Thursday, April 12, 2007

Do you have the time?

Magnificent sunset, Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii, February 2005, Pentax Optio 555, Exposure 1/500 sec @ f6.5, ISO 64, no flash © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

So tell me ... do you have the time? Time to visit? Time to be aware of the world around you? Would you miss a beautiful sunset like this because of your pre-arranged plans?
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

-- from "Leisure," by W.H. Davies
We've all heard the phrase "it's the journey, not the destination" but how many of us really understand what that means and live by it? How many of us get caught up in the busyness of planning to get to Point X, then traveling to Point X, and finally reminiscing about Point X? All the while missing what might have been in store for us at Point B or on the way to Point G, or while zipping right past Point Q?

(BTW, when trying to spell "busyness", I accidently spelled it "business". I think that is somehow profound.)

I came across this article from the Washington Post today. It's rather long, and knowing you are busy (and might not have the time ;-) I thought I would excerpt a couple of quotes from it.

This is a story. Actually, a well told story of an experiement. Of a world-class violinist positioned as a run-of-the-mill street performer at a busy D.C. metro station. Do you stop and listen? ... What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you?

I wish not to spoil the results of the experiment. You might want to read the article. Over tea, perhaps. When you have a moment. Or two.

The violin is an instrument that is said to be much like the human voice, and in this musician's masterly hands, it sobbed and laughed and sang -- ecstatic, sorrowful, importuning, adoring, flirtatious, castigating, playful, romancing, merry, triumphal, sumptuous. ... So, what do you think happened?

This might cause you to reflect philosophically: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?

How might you have felt, lucky enough to be one of the passer's by during this experiment? Would you really notice? Would it make a difference? The violinist's bow begins to dance; the music becomes upbeat, playful, theatrical, big. ... "Whatever it was," he says, "it made me feel at peace."

Are you sure? Perhaps you have another focus. A hundred feet away, across the arcade, was the lottery line, sometimes five or six people long. They had a much better view ... if they had just turned around. But no one did. Not in the entire 43 minutes. They just shuffled forward toward that machine spitting out numbers. Eyes on the prize.

What kind of tunnel vision do we create for ourselves? Let us not blame it on the work, or the lists, or the destination. "Couple of years ago, a homeless guy died right there. He just lay down there and died. The police came, an ambulance came, and no one even stopped to see or slowed down to look. People walk up the escalator, they look straight ahead. Mind your own business, eyes forward. Everyone is stressed. Do you know what I mean?"

In closing, I'd ask you to reflect on the experiement, and the story. What is it trying to tell you? How do you interpret it? If we can't take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that -- then what else are we missing?

What else indeed. How can we possibly know?

But there is good news here. Really good news. You control the end of this story -- how you choose to treat each passing moment, each glimmer of beauty, each breath-taking sunset. Why not pull up a chair, lean against a wall, turn off the iPod, put down the paper, and have a look and a listen. I promise you -- you won't be dissapointed -- and you do have the time.


Avantika said...

Hi Steve,
That was a great post,and an amazing article.
It reminds me of something similar.A couple of years earlier when I used to commute by bus people always used to have atleast a smile for the person seated next to them,and I would feel connected in a strange but fundamental way.It was not just about words but a sense of concern and curiosity that the passengers showed for what was around them.There was the girl who offerred to hold the harrassed mother's one yr old,or the shared ripple of laughter when change was lost and then found on the bus floor.
Old is not always gold,but now the commute seems very mechanical with people stuck to their cell phones and i-pods,ignoring the dynamic reality happening around them right then.Great article about that here:,9171,1607260,00.html

Steven Crisp said...


Glad you enjoyed the post and the article. I have thought about it many times since. I like to think I am more aware of my surroundings, but one has to wonder.

To me the aha moment comes with the recognition that we should WANT to treat life as an enfolding play, and look with anticipation to what twist and turn will face us next. A beautiful image. A reflective article. An inspirational piece of music. Or even a difficult person placing an unreasonable demand upon you. How to respond?

With openness, with a curious and inquisitive mind. With innocence and wonder.

And as for the article you reference, and the increasing trend toward more mobile digital gadgets. Like anything else, as you know, these gadgets are neither good nor bad. We certainly can use them to make out lives more efficient, and if we want, to help free up our time to be more reflective.

Or we can become addicted to them, and take one more step into artificial isolated oblivion. The good news is that WE get to choose.

Thanks for the visit, and for sharing your experiences of connectedness.