Stop. Right. Now.

18 Feb

How does your usual day go?

Do you hop out of bed when the alarm clock shrieks? Do you run to the sink and splash water on your face while brushing your teeth and slipping your feet into your shoes, or do you amble toward the bathroom door with a quick glance at the clock, mentally calculating how many minutes you have before it’s time to rush out the door?

Do you walk, run, drive to your office, park your car or jump off the bus, walk briskly to the door with a brief nod at the doorman and a “Good morning” that fades just a beat behind the echo of your footsteps as you make your way to the elevator, sliding your shoulder in between its rapidly closing doors and nudging your way through the rest of the suited and coated crowd?

Or do you bundle your children in their school clothes, hastily dump the dishes and flatware in the sink as you quickly buss the kiddos before dropping them off at the bus stop or the school grounds, then whip out your To-Do list (with items pending from yesterday) and get yourself to the nearest grocery store to pick up necessities that can’t necessarily be delayed any longer before you drop off the week’s clothes at the dry-cleaners and rush off to that Parent-Teacher meeting that you’re already running two minutes behind?

(Phew! Are you panting yet?)

At the end of the day, do you drop dead on your bed feeling like a totally squeezed lemon, reaching for sleep the way a starving man reaches for a grain of rice after a month-long fast?

Or do you have the gift of time?

Are you freakin’ kidding me?, you might ask incredulously. And I would understand; I would get you completely. I often feel like I’m riding on a speeding train too, one that won’t stop long enough for me to catch a breath of fresh air or to insert a skip and a hop between the brisk steps I have to take to get from Point A to Point B, double-time. Yup, I know what it’s like, my friend.

But I hope there are for you, as there thankfully are for me, routines throughout the day that force us to stop a while, to take stock and be silent and pray (and I kid you not, I have to make an effort to make sure those routines are kept in place because, tempting as it is to throw them aside in favor of what seem to be more pressing matters, I have discovered that the moments of silence are precisely what ensure that the rest of my day goes as best as it can, rush-hour and trips galore notwithstanding).

Thankfully, I have five children, three of whom are under the age of 10, who are courageous enough to ignore the daily rush and speeding time in order to stick their face in front of mine and say, Mom guess what happened at school today? or to lay a hand on my arm and quietly whisper, I love you, Mama.

And thankfully, sometimes, someone gets the brilliant idea of performing some experiment that will test whether, when given a chance, really busy people will stop long enough to recognize beauty in the middle of mundane everyday routines. To focus on what really counts. To appreciate the glorious that hides behind what is so commonplace and easy to overlook.

Because in this crazy, hectic, busy world filled with an insanely huge amount of musts and to-do’s,  it is so, so, so important to do this. To take the time to simply

STOP. And pay attention. Seriously.

Beauty, miracles, amazing discoveries: they’re all around us. In sights, in sounds, in touches. The only thing we need to do is to halt long enough to uncover them. Then we are rewarded with gentle reminders of why it’s good to be alive, why there’s so much to be grateful for, why we are so lucky that we continue to be blessed by a loving Father who showers gifts on us abundantly, even if we are often remiss in stopping a while to appreciate and say a silent prayer of thanks.

I came upon this while surfing the web today, and it was/is one of those amazing stories that one could easily overlook… or that one could stop (perhaps, being fated to do so?) and pay attention to and be reminded once again to smell not just the coffee percolating, but the quiet fragrance of the grass outside the kitchen windows and the sweet morning scent of the kids just risen from bed and the freshly-shaved skin of the hubby who (thank goodness) takes the time to hug you warmly before he goes off to work.

This story certainly drives home that point in more than a couple of ways.

It’s a story of a regular Friday-rush-hour January morning at a DC metro, when a very regular nondescript white man takes up his violin and starts to play. In the 43 minutes that he plays 6 musical masterpieces, only a handful stop to listen, and the first one to do so, only after the man has played for six minutes. And despite the amazing gift of beautiful music that fills the station, it is just a few (you can count them on one hand) who are “awake” enough to take notice of the gift of music that they happened to pass by on that morning, among them a three-year-old toddler who had to be pulled away by his rushing mom, an Au Bon Pain waiter busing tables nearby, and a USPS supervisor who once dreamed of being a violinist but did not recognize, either, the man who was playing before him.

It was Joshua Bell, one-time child prodigy, internationally-acclaimed yet refreshingly humble violin virtuoso (who plays to standing-room $1000-ticket-paying audiencies in symphony halls, whose audience in those halls are so respectful of his talent that  they postpone their urge to cough till he’s done playing, and who has been described as one who “plays like a god.”). On that January day, he played not easily-recognizable classical music but those masterful, majestic, difficult-to-play pieces, Bach’s Chaconne and Schubert’s Ave Maria among them. And he played these on a $3.5 million Stradivarius violin.

It was an experiment done by Washington Post to investigate “context, perception and priorities,”  to see what would happen if a great musician played great music in a banal setting at a time when leisure is an unheard-of commodity; would beauty transcend? Would people actually stop to listen? To appreciate? To realize the beauty unfolding in the most unlikely place and time?

Here’s a clip of the actual event (thank you, Youtube ):

And here’s the full story, Pearls Before Breakfast, by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post.

It is one definitely worth taking the time to read. One that possesses little nuggets of wisdom, hiding between the lines, not least of which is this strikingly astute observation that Weingarten makes:

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?

We might not ever find ourselves in a metro on a rush-hour morning, but certainly the basic ingredients will be there: modern life and its incessant demands; the rush, the hustle and bustle, the never-ending many-paged priority lists. But yes, we can and yes, we should stop and look, listen, smile. And be thankful that we remembered to simply be thankful. :)

May your day be full of glorious stops and discoveries, my dear friends! xox

* Shared with Just Write.

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2 Responses to “Stop. Right. Now.”

  1. LivE Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Yes, you would… and I’d be right there beside you, listening with rapt pleasure! Thank you so much for taking the time to read through that (I know it was lengthier than the usual), and thank you for your very inspiring, kind words. Love you to Jupiter and back, girlfriend! xox

  2. Jana Holden Saturday, 18 February 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    That is truly a powerful story Liv! I’d like to think I’d be one to stop and listen, knowing how much I love classical music. Your points are right on and your gift for writing shines through my friend! Love you,

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