Tuned Out

fluteplayerOkay. I live in a heavily populated city (New York) with some 8 million, and what is really amazing is that you can walk through crowds without touching. We are trained to give each other space, not to meet eye to eye after a 30-foot approach and generally to be set on our destination full speed ahead like submarines in a potentially hostile sea.

Good and bad you say? Yes. We are undisturbed by the life around us, fixed on our goal for the day even to get home and eat bagels and lox. What is the problem here? It is the rigidity of our fixation. No matter what we encounter we do not respond. But what if it is a unique thing of beauty? Sorry. No time for that.

I was coming to a busy corner in Brooklyn and heard a flute sounding over the traffic noise. I remembered that musician, a man of great skill and inspiration. This time he had a younger boy on violin, as well as an occasional recording of drums. I learned against the subway stanchion and listened for a while with another man, somewhat plump and of easy girth. The man left after dropping some money in the performer’s satchel.

The more I stayed and listened, the more the music moved me. I had to move my knee a little rhythm. It seemed the more pleasure it gave me the more the flutist soared and plunged into mighty glissandos, his head back, flute pointing at the sky. Was that only my imagination? It seemed as if my pleasure energized his dive into expression. I do think that we are in contact if only we allow it, not only with grief and terror, but also with pleasure.

I watched the people passing by with a kind of curiosity. Who was drawn and moved by his offering? First it was the very young children in carriages or just beginning to walk hand in hand. They always looked and lingered as the parent pulled them on. What kind of lesson was that? How we become tuned out and insensitive?

Second it was the elderly. They stopped, said a word to him which he responded to with a smile and by playing. It was they who gave him the thanks of some money. How strange. Is it only the very old and the very young that live within the world? Does societal training hinder us? Is it only before we are conditioned by societal training and after we see its nonsensical and largely useless folly, that we can enjoy the great beauty and talent available to us? Or is it possible for all of us to find our childlike innocence or elderly wisdom to really tune into the world around us?










ittle in the rhythm. It seemed the more pleasure it gave me the more the flutist soared a

.n plunged into mighty glissandoes

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