As beautiful strains of Bach's "Chaconne" rose from Joshua Bell's Stradivarius in a Washington, D.C., subway station one morning during rush hour, commuters raced by. Considering my own commuting habits, I might have, too. Only a handful stopped to listen. Meanwhile, fans can pay over $100 for a ticket to listen to Mr. Bell perform in a concert hall.
The performance, in which Bell's appearance – but not his playing – was disguised, was an experiment set up by The Washington Post, and Gene Weingarten's story about it, "Pearls before breakfast," won a Pulitzer Prize. Over two years later, that free concert still reminds me how much good is unseen, even when it's right under my nose, or at least in earshot. "Stop and smell the roses" has become a cliché, but this incident made me realize how often I don't.
One way I've found that helps keep my eyes and heart open is to acknowledge the divine presence in any scene. If God is truly infinite, then He is with each of us anywhere, any moment. What that means is that the source of beauty, grace, joy, love, and peace is also with each of us anywhere, any moment. Increased awareness of that divine presence can alert us to the beauty and grace at hand, expressed in a huge variety of ways – a bird singing, a child smiling, a tail wagging. At any moment we can seek out, listen for, and appreciate the beauty and grace that are all around us. It's more challenging to do that when it isn't obvious that something good is going on or at times when everything looks dark. But looking for the light or listening for the joy can be a major turning point.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science and founded the Monitor, acknowledged that it's our growing understanding of God that enables us to see and accept the good going on. She wrote, "As mortals gain more correct views of God and man, multitudinous objects of creation, which before were invisible, will become visible" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 264). It's our awareness of the truth of God, and of each of us as His spiritual idea or expression, that opens our eyes, ears, and hearts to notice and embrace the goodness.
When circumstances make it hard for me to do this seeking and listening, I've been encouraged by a statement in the book of Jeremiah that records God as saying, "I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God" (24:7). Knowing that God has given us a "heart to know [Him]" has comforted me at times when I've felt that God is distant. Acknowledging that He has fashioned my heart to know Him has enabled me to find my way back to feeling the divine presence, even in dark times.
For some, the present economic situation may seem full of waiting to see what's going to happen to the world's financial condition. Taking time to notice the good that's going on around us now can truly help. To think one has to wait for good can tend to put off happiness, mental well-being, or fulfillment until later. This waiting actually denies the fact that God is with us here and now, and inadvertently affirms the absence of all that the divine presence includes – security, love, insight, creativity, beauty, confidence, and peace, to name a few.
We don't have to wait for something to happen or for circumstances to change in order to be happy or calm. We're not in a holding pattern until things get better. The joy and peace that are ours by virtue of our nature as God's sons and daughters aren't a distant goal. They are ours now – and always have been.