Sunday, 11 December 2011
Christmas in pics, Day 5: Missing the beauty..
It's been an interesting time over the last few weeks, well, last few months actually. Or, in fact, a year... I have written before about being ill and then finding out I have CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I am not going to dwell on that now, but it is key to what I am going to write about. Because, I struggled with being ill (still do), I am a 'doer'. I did things in my own strength. I was a 'strong' person. I did not like to give in to weakness. I didn't even tell anyone I was ill for ages because I didn't want people to feel sorry for me, or to see me as being weak. That was my biggest fear.
Alongside struggling with the diagnosis I couldn't reconcile it with my faith. I believe that God heals, and I believed he wanted to heal me. But I wasn't healed, despite copious prayer. I also knew that he had plans for me, and yet there was no way I could achieve those without having more energy.
Throughout the last 18 months it has been perfectly obvious that God is teaching me, through the illness, about resting in him. About spending time with him, and about slowing down. I think it's only really been in the last few weeks that I have actually accepted that (as I wrote about briefly, here, the other day). And in doing that and spending more time on less things (if that makes sense) I have been able to appreciate those things so much more.
It was a divine coincidence then that a friend of mine posted a link on facebook yesterday, to an article from the Washington Post, 2007. In it the world famous violinist Joshua Bell, is asked to take part in an experiment by playing for one hour in the rush hour in the metro in Washington:
Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he's really bad? What if he's really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn't you? What's the moral mathematics of the moment?
And the really interesting thing is that in one hour, this world renowned musician made just $32 and had only a handful of people stop to listen. Only one recognised him. The paper estimated that just over 1000 people passed by in that time.
The local shoe shine lady says this:
Souza nods sourly toward a spot near the top of the escalator: "Couple of years ago, a homeless guy died right there. He just lay down there and died. The police came, an ambulance came, and no one even stopped to see or slowed down to look.
"People walk up the escalator, they look straight ahead. Mind your own business, eyes forward. Everyone is stressed. Do you know what I mean?"
I once fainted on the tube and people stepped over me to get off. I was with a 16 year old friend who freaked out and still no one stopped. So it doesn't surprise me that no one stopped to hear a busker, even if he was very good. The thing that strikes me though is how much they, and we, miss in life when we are in such a hurry. We miss the beautiful, the quirky, the one off single-second moments. Not only are we missing the beautiful and wonderful, but we are missing God. When did our world get in such a hurry? Was it after the industrial revolution? was it post-second world war? was it with the technology boom? Or has it always been that way? Do we all just take for granted the beautiful things all around us? Is it that maybe we have been hardened to these things because man is so good at making his own now? With technology we can create music, we can create wonderful images, we can link up with friends thousands of miles away...
God has been teaching me through the simplest of things, like a single red leaf standing out in a pile of brown decaying ones, or the smell of the air when rain is on its way, or as above the wonderful but subtle colours on these pigeons. I saw them sat in a line today, the same bird yet such variations in their feathers. They looked beautiful to me (maybe have lost it.....)
You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate beauty around you, but as a Christian I think it helps us to focus on why we are here, and what God is about. I believe God is in all things, but so often we just hurry past in our whirlwind lives and miss them, or rather we miss Him.
(Incidentally it is quite a long article about Joshua Bell, but it really is very interesting and worth a read if you have the time...)