Honoring creativity where we find it...

I am privileged to play music with a great group of people. As a result of the “economic downturn” there haven’t been the usual financial donations to purchase new music scores. Some humorously said we should set up on the street in downtown Portland and put out our hat.  I told the orchestra I had a problem with that allusion because street people were actually trying to make an honest living when they offered their music to indifferent passersby. Intruding felt disrespectful to me. My husband told me later he had an hilarious picture of the chaos of sixty people with instruments, stands, sheet music and paraphernalia creating such a backup in traffic people had to go blocks out of their way to get around.  Whether or not  it was because he had to eventually go home with me, when he understood, my spouse agreed with me.

There is metaphor in here somewhere.  An orchestra needs money and its okay to hit people up for hefty donations.  A street musician does the same thing expecting much less and how far out of our way do we go to avoid him or her? People who perform on the avenues are making a straightforward attempt to earn their living and exchange for what they receive. Melody is one of the most powerful energies of the Universe and when a homeless person offers music they gift us.  They deserve remuneration just as those who appear in the posh venues do. For us, the only difference between a sidewalk concert and one in an elegant hall is, we are buying our physical and emotional comfort. Some of us are paying to be seen.  Some of us shell out the cash so we can say we have seen.

Street performers play in plain awful conditions - poor acoustics, noisy distractions, inattentive audiences, bad weather. In 2007, a world class violinist, Joshua Bell, played a 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius violin in the New York subway and had one person stop to listen for only three minutes.  Bell made $32 dollars and change for the same concert people purchase hundred dollar tickets to hear. “It was still almost hurtful sometimes when somebody just walked by when I really did try to play my best,” he said. “It was difficult to see.”

A homeless person who hasn’t had a meal in days starts muttering and we call them crazy. We label it psychotic break.  Religious fast for days and their mumbles and manifestations are called visions and canonized. We are one paycheck, one catastrophe, one label away from becoming the people we go to such lengths to avoid. The homeless are teaching us about ourselves.  How willing are we to examine and live in the depths of our compassion?

Joshua Bell playing in the subway illustrates it’s all in how we look at things, what we are willing to see. By honoring the creative beauty in others with our time and our money, as we are able, we honor our own creativity.

For the complete Joshua Bell story see the Washington Post story or for a synopsis the Reuters article.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html http://www.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idUSN1124665920070411