Response Blog # 3: Sustainability: A Matter of Perception

I kept reading Anna Pollock’s posts and I wanted to share an interesting story that one of them told. It’s a true story and it happened last winter in Washington DC. Perhaps it is quite well-known, but I just found out about it and was quite amased. It is a story about a street musician (well, at least for an hour) and the power of perception.

The blog describes how on a cold winter morning a street musician played his violin at one of the Washington DC metro stations. It was a morning rush hour – people were on their way to work. The musician played 6 pieces by Bach for about 45 minutes. By the time he finished only 6 people had stopped to listen for a short while, the other 20 had only a dollar or two without stopping.

This musician happened to be Joshua Bell, one of the world’s best musicians who played a violin worth 3.5 million dollars and whose concert tickets were for an average of $100.00.

I was stunned by this social experiment about perception and people’s priorities. It is interesting to see how people’s recognition of this man was completely different with the existing circumstances – a metro station and a morning rush hour – than it would be in the concert hall.

This, I think, is an example o f how we tend to miss and leave beauty unrecognized when it is delivered in an unexpected context. It is also interesting to see how we determine value depending on the circumstances. We would value Bell’s talent a thousand times more if the place and time suggested it. But we tend to miss so many little things that could bring us joy in our daily lives, our minds engaged with other priorities and daily tasks.

Behavior change is about changing perceptions, and it was interesting to read how Pollock applied perception to sustainable tourism. She said “Until we are prepared to slow down, stop and drink in the magical tones of Joshua Bell’s violin when the music emerges unexpectedly from the pavement of an underpass on a drizzly November day, we will continue to gallop towards sustainability and it will recede further to the horizon. Until we have switched our perception of earth as lumberyard or ever giving ATM machine to earth as our sacred home that nurtures us; until we have mastered Wonder 101 and can articulate how a place pulses to its own unique beat; until we can feel “her”, the rest is pointless… “

I completely agree with her, until we change our perception about the Earth and stop thinking that these natural resources are self-recovering, we will not achieve much. This is quite of a challenge. I hope we don’t wait until the circumstances change.


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