Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Toddler Time

I read an account recently of an experiment by the Washington Post to see if people could recognize beauty out of context in the middle of their regular, busy day. They placed the famous violinist Joshua Bell in the middle of the Metro station in D.C. in the middle of rush hour where he proceeded to play for 43 minutes on a 3.5 million dollar violin. If you live in the city, the result was highly predictable and the article is worth the reading. This incident stood out in my mind because it was laid against the background of a book that I'm reading and I've mentioned before, Leisure, the basis of culture by Josef Pieper. The horribly watered-down gist of it, for those of you who don't have time to read a philosophical tome, is that we don't have time to see beauty.

In the experiment, the one consistent result was that every single child that passed the violinist wanted to stop and listen, and every one of their parents tugged them along because they didn't have time to stop. I get to spend a lot of time with toddlers these days, and in our walks to parks and fields and lakes, they're teaching me to stop and stare. Mostly this is because it takes toddlers a lot of time to process things, but others it's just the pure joy of watching something whether it's a bee on a flower or a bunny hopping or a worm crawling. The Washington Post report mentions a poem called Leisure by W.H. Davies, an early 20th century hobo who, like toddlers, had nothing but time:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

In spite of my toddler walks, I still find myself pulled by the daily to-do list. I think the thing that I'm looking forward to more than anything about cruising is having the time to stop and look and listen and see and appreciate beauty for no reason other than just for what it is. Maybe that's what more of us need - if we can't see beauty out of context then maybe we need to move ourselves into context. You can't get much more in context than sailing a boat in the middle of nature.


John Frederick said...

Deb, this article and poem are one of the main reasons that I choose to be a sailor. I want to slow my life down and really experience the world around me. Loved the post! J. Frederick

Sabrina and Tom said...

Ah yes, time seems to be one of the most precious resources. And what we do with that resource is the challenge.