Sunday, August 20, 2023

On the issue of "worry"

This morning on my Pandora station, the solo "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's opera "Gianni Schicchi" played. I'm not an opera fan, but this is a beautiful solo, and the incomparable violinist Joshua Bell played it.

There's an interesting story about Joshua Bell. As part of a 2007 social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities, Bell donned a baseball cap and jeans and played incognito in a New York City subway station as a busker. According to Wikipedia, "The experiment was videotaped on hidden camera; of the 1,097 people who passed by, seven stopped to listen to him, and one recognized him. For his nearly 45-minute performance, Bell collected $32.17 from 27 passersby (excluding $20 from the one who recognized him)."

This is the soloist, you understand, who commands sell-out performances. Two days before playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston with seats averaging $100. As a busker, he played six famous (and famously difficult) violin solos, yet very few people stopped to appreciate the beauty of his music because they were so focused on the cares and worries of the world.

I know someone who is worrying himself into an early grave. He has an incredible number of blessings in his life – a lovely wife, great kids, a beautiful home, good health, modest financial success – and yet he is so caught up in how bad things are getting (both nationally and internationally) that his worries are starting to damage his health.

Like the commuters in the subway station, this friend can't always lift his head to appreciate the beauty around him or the blessings of his life. Instead, his eyes are focused on the news as he obsesses over the state of the world.

And to an extent, he's right. There's a lot of worrying stuff in the world. And I mean seriously worrying. But here's the thing: We cannot add a single hour to our life by focusing on the bad (to paraphrase Matthew 6:27).

One of the possible conclusions from the experiment with Joshua Bell could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

There comes a point where we have to give matters over to God and not obsess over things we can do nothing about. It's one thing to be ready for the unexpected; it's another to literally worry yourself to death over the unknown or the future.

Of course, this is easier said than done. Some people are innately more inclined toward worry and anxiety.

Nonetheless there's a reason the issue of worry is addressed over and over and over again in the Bible. It's an age-old problem ... and it has an age-old solution.

Just some thoughts on a Sunday morning as I worry about my parents who might be impacted by the aftermath of Hurricane Hilary.


  1. Listened to this over our coffee this morning. Thank you Patrice

  2. I approached God in prayer a few nights ago while lying wide awake at 3:00 am, thinking of "the world as it is." His answer was simply "Worship Me." He told me that when I worship Him, He will divine my entire being and will minister to me and take care of what's needed.

    Most of us go to God with grocery lists of needs when we pray. What I found was that in doing this, I ended up thinking about these things more and becoming more and more agitated. Hence, lying awake at 0300. God KNOWS our needs before we even approach Him! It makes PERFECT SENSE! Worship God, and He ministers to you, at the same time taking you out of your "worry space!"

    Phil 4:7-8: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
    7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    And there y'have it!

    As for the aftermath if Hilary, I'm in the direct path of the storm, and so far it's been a nothingburger...

  3. Very soothing on a Sunday afternoon. Thanks.

  4. That was beautiful -- gave me goosebumps listening to it.

  5. As someone who commuted for many years in NYC, I never stopped to listen to buskers. Not because I was worrying, because I was always trying to meet my train. Of course, if people knew one of the best musicians in the world were playing, they probably would have stopped, but they're not paying enough attention for that to register. When you're a commuter, it's important to catch that particular train for whatever reason.

    1. Been there, done that! The "whatever reason" s that if you miss that train, you've added 20-30 minutes to your commute!

  6. Most people would not expect to hear "one of greatest violinists" in the subway. And many people would not recognize the music being played anyway. Music education, especially regarding the classics has gone the way of cursive writing.
    People who live in cities are conditioned to be in a hurry. For many young people that is part of the allure of the big city--the energy!
    So I don't judge those people in the subway station too harshly. I feel sad for them because of their missed opportunity. I'll never afford a Joshua Bell concert, nor will he ever play in my tiny MN town (4600). I do enjoy his music and have several cd's of his.

  7. A beautiful reminder, Patrice. Thanks for that!

  8. My grandmother taught me that God already knows the steps you will take and he will guide you to those steps. Stop worrying and give it all to him. He doesn't need a plan B!

  9. This morning, just before I saw this blog posting, I opened up my not-so-daily journal to jot down some recent observations. I was immediately drawn to an entry from awhile back, where I had made note of seven instances of kindly encounters that day. Even though I’m optimistic by nature, this is not a frequent occurrence for me, mainly because I’m not out and about much. I don’t know what prompted all those encounters, or for me too notice them, but something I try to abide by, even in this age of doom and gloom, came from one of my favorite movies. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Ferris reminds his friend that he’s gotta take time out to smell the roses!

    Living in Florida, hurricane central, it seems weird to hear about one in California. Sending prayers to your family Patrice. I have been reading Jeremiah lately and can’t help but think of us here in modern day. It’s a great reminder to right skippy get in lock step with our Lord.

  10. Thanks for this, I need to be reminded this lesson more and more, it seems.