Masters in Our Midst by Alan Cohen

I love this story that has circulated over time about Joshua Bell, the world renowned violinist. And I really love this description of the story by my friend and mentor, Alan Cohen. Enjoy.

As commuters hustled through the Washington, D.C. metro station on a cold winter morning, a musician stood next to a wall playing his violin, the case at his feet open for tips. He played six Bach pieces for 43 minutes. A few people stopped and listened for a moment, then hurried on their way. Some threw some change or a dollar into the violin case. The most attentive listener was a three-year-old boy holding his mother’s hand. He wanted to stay and listen, but his mother tugged him along. Finally the musician retrieved $32 from the case, put his instrument away, and disappeared into the crowd. No one applauded or thanked him.

Not one of the 1,036 passersby realized that the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violin virtuosos. The pieces he played were extraordinarily demanding, performed on a violin borrowed from the Smithsonian, worth three and a half million dollars. Days earlier Bell had played to a sold-out crowd in Boston, tickets at $100.
Bell’s impromptu concert was sponsored by The Washington Post as a social experiment to determine if people would perceive greatness in their midst if they were not told about the talent before them. The commuters did not expect genius, so they overlooked the rare gift offered. They were busy. They had jobs to get to, kids to get to school. Who has time to stop and listen to music on the way to work?
Might we all have moments in our life when we are in the midst of genius without recognizing it? What if you smoked pot with Barack Obama in a Hawaiian high school? Or the band rehearsing in the garage next door was the Beatles? Or you performed in a local community play with young Meryl Streep? Chances are that at the time you would have had no idea of the skill and fame your peer would achieve. The seeds of greatness lie latent in many places we do not expect them, to sprout and flower at a time destiny claims.
Every Somebody was a nobody at sometime. Every nobody could become a Somebody anytime. We would be wise to keep our antennae raised for divinity masquerading as humanity. To find God showing up as people. Grace and divine intervention rarely appear as a big golden hand descending from the clouds. That’s Hollywood. God’s gifts to humanity are delivered through people. Sometimes people you would never expect.
Let’s take the greatness vision one step further: What if the genius in your midst is you? What if your passion and unique talent has the potential to change many lives, including your own? What if you own a gift that no one else can give, and your sole purpose on earth is to deliver it? What if the master you seek lives within you, and is calling for expression? While overconfidence can be a drawback, underconfidence is a killer. The enemy of humanity is not bloated ego. Often people with bloated egos deliver talent to the world that less confident egos would hide. The real enemy of humanity is deflated ego. Humility does not imply self-diminishment. Real humility recognizes the gifts that Great Spirit has given you, and you humbly go about delivering them.
The story is told about a monastery of old monks that was dying due to lack of passion. One night a mysterious stranger showed up and stayed with the monks for several days. “One of you is the messiah,” he told them, and departed. Soon a new air of excitement filled the monastery. All the monks treated each other as a potential messiah. Many wondered, “Could it be me?” Their vocation was renewed, and in the light of their newfound inspiration many spiritual seekers visited for renewal and upliftment. Ultimately no one monk became the messiah. In a way, they all did.
There are masters in our midst. Let us know them while we can.

For more information on Alan Cohen, his courses and programs as well as access to his blog, visit or call directly at 800-568-3079.