A post at The Long Now blog reminded me of this 2007 story and how virtuosity so often goes unnoticed.
Laboring in the Washington, D.C. metro, world-famed musician Joshua Bell performs Bach. Few even slow down.
Jeff Bridges - also linked at Long Now - wondered whether we recognize genius out of context. It's a good question. The unusual is a lot like that rare zoological treasure - we appreciate it because it's been confined to our field of view, or perhaps because it's safe to approach. Out of context, or in Bell's case, the concert hall, we hurry past.
I like to think that the child being bum-rushed past the scene by his mother in Bridges' description was on to something. Not yet old enough to have formed an opinion and with no job to go to, he has an uncalculated attracted to Bell's sonic universe. As for the others, it's hard to understand what many of them were thinking.
Maybe they were just Mahler fans.
I was reminded, too, that the one of the reasons I appreciate the IdeaFestival is that for a few days each year I can set aside the sumptuary codes that tell me what I should eat and see and appreciate, and simply savor what's in front of me for what it is. Frankly, I'm not sure I'd recognize genius either. But it won't stop me from telling my friends a few years hence that I knew it all along. "You should have been there!"