A Symbol of our Cultural Decay?

Aug 10

The story of Joshua Bell playing in the Washington Metro during rush hour, only to be ignored by sores of uncultured commuters, has almost become cliché by the ever growing count of “me too” articles that highlight the same conclusions originally drawn by the Washington Post journalist and his art curator friend. Some attempt to map it on to some broader cultural decay, which they argue also affects them. Why is it that so many articles are being written about the same 60 minutes in a subway?

Some feel they haven’t framed themselves properly for the world to appreciate their innate brilliance.

Some feel they are the victims of an uncultured world where others aren’t sophisticated enough to recognize their great ideas.

Some acknowledge that, within their current context, it is unlikely they will find opportunity to develop and showcase their talent.

1,000,000 Hours of Practice

What I haven’t heard is any discussion of how that morning in MAY was no different than the many thousands of unapplauded hours of practice he devoted to making that musical selection part of his repertoire. Of the years in school, and community programs playing sub-standard fodder for musicals and concerts. It’s fun to repeat the contrast of a sold out and sophisticated concert hall to the low and earthy subway station and to conveniently skip past the hundreds of lesser venues, half full or nearly empty, in which every musician must play as a right of passage while working his way to the top.

I suspect this event has become a mistaken symbol, an unfortunate snapshot of the one man’s ignored greatness, feeding an ever more entitled society who believe that somehow, without sufficient investment, they’re great, but unappreciated. Oh how I wish that we would see it as a clarion call to become uncelebrated heroes, unreimbursed contributors to the world we all dream about. No doubt we’ll all have our concert hall moments, filled with applause, but I would love to see a world where unapplauded practice was as prized individually as it is in montages in today’s popular movies. I would love to think that maybe those scores of people said in themselves as they walked by “good for you. That sounds pretty good kid. You sound good enough to play in a sold out concert hall. I hope you get there someday.”

I hope we all get there some day.

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