So now you are talking to trees?

January 5, 2009

About a week ago a friend emailed me this story: A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. Three minutes went by and 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, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work. The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on. In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100. This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context? One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing? It made me think about a story of my own. Few years ago my husband and I went to visit friends high up in the sierra mountains, in a little wooden cabin. One day we took a long hike down the river, across meadows, up and down rocks. We hardly made it back home, not used to such exertions, and we fell asleep as soon as we got there. I woke up first. It was late afternoon, the world outside was beautiful, full of setting sun, balmy air and singing birds. Everyone was sound asleep so I decided to slip out for a walk with myself. I walked along a dirt road, with a rushing mountain river to my right and tall, majestic pines to my left. Suddenly I realized that I really want to sit down on the side of the road, underneath a tall pine tree. It made no sense to me at all. It was a dirt road, not a pretty, secluded, romantic spot. If someone saw me there I would just look like an idiot, sitting on the side of a road for no reason. And yet, despite all that my head had to tell me to the contrary, I still really wanted to sit down right there, right under this very tree. I stood there for a while, undecided. Finally I gave up, looked around carefully to make sure I was alone, and sat down. Almost immediately I felt a presence, a question: “who are you?” It was a no-nonsense, straight to the point sort of question. Not angry, but stern. I had no idea how to answer it so I thought: “look”, and I opened and allowed the presence to see me, inside. I felt it there for a while, then it withdrew. Nothing else was “said” but I felt the presence was satisfied. Sometime during this exchange I must have realized that it was the pine tree that was questioning me. When it withdrew I sat still for a moment and a thought occurred to me: “It must be really boring to be a tree. You just stand here in this place all the time, doing nothing”. “Not at all” came the answer, “Here, take a look” – and the tree opened and allowed me to look and see. I saw patterns of energy, like silver strands, stretched in a crisscross in all directions. And I saw the pine tree, and all pine trees in the area, supervising it, keeping the strands in balance, in a perfect state of tension, so that all living things could grow and flourish in the area. After a moment I withdrew and went to continue my walk. One possible conclusion from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to anyone or anything that doesn’t make sense to our mind, our concept of what reality is, how many things are we missing?

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