Listening to the beautiful moments

I began the year by interviewing all members of CBC staff just to touch base and assure them that, despite my new position, my accessibility and desire to serve them remains undiminished (and also to quash rumours of the new centre piece for the Cloisters being a life size model of me). Hopefully I was convincing.

The good news for you as parents is that every one of them indicated they were busy. This should reassure you that your fees are not contributing to anyone not being busy.  Seriously though, busy is a common retort when someone is asked how they are doing and the way it is said sometimes makes it sound like a bad thing. I think being busy can be a good thing and so did Chaucer when he called idle hands 'the Devil's tool'. I just don't think busy should be the focus of one's life.

During the summer vacation, I received something on my Facebook feed that resonated. I probably received it years after many of you, but here it is anyway. The feed was a video of a man sitting at a metro station in Washington DC and playing the violin on 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 his case and, without stopping, continued to walk past. A few minutes later, a man leaned against the wall to listen, but then looked at his watch and walked on; clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a three year old boy. His mother tugged him along, but the boy stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother insisted 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 six people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32.00. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew 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 playing violin in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $US100. The questions raised from this episode were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognise the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be that 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?

In this Lenten season we are asked to reflect. In my experience, too many young people these days are faced with first world problems and a deficit view of the world. This is exploited by companies attempting to turn them into a consumer. Our boys need messages of hope, love and gratitude, and these are not commonplace outside the family home and the College you entrust to support their formation. There must be thousands of beautiful moments all around us that go unnoticed. To begin a conversation at the dinner table with your partner, son or daughter about something beautiful you experienced or saw may create a topic of conversation centred on the joy of life instead of the banalities. Napoléon said that leaders are dealers in hope, so it is important as parents and teachers that we use every opportunity to inspire. Good luck, and next time you pass a busker playing violin, take a second look.

Mr Domenic Burgio

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