That’s a line from the 2009 George Clooney pic “Up In The Air”. It struck a chord with me then, and I still love it now. I’m reminded of it whenever I go to a concert. Have you been to any gigs lately? It’s the strangest sensation. I was at Tom Petty in the o2 a while back, and I looked around at one point at the 9,000 people in attendance, about half were watching the gig through the screens on their smartphone, recording the whole thing. Then they’d stop and save the file, take a few pics, fidget a bit, instagram or tweet them, and get ready for the next song.
This always makes me laugh. They’ve spent €100 to come and see this once in a lifetime gig. Here they are playing with their phones for the duration. And I would bet you every penny I have that about 1% of them will ever watch these videos again, and when they do, they’ll be watching with a friend, pointing to a tiny dot on the screen saying “That’s him, I’m telling you!” It is apparently a novel concept, but why not just watch the stage, hear the music, soak in the atmosphere, and live the moment?
Maureen has already written about the beauty of photography and she is right to say that capturing moments are an amazing future gift to ourselves. There’s a photo of my dearly departed father and I at Wembley, the old Twin Towers in the background, taken on cup final day in 1995 (with our beloved Liverpool running out winners) that I will display proudly on my mantelpiece forever. It captures that moment beautifully for me. But equally, with the accessibility of photo and video in 2014, there is a danger that you can spend too much of your time documenting a moment and not enough actually living it. That used to be me at the gig, snapping and recording to my hearts content (and no, I don’t go back and watch the blurry videos with the dreadful sound!) Has anyone ever been on a night out that felt more like a photo-shoot? Or spotted the person at the wedding/birthday party/whatever occasion who can’t sit still for a minute for taking pictures?
I write this as someone who struggles with being present, who doesn’t find it easy to just sit and be. Joanna wrote all about the challenges of being mind-FULL rather than mindful and I can certainly relate. But the value of slowing down and breathing in the day is still substantial and a goal worth achieving, even for the busiest minded of people. I started by quoting George Clooney, so in keeping with the film theme, I think we could all do worse than to heed the words of the title character in the 80’s classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, when Ferris tells us:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
In keeping with all of this, in spite of my busy mind, I try and make a point of stopping and smelling the roses, of being present once in a while. I have in the past been a tad obsessive with getting pictures and videos of everything, but these days when I have a big occasion, my main goal is just to be there and feel it. Indeed, it occurred to me the other day that I never took a single photo at my daughters christening, something I will have to explain to an angry teenager in years to come. (Thank God I can point her to this blog!). But I have much stronger memories now, more vivid recollections because I’m there, living the moment. I make a conscious effort to be more present at a big occasion, but that’s not to say I don’t try and find the beauty in the every-day – indeed, sometimes that’s the most rewarding of all.
To illustrate this, I’ve had a busy summer – my first where my daughter, who’s just gone 15 months, can really appreciate the world. We’ve been out and about most weekends to fun fairs, markets, beaches, parks, playgrounds etc. anywhere to have a family day out, keep Carra amused and my wife and I sane. But I vividly recall my favourite moment of our whole summer – one night a few weeks back, we were home and chilling out on the sofa, watching a movie. My wife lay down next to me and rested her head on my left hand side. Then Carra came over to me. “ilk ilk ilk!” she said. (ilk is Milk, in her world). I scooped her up and planted her on my lap and popped in her bottle. The film we were watching came to an end and the screen went black, making the TV a giant mirror of sorts, and staring back at me was my reflection, with both my girls all snuggled into me, happy as you’ll ever see them. I felt like a king among men. Sentimental by my nature, my biggest goal in life has always been just to be a husband and father, and a good one at that. I am a man of simple pleasures and I derive most of my happiness from those around me. I could feel myself swelling with pride and happiness as I looked at our family all huddled together. There may not be a photo of it, but the image is burnt into my brain and it’ll live there. Moment, consider yourself captured!
I share this with you because it’s a reminder to me that if you make the effort to calm yourself and appreciate where you really are and what you’re experiencing at any given point in time, you could find a gratitude and happiness that you might otherwise have missed. So ask yourself, what are you missing??
Image courtesy of zirconicusso
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