Can Beauty Transcend Context?

A Washington Post article entitled Pearls Before Breakfast begs the question, “Will beauty transcend context?” and sets up an experiment that answers with a definite “No!”.

Basically, WP set up an experiment in a Washington DC metro station to find out if people passing through would stop to listen to a world-class violinist (Joshua Bell) simply for the sake of the music. Some thought that despite the context of the subway and everything that goes with it that passersby would be engaged by the wonderful melodies and stop to observe. Others argued that context is key and that the majority would simply pass Mr. Bell without a second glance.

Sadly, the latter group proved correct. I think you’ll be stunned, as I was, to watch clips from hidden cameras display scores of people streaming by a performance which, just the other night, commanded $100 for the worst seat in the house.

What does this teach us? Perhaps that we should take time to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us… that we should always be on our toes, watching for virtuoso performances on public transit systems… I’m not sure what to learn except that we need to slow down just a little. Smell the roses even though they may be planted in a concrete jungle.

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