For my Xmas day post,

I thought I would share an amazing story I received today.

The article is © John Ford, so I have copied it in it’s entirety including headers/footers/accreditation… if you like it then his full site can be found at:

For the record, our Xmas day included admiring the sunset on the beach. A detail in life that should never be missed.


Subject: CR #393: The Things You (Don’t Want to) Miss



December 23, 2008


“What is this life if, full of care,

we have no time to stand and stare.”

– W.H. Davies

“By most measures,” said the article, “he was nondescript; a youngish white man in jeans, a long- sleeved t-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap.”

This, from a story my father group emailed to the rest of us, excerpted from the Washington Post.

“He emerged from the metro at L’Enfant Plaza station and positioned himself against a wall beside a trash basket.”

And then the man took a violin from a case and began to play. He stayed and played for the next 43 minutes.

Like other subway buskers, he tossed a little pocket change and some crumpled bills in his case to help give passers-by the idea.

Near where he stood, the rush hour passengers stepped on and off the escalators. A shoeshine stand attendant shined shoes. And a news agent did a swift trade in newspapers, lottery tickets, and skin mags.

Sixty-three people walked by the violinist before anyone even seemed to notice. One man then stopped, glanced, and then kept on walking.

Thirty seconds later, a woman barely stopped while dropping a dollar in the violinists case.

She was already 10 feet away by the time it fluttered to the velvet lining.

In all, 1,097 people would pass by. Of those, 1,070 people cruised past at full gait, their minds apparently elsewhere.

Another 27 of those paused long enough to drop more money into the case. Total take for the 43 minutes of playing, $32. Oh, and 17 cents. $32.17.

Some people gave pennies.

Only seven people stopped long enough to listen for at least a minute or longer. The man plays six pieces. And six times he finishes to dead silence.

Nobody seems to notice.

At no point does a crowd gather.

What did all those people in a hurry miss?

On that Friday morning, on either side of 8 am, no doubt many were late for important meetings. Some were desperate for that first cup of office coffee.

Some could only concentrate on the trains that threatened to pull away from the platform on time.

One wore an iPod and didn’t notice. Another was late for a class. The shoeshine attendant, Edna from Brazil, blocked out the sound because, she says, all these metro musicians are “too loud.”

What they didn’t notice, in that hurry, was first perhaps that the piece the violinist played was a something written in 1720 called “Chaconne.”

It starts simply and builds for 14 minutes into a very complex musical “architecture of sound,” says the Post piece.

“Composed on the eve of the European Enlightenment, it is said to be a celebration of the breadth of human possibility,” writes the reporter.

“It’s not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written,” says at least one expert violinist, “but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history.”

In a letter about the piece, which was written by Johann Sebastian Bach, fellow composer Johannes Brahms wrote, “If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.”

That rush hour, though, few noticed.

They also didn’t seem to pick up on the fact that the violin itself, was worth so much, our musician friend took a taxi three blocks to get to the metro station, rather than risk walking with it on a crowded street.

A smart move considering that, to buy the violin, he had to pawn off all his other instruments — plus take out a sizeable loan.

See, it was an old piece. Handcrafted in 1713 out of the finest spruce, maple, and willow available at the time. And varnished with a special secret blend of honey, egg whites, and gum Arabic from sub- Saharan trees.

The price tag for this work of art? $3.5 million.

And I’m sure you’ve already guessed — the maker was Italian legend, Antonio Stradivari.

Then there’s the player himself. Not your average buster, even he thought he would do a little better that morning than $32.17.

After all, under “normal” circumstances, his playing earned him about $1,000 a minute. And, as the world- renowned Joshua Bell, tickets to his performances could start at $150 a pop.

What was he doing then, sawing away at his Stradivarius in a D.C. metro station? It was an experiment, put together by the Washington, to see if crowds would recognize their on good fortune.

But they didn’t.

A lesson?

As the holiday season unfolds, as families visit and chaos reigns, at exactly the time it’s easy to feel like you’re in a hurry, or that there are more than enough details to keep you occupied…

And in these sometimes puzzling times, now at the brink of complexity, at a time when our priorities are suddenly thrown back into focus…

I’ll let you mull over most of those details for yourself. However, there’s one little last detail I can draw out for you.

See, L’Enfant, for anyone who’s afraid to decode the French name of this D.C. metro station, means “The Child.” And in this story, there was at least one. A little guy named Evan, age 3.

Evan’s mother was one of the many who scuttled past our violinist friend that morning, in a hurry to get Evan to school and herself back to work, to attend an 8:30 am job training session.

All of these, legitimate reasons to rush.

But Evan, who doesn’t know a thing about Stradivarius violins, classical musicians, or masterpieces, wanted to stop and listen.

And on the metro cameras that quietly recorded the whole event, you can see Evan tug at his mother’s hand to get her to stop. In fact, every time a young child passed, they tried to stop and listen, only to get pulled onward by whatever hand they clutched that morning.

Last night, I was in a room full of people celebrating Chanukah. As the only “goy” in the room, someone asked me what Christmas meant to me. A swirl of memories, some wanted and some not so much, muddled together. But nothing surfaced that I could quite put my finger on. It means… something. And there are classical even clichéd answers I’m sure I could give. But no conclusions I could be sure I came to myself.

I imagine I’m not alone on that front.

Maybe, though, those kids in the metro station have the right idea. It’s a little sappy, I know. But at times like these, if not all other times too, you really are just supposed to stop a moment — for once — and listen to the music.

Don’t you think?

Happy holidays and I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this non-issue of the CR. Pass it along to anyone else who can use the message. Next week, no issue.

I’m going to take the time off. So I’ll see you in the New Year!

P.S. If you want to read the full article, you can find it here:

P.P.S. Remember, it’s about the people and not the “stuff.” Have a good one.



By the way, in your holiday downtime, be sure to visit the CR site for a few new articles posted during the last few days. Yours to enjoy at your


All the above is ©2008 by John Forde.