Recently, I had the pleasure of attending an Anthony Hamilton concert in Atlanta. Despite my love for music, I am generally averse to big name concerts. So, it had been a while since I had ventured into a large venue for an A-list act. I was shocked and dismayed by the number of people who spent a majority of the concert taking video with their smartphones. I honestly couldn’t believe it! I mean, what in the hell are you going to do with that low-quality video recording from the upper mezzanine with the shitty audio? Are you honestly going to re-watch this concert later…on your phone?
When I got done judging them and shaking my head, I began to wonder what was really underneath the impulse to record the concert. Why did so many people prefer to mediate their immediate experience with a technological device? What did they plan to do with these recordings? Why was simply sitting and enjoying the show not sufficient?
The thing about concerts (and many experiences, really) is that they are ephemeral. They happen. They happen gloriously! Talent and passion and soul and art and emotion! It’s an explosion of some of the best life has to offer. And then it’s done. It disappears. Within hours, the exhilarating experience is over, and the crew tears down the stage. So fleeting is it that you wonder if it really happened. You leave with nothing to show for it except afterglow (and maybe merchandise if you got suckered into purchasing something on the way out). And perhaps we just don’t know what to do with such fleeting wonder.
We are accustomed to capturing, saving, syncing, backing it up. Everything is archived and retrievable for reasons I don’t think we are always sure of. What compelled people to record the show? There are many possible reasons, and I think those reasons are worth contemplating for the insights they may yield about our present human condition. But I just want to challenge myself and others to embrace the ephemeral. Not to capture and contain it. But to grasp it with your whole self in the moment. To have the discipline to turn off your phone. To be present. To look around. To connect. To dive into the wonder and beauty of right now. To rid yourself of the delusion that what you capture on your gadget will be an adequate representation of the glorious moments you, quite ironically, missed in an effort to not miss a thing.
Can we learn to love and surrender to those ephemeral experiences in life and hold them within ourselves – not diffusing their magic by disseminating a mediated version of those experiences, but containing the wonder in our memory and soul?