Last week the Washington Post ran a story which set about asking and answering the question, “Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour?” The idea was to have virtuoso Joshua Bell take on the role of a busker, albeit one playing a 1713 Stradivarius (prime even among Stradivari) worth $3.5 Million. Not your average street musician… but among 1,070 passers-by over 45 minutes, 7 stopped to listen and 27 made donations totaling $32 and change. Seth Godin admits what most of us will know to be true of ourselves… he too would have ignored Bell and passed on by. The video clip with the article (or the full performance) provide enough audio for even an untrained ear to tell that this is beauty out of place.
Quite naturally, everyone’s talking about this article, and El Nellis asks, will beauty transcend? He picks out a line from the article, noting that “the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.” Arresting. He also recalls an earlier post he had done on the theme that we don’t tend to notice beauty when it’s out of context. But why should we have to be told when there’s something beautiful to take note of?
One thing about children, when something catches their attention, they’ll forget about something and give their attention. In a hurry for what? Not so with us.
Jamie Howison has just written a piece on Jazz and the Holy, which also appears on the website of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. He talks about transcendence in jazz as he relates his account of a lecture given by Reggie Workman, and finally wonders if
Maybe, just maybe, we first need to learn to discern the Spirit of God in the jazz club or in the sound of the street corner buskerâ€™s saxophone or on the recordings of the Coltranes and Blakeys and Workmans of this world; people whose love of sharing the music brought them close to gazing upon the very face of the Divine.
Perhaps the real lesson is simply one about slowing down. And we all agree with that statement— we know it’s true. We just don’t believe it enough to actually do it. But really, sometimes we need only pause in our days to be able to begin to see and feel the transcendent amid the ordinary. In these moments, these pauses, we gain a glimpse of something of God, something of the Divine itself. These glimpses also reveal something of ourselves. In his 1996 book, Ken Gire calls these Windows of the Soul (p.17).
We reach for God in many ways. Through our sculptures and our scriptures. Through our pictures and our prayers. Through our writing and our worship. And through them He reaches for us.
His search begins with something said. Ours begins with something heard. His begins with something shown. Ours, with something seen. Our search for God and His search for us meet at windows inour everyday experience.
These are the windows of the soul.
In a sense, it is something like spiritual disciplines for the spiritually undisciplined. In another sense, it is the most rigorous of disciplines—the discipline of awareness. For we must always be looking and listening if we are to see the windows and hear what is being spoken to us through them.
But we must learn to look with more than just our eyes and listen with more than just our ears, for the sounds are sometimes faint and the sights sometimes far away. We must be aware, at all times and in all places, because windows are everywhere, and at any time we may find one.
Or one may find us.
You’d think we would understand this better, since we have the transcendent in us too. More transcendent beauty in the unlikliest of places.
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.