Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Context Matters

This linked article from The Washington Post is way too long; the reporter needed a better editor. But the article does raise a valuable point. Context matters.

Here's what happened: Joshua Bell played his violin in a Washington, DC subway station. Joshua Bell is not your standard street musician, however. He's one of the world's most famous violinists. He sells out concert halls where seats go for $100 a pop. His Stradivarius violin was made in 1713 and is valued at $3.5 million+. He gets paid as much as $1,000 a minute for his performances.

He played for 43 minutes. During that time, 1,097 people walked by. How many people stopped to listen for at least one minute? Seven. How much money did the passersby drop into his violin case? $32.17. How many people recognized him? One. How many clapped at the end of each piece he played? None.

Context matters.

We see what we look for, and we accept what we're prepared for. In the process, we shortchange others, and we get shortchanged, ourselves. The implications of this (sociological, anthropological, theological, cultural, relational, . . . ) are endless. Here's just one:
"He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
He came to that which was his own,
but his own did not receive him."
(Isaiah 53.2b-3; John 1.11)
He wasn't recognized. He was out of context. Where do we fail to see him today?

(You can read the complete Joshua Bell story here. The article also contains some good video.)

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant. Thanks for posting. I'll be thinking about it all day. Reminds me of Wisdom in Proverbs 1:

    "Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square, At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city, she utters her sayings; "How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing, and fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I called out and you refused; I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel, and did not want my reproof; I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes like a storm."