The Violinst


By Most Worshipful Brother Geoff Edwards OSM (Grand Master)

Address at the installation of  RW Bro Tommy Hardiman as new PGM of Southern Division

Saturday 20 August 2016



MW, RW, VW, Wor Brethren and Brethren all, my address today was inspired by the very attractive cover of this year's Spring Ball Magazine, which was designed by Bro Mark van Dijk. Mark had sent me his proposed cover and asked for my opinion. I was suitably impressed and asked him where he had found the subject and he advised me that it was the door leading into the ante-chamber of our Temple - a door that I have been entering for 30 years now without ever realising just how beautiful it really is.


It reminded me of a story that I had read some years ago entitled "The Violinist". In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played 6 Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule. About 4 minutes later a woman threw a dollar into the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk. After 6 minutes a young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.


After 10 minutes a 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.


The musician played continuously for 45 minutes but only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32. At the end of an hour he finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.


No one knew this at the time, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell played at a sold-out theatre in Boston where people paid an average of $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.


This is indeed a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the DC Metro Station, was organised by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.


Brethren, in the modern world life is lived at a frenetic pace. We are all so busy struggling to keep up that we sometimes don't concentrate enough on those things which ought really to be obvious. We are surrounded by so much natural beauty and so many extraordinary people and yet we fail to be impacted by them. We form our own conceptions of exactly how each individual should appear to us and what makes them attractive or unattractive, without looking beyond the superficial exteriors. The reality is, however, that we cannot afford to miss that which should, perhaps, be obvious to us.


I firmly believe that the Great Architect had a special plan for each of his creations and that each individual is truly gifted in some or other way. As Freemasons, we must be aware of this and focus on trying to identify what gift each of our Brethren really has and how best they can contribute to our efforts to uplift the world around us. We use the mosaic floor and tessellated border as symbols of how each man has a part to play and how, when all are properly fitted together, we finish with a beautiful whole - and yet, all too often, because of our own distractions, we fail to see where a Brother best fits in.


If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made .... How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?

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