Practice random kindness & senseless acts of beauty.~Anne Herbert
On a nondescript weeknight, a young man, probably barely over the age of 20, set up a chair beside a bike path. With a single microphone, an amplifier, and his guitar, he began playing — with no explanation — exquisite classical music.
There was nothing about this young man that would indicate that he was capable of this stunning music. His sneakers were scuffed, his hair a shaggy reminder that haircuts in the time of COVID are not necessarily essential.
But his fingers flew up and down the fretboard and coaxed such lyrical musical phrases out of his guitar strings that I was compelled to sit down on a nearby bench and take in this unexpected performance.
The guitarist had no music in front of him, and his eyes closed as he played. I found it fascinating. Wasn’t he wondering who was listening? Would he sneak a peek to see if an audience had gathered?
He did not. In fact, I wasn’t sure why he was even there. His guitar case was closed, so money didn’t seem to be his objective.
Then I thought: does there have to be a reason? Could it be that this young musician felt the urge to play and decided to share it with strangers for the sheer joy of it?
As he played song after song, I observed his serendipitous audience, the people who happened to walk or bike on that exact path at the exact moment that brought their evening to a cosmic convergence with this mysterious musician.
A dad passed by, pushing a stroller while the little girl in the seat leaned over to get a better view.
One man in bike shorts rode past with headphones on. He never even noticed what he missed.
A grandmother walked by with her three young grandsons. They stopped, smiled, listened, then began dancing. I liked the way the grandmother threw her head back in laughter when the boys tried to spin her. More people stopped: couples holding hands, individuals, families. People with dogs on leashes.
Even though the music was recital hall quality, this was a come-as-you-are venue: No fancy clothes or tickets or hushed voices required. Out in the open, the beauty of the music seemed even more striking — more part of this world, even — as the sound of barking dogs, passing cars, laughing children, and crickets singing their evening song provided a strange, discordant accompaniment.
I thought, what if I had walked in the other direction? What if I’d stayed home? I would’ve missed this.
I’m glad I didn’t miss it. I’m glad I accidentally stumbled upon senseless beauty. Thank goodness I wasn’t in a hurry and had time to sit down and be transported somewhere else for a few moments.
As the days turn cooler and the uncertainty of 2020 seems never ending, I’m worrying a lot. The tension in my neck and shoulders is always there. I find myself sighing throughout the day, just out of habit.
But there is still beauty in this world. There is beauty for no other purpose than to just be; it asks nothing in return, just serves as a reminder of our humanity—the way even strangers can feel connected in a solitary moment over a single shared experience. It makes me want to wake up, get outside, and seek out even more beauty. Or perhaps I will commit my own senseless act of beauty to make a stranger stop and smile. Just because.