Busk & Seek

During my recent visit to San Sebastian we came across a marionette street performance that, I felt, was ingenious. Renaissance festivals and kindergarten aside, I couldn’t remember the last time I saw a marionette performance. Those that did come to memory were definitely not as clever, nor were they as well crafted as this Beatles set-up. Which got me thinking about street performing, or “busking” as it was termed in the middle 1800’s. Interestingly enough, considering it was my time in Spain that rendered me curious about busking in the first place, the word “busk” comes from the Spanish root word “buscar”, meaning, “to seek”.

I imagine it’s the seeking part that renders some uneasy when they encounter street performers. Generally speaking, people are funny when it comes to money. Personally, I’ve always relished and in some cases even counted on street performers. You see, in mid-adolescence my family moved from the Bay Area to Salt Lake City, so during my summer I would go back to California to stay with friends and venture to the city. Walking up the stairs from the BART station into Union Square I knew I would see, ‘the silver guys’ – the first images that pop up if you type San Francisco Street Performers into Google. From there I’d head down to the wharf to catch a ferry over to Sausalito and knew on my way I would see, ‘the bush man’. They were a staple for me, part of the fabric that encompassed the city I missed. Despite feeling out of place in my new SLC dwellings, seeing them assured me that all was still right with the world. During that time of growing up, they were the constant when everything else was just constantly changing.

Perhaps if I had not had that experience, I would be like the countless others I’ve seen pass by or actively avoid an encounter with street performers. Now I’m not attempting to open a debate reflective of, the Good Samaritan study, more just expressing an open curiosity about the experiences that can be missed when we are shut off.

Paul McCartney once dressed down and went busking for a documentary and no one noticed him. One of the most famous faces to span multiple generations, and no one noticed. How is this possible you ask – because no one even looked at him. Can you imagine hearing about that the next day at the water cooler and thinking to yourself, I’m one of the dumb bastards that walked past Paul McCartney.

Much like the street performers of San Francisco, the marionette creator will always be part of the San Sebastian fabric for me. When I watch this video of The Beatles Marionettes, it doesn’t just remind me of the clever concept that captured my attention on the boardwalk that day. It also reminds me of the beautiful La Concha beach views, the salty warm air, and the life changing tapas I devoured later that night.

So the next time you’re out and something catches your attention, remember the seeking aspect of street performance doesn’t necessarily refer to money, at least not money alone. For those sharing their talent, it is more about seeking an audience that their work resonates with. Knowing that their creativity has connected with someone and is valued. And really, isn’t being connected and understood something we all seek having, in our own unique ways.

Want to check out some cool video of famous buskers? Go to Streets Got Talent
Want to know more about the Good Samaritan study done at Princeton by Daniel Batson and John Darley in 1973. Social Psychology blog does a great breakdown.

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