Context transforms mundane to sublime

On a cold January morning a man played his violin at a Washington DC metro station. He played six Bach pieces for 45 minutes during rush hour. 1,100 people passed.

A middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping.

A few minutes later, a man leaned against the wall and listened, then looked at his watch and hurried on.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother dragged him along, the boy stopping to look back at the violinist.

This action was repeated by several other children, noticing the violinist’s amazing music, but forced to move along by their parents.

In all only 6 people stopped. 20 gave him money. He collected $32. No one applauded.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100. This is a real story.

A beggar had been sitting by the side of the road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by.

Spare some change? mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his baseball cap.

I have nothing to give you, said the stranger. Then he added, What’s that you are sitting on?

Nothing, replied the beggar, Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.

Ever look inside? asked the stranger.

What’s the point? There’s nothing in there.

Have a look inside, insisted the stranger.

The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw the box was filled with gold.

(A story by Eckhart Tolle.)

A lone beggar sat on the side of a busy street with his cup out. He smiled at all the passersby but never asked anyone for a donation. He gave friendly eye-contact and smiles to all, and one hour later a few people had given him 8 dollars and some change.

That man was a 2000 year old resurrected prophet, just passing by to see how awake we were. True Story. (as people have started dubiously saying on Twitter)


All of these stories are about the same thing – recognizing beauty in the world around us, accepting that every moment is full of possibility. Society has a way of herding us along the well-worn path, towards the consensus view of wealth, power, and happiness. But for those who are awake, and willing to take risks, there are even greater rewards we’ve been too busy to notice. They come to those living fully awake who search for them.

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 23, 2012 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    We are constantly surrounded by miracles, but we do not recognize them because they come to us so gracefully and seamlessly.We are constantly surrounded by miracles, but we do not recognize them because they come to us so gracefully and seamlessly.

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  1. By Love and unexpected bounty « Chewy Chunks on February 26, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    […] Chewy Chunks morsels served up in bite-sized pieces Skip to content StorytellingAboutMemoir: Computer life in rural¬†AfricaInnovative TeachersDan Meyer: Math class needs a makeoverSugata Mitra shows how kids teach themselvesNeil Gershenfeld: How to build almost anythingKen Robinson: Changing Education ParadigmsJorge Cham illustrates science through comics & animationMaps & VisualizationTourist Map of EarthAfrican Universities MapStorytelling MapperLearning VideosTurkey City LexiconVi Hart: Amazing Visual MathGrassroots funding strategy « Context transforms mundane to sublime […]

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