Thursday, July 19, 2012

I haven't even looked at the last time I posted. I know it was a long time ago. And I've done SO MANY THINGS since then, that it gets a little overwhelming! But right now I want to talk about something in particular so the recap of goings on will just have to wait.

Today I'd like to talk about living in the moment vs. recording technology. In April I went to a mindfulness retreat led by Thich Nhat Hahn of Plum Villiage. Breathing was discussed extensively. But here we were, in one of the most beautiful settings in the world, with one of the most profound teachers in the world, and what were a good number of people doing? Taking photos and videos. Now, I understand wanting to capture a moment. I took a couple of snapshots myself. But when I say "a couple," I really mean a couple. Other people at the retreat seemed to have  their recording devices throughout the entire weekend, despite the fact that Plum Village records all their retreats and posts them online. Did no one understand the irony of going to a mindfulness retreat, and then trying to record the whole thing in video and stills for future consumption?

So the ubiquitousness of cameras/iphones is one of my pete peeves, along with a lot of other people, I'm sure. I mean, don't get me wrong: I take my camera with me wherever I go (if I could afford an iPhone, I'd have one). But I take a couple of photos, and then put the device away. Some people's jobs are to record events, such as political events. I get that. But last night at a Bruce Springsteen concert, where the cheapest tickets were 89 euros a pop (that's nearly 110 US dollars), I wondered why so many people seemed hell bent on standing there looking at the show through the screens of their phones rather than just experiencing the show and relying on their good, old fashioned, tried and tested method: their own damned memories. Like, if you just pay attention, enjoy yourself, be present in the moment, and have a good time, the movie you replay in your head of your experience will probably be more accurate, more robust, and more fulfilling than watching some shaky, far away video which, by the way, will probably feature other people's iphones more than the thing you're all supposedly there to "see." Has everyone forgotten that we have five senses, not to mention the emotions we feel when we do things, like go to a music concert or do walking meditation with an incredibly inspiring Buddhist teacher? Things that can not be recorded anywhere else but in our mind's eye. Things that are more important than recalling what way the Boss pointed when he sang "Born to Run", or what the people in the stands looked like at 9:03pm. Look around! Pay attention! I promise -- you'll remember it later.

And I want to say something else about group situations. When you're in a tightly packed space, like a mini-marathon for charity where everyone is walking, or a political protest rally, or an outdoor stadium, the person next to you can't really move somewhere else. They're there in that same packed area for the same reason you are. They also may not be able to change the fact that they have asthma, or are pregnant and sensitive to smells (no, I'm not pregnant, btw), or have another illness or allergy. I understand that you may be addicted to nicotine. That's what patches, gum, and lozenges were invented for. What I really want people who smoke in spaces packed with other people to know is that you're probably making someone next to you feel ill. And I don't mean this in a judgmental way. If you want to kill yourself, and make the people who love you most watch you die a horrible, painful death, that's your business. But if I pay a crapload of money to be somewhere, I just really wish I didn't have to put up with being made physically ill while I'm there.

You'd think from my complaining that I didn't have a great time seeing Bruce Springsteen. I totally did! But the experience was negatively affected by these two distractions. I was going to say something nasty about the oafish guy from Boston standing next to me at the show, but I'm going to refrain. Instead I'll post some photos. The photo at the top of the page, by the way, was taken by accident when I was trying to take a photo of the stage. The people in front of me were so much taller than me that that photo was taken with my arm raised as high as it would go. I kept getting great shots of dude's heads.

This one here was lucky. Mostly I watched the large screens to the left, right, and center of the stage. After a while I almost forgot that the real people were even there. I was actually quite close to the stage, but hey, that's life as a shorty. As you can see, it was a sold out show. He played for three and a half hours, and really gave it his all. If you ever have a chance to see Bruce Springsteen play live, whether you're a fan or not, he's definitely worth going to see.

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