Last night I had the pleasure and honor of performing Cage's 4'33" for my wife's writing class. I was seated on a bench, outside in the courtyard, with my favorite student model acoustic guitar. She led the class outside and had them stand in a semicircle around me, then turn outward.
So there is this one guy, he's the oldest in the class...in his 60s, maybe. He was agitated. He stood, clutching his briefcase, occasionally I'd hear the leather squeak a bit. Looked like he was embarrassed or uncomfortable when people would pass by and look over at us. He was just tense.
Others seemed to take it well. I could see broad smiles creeping around the sides of some faces. I set my gaze out on the city horizon and welcomed the peaceful event at the waning of daylight.
When the piece was over, everyone thanked me for coming and I smiled and thanked them back; a feeling of excitement and privilege to have shared this with them (only one person was familiar with this going into it) and I disappeared around the corner and wandered the town until her class was over.
So, as the class went inside, she was noticing that everyone was walking more slowly, they were calm, but the older dude just barreled straight ahead to the class room and sat there, fidgeting with his papers. She asked what they thought and he said something to the effect of "well if you wanted to humiliate me you could have done it in less time," and "I thought this was a writing class" or some stuff like that. He was pretty pissed. The others "got it" though, and there was good discussion.
She had a few Cage quotes on the board, and building on the session, asked them to take a little time to complete a writing exercise (it was a body awareness one, along the lines of writing from your feet to your head), and with that the guy just picked up his things and stormed out of the class.
On hearing of this, my first reaction was laughter and a bit of pride, but then I felt sad for the guy. I often feel embarrassed on people's behalf, and that was the case here. But deeper than that, I felt sad that, as she put it, he can't let go of his expectations enough to experience something deeper and perhaps unexpected.