Can you hear the violins?

There seems to be very little in the modern world that encourages us to stop and listen to the violin.

Our politicians tell us that incessant growth is good, when nature tells us that incessant growth is, well, unnatural. At work we misuse the word “deadline” to overemphasise the importance of completing some task. Managers feel under pressure to attend to the selfish mewlings of the cursed Blackberry, even during conversations and meetings. Socially, we allow ourselves to be constantly distracted by beeps and tweets and pop-up messages, to the extent that our brains are becoming hard-wired for inattention.

We complain that we never have time, but the fact is that we never have time because we rarely take time or make time. But the rewards for making five minutes here and there can be enriching.

The other day, I was in Goya metro station, on my way to meet someone. Rather than rushing, I had allowed myself some extra time in case of delays. I was exiting the station with ten minutes to spare when I spotted an old man busking with a violin. I like violins, so I always drop a coin when I see a street violinist. Many people passed by and what struck me was not that so few of them dropped a coin, but that those who did drop a coin hurried on by without even looking at the violinist. That did not seem right.

I placed a Euro into his violin case and leaned back against a wall to actually listen to the music. Realising he had an audience, the old man’s demeanour changed. He suddenly came alive and he began to dance as he played. We ended up chatting for a bit and I feel both our lives were enriched by my taking a few minutes to stop and appreciate something.

I chose to be present in that moment.

Look around your office and see just how rarely we choose to be present in the moment. We talk to a colleague while reading an email. We attend meetings but refuse to switch off our Blackberries (because we are soooooooooooo important). We walk away from conversations because we “have to take this call”. We check Facebook every ten minutes instead of focussing on the task at hand. We take pride in how many un-read emails we have in our in-box because we “don’t have time” to read them.

If you measure your importance by how little time you have, then you will reach the end of your career and the end of your life only to realise just how unimportant all those distractions really were.

Take time to listen to the violin. Make time to listen to the violin.

The violin may be an actual violin, or it may be a colleague who has stepped into your office, or it may be a meeting, or it may be a task you need to complete.

Be there.

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3 comments to Can you hear the violins?

  • Declan

    Isn’t it interesting how communication technology actually interferes with communication? People are so busy listening to the white noise that they hear less and less and miss more and more.

  • Visitor

    Very nicely put.
    This particular lesson has just been fully impressed upon me! It applies to posting on Internet blogs too!

    One particular way I “make time “is when driving – I often deliberately stop to let people cross the road in front of me or allow a car to go in front etc.
    I find it helps to slow tension on the road, allows for the ewxchange of little waves between me and the other person – an interesting experiment in seeing past a tinted window – and adds an hospitable air to an often stressful proceeding.
    Pedestrians are especially gratful, as am I when a car driver returns the favour!

    • Yes, I also pause to let other cars pass or merge or exit, as long as I am not inconveniencing traffic behind me. However, I live in Madrid, where I appear to be the only one who does so. As a result, people don’t recognise the gesture, so they rarely acknowledge it. They are too busy rushing to where the “need” to be.

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