in a busy subway station’s entrance and see what people did. Nobody announced that it was Bell. He just played his hand-crafted violin for 45 minutes. Quelle surprise, nobody stopped to listen for very long, and he didn’t get a lot of dough. Meanwhile, a couple of nights before, people paid oodles of money to see him perform. The reporter made a big deal about how we don’t stop to see beauty in unexpected places.
I have three major problems with this whole guilt-fest. first of all, not everybody loves violin music. To some people, it’s just background noise, even if the same piece of music is considered by the next person to be the most beautiful piece of music ever composed. Not everyone going through that station would have paid hundreds of dollars to see his concert nights before. Did the reporter forget that whole beauty is in the eye of the beholder thing?
second, subway stations aren’t places where folks usually stop and smell the roses. If they stop and smell the roses, they may miss their train. The subway waits for no man.
Third, just because people didn’t stop doesn’t mean they didn’t notice. The human brain is amazingly fast at picking up stuff, and multiple things at once. maybe they enjoyed the music as they went through. I still noticed the girl singing down by the buses who I almost collided with, and despite almost colliding with her, I thought I would have stayed around a while if I’d had the time. I remember also thinking she was pretty tallented to keep singing while trying to avoid me. I didn’t stop, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t notice. I wish I’d seen her again.
I apreciate that some people aren’t very observant and need to pay attention to more things around them. but I don’t think this study was a fair way to judge people’s ability to “take in beauty.”