Sunday, March 8, 2009

Look Up from Your Life, and Live

We had ward conference today at church, and the meeting was one of the best I've ever attended. First of all, it was pretty touching because my husband was released from his duties in the bishopric, and many lovely things were said about him. But what made the morning even more memorable were the speakers, most of whom are well known to me and all of whom shared themselves deeply with the, personal stories that nurtured and uplifted every person in attendance. I am exaggerating only slightly when I say there was not a dry eye in the chapel...and that same spirit followed us into Relief Society.

There, a friend of mine spoke to us, a woman I admire greatly. She began by describing one Saturday afternoon when she went outside to read in the sun because her house was a bit chilly. Her husband was already in the back yard working with his orchids, so she sat down nearby and continued to enjoy her book. At one point, she glanced up from the pages and was literally jolted by the transcendent beauty of the bright, blue sky overhead. A rush of appreciation came over her, and she consciously prolonged the moment by turning her eyes to feast upon the crimson leaves of a Japanese maple, the subtle and vibrant shades of green in the garden, and a group of heavily laden fruit trees. Thrilled by the visual splendor of her own yard, she called out to her husband with two words: "LOOK UP.

Of course, both of them had been looking down previously, focusing on their various pursuits and completely unaware of the beauty surrounding them. We all have a tendency to do this, which is why the story she related about an experiment conducted by the Washington Post in DC is so poignant. For some reason, it made me very sad.

The set-up was this. Joshua Bell, world-renowned violinist, was asked to masquerade as a typical street musician and play for 45 minutes at the top of the stairway in the metro station at L'Enfant Plaza. He agreed with the Post that he would arrive at that location in the early morning, dressed incognito, and perform six classical pieces for the hurried commuters, using a priceless violin (circa 1700 by Antonio Stradavari) to showcase his genius. When he arrived at the "venue," the famed fiddler opened the violin case in front of him, primed it with a couple of dollars to complete his disguise, and prepared to see how much money he could collect. (Two days earlier, seats at his sold-out concert had gone for $100 or so.) This day, however, he would perform as a "nobody," playing for whatever his morning rush hour audience might be willing to donate for his efforts.

In planning the impromptu "concert," concerns had been voiced about security (in the event Mr. Bell was recognized), crowd control and other potential problems, but the Post decided to forge ahead with its plan to test the influence of "context, perception and priorities" on behavior. The newspaper wanted to find out whether, in "a banal setting at an inconvenient time, beauty would transcend."

And that's the sad part. As Mr. Bell played six of the greatest musical masterpieces ever created, on one of the most breathtakingly exquisite instruments ever fashioned, with a virtuosity that a mere handful of musicians will ever possess, only SIX people stopped...even for a brief hear him. Six people. And the rest of them just walked by, barely noticing him (if at all), completely oblivious to the matchless beauty of his performance. 

Here's something even sadder. Every single child who walked by, without exception, wanted to stop and listen. And every single parent, without exception, firmly pulled his or her protesting child away.

What are we teaching our children? And what can we learn from them?

The full version of this story is longish, but I hope you'll read it. And I hope you remember to look up at life with all the joy and expectation of little Bryce.

I hope I remember, too.


em said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
em said...

okay, he was sustained to be bishop though, called out of another bishopric? i'm confused, did i read to fast the other day?

i love the title of this post sue. i often think of the story where all they had to do was look to live, though many would not look. it's there for the taking, and take i must do!

thank sue!
(i know, i couldn't help myself from the rhyme, forgive me!)

em said...

to was supposed to be spelled "too" oops! i'm such a stickler for that one too;-)

Sue said...


He was sustained as the bishop of our singles ward last week, and released from the bishopric of our home ward this week.

I know. Kind of confusing.

Natalie said...

This brought tears to my eyes. The picture of little Bryce didn't help the tears. :)

Such a touching post. Thank you for sharing this reminder. I am going to take the time to look up more often! Crazy how it takes an actual effort to do so. But, I know it will be worth it!

jen said...

Thanks. I really needed this today. With my calling and all my kids and my house, I rarely take the time to look up.
I will today.

VK said...

Sue, you really know how to word things, and include the best. You guys are going to be great with the singles ward.
I mentioned you in my "Sisterhood" blog the other day. Check it out.

Heather Anderson said...

good story too and the photo fit so perfectly

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