Were you really there?
“Bells to be rung and a wonderful fling to be flung…” Half way through You Make Me Feel So Young at a recent show in London, I noticed a table of three, all with their phones in hand, filming me. They did this for most of the evening, in fact. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be filmed and photographed, I love the attention, but if we spend all of our time behind a lens, aren’t we missing the very thing we’re supposed to be enjoying?
I remember whale-watching in Alaska. I was so keen to get a great shot of the whales that I barely moved the camera away from my face. The result was dozens of grainy, distant, dorsal fins, and the feeling that I had missed out entirely on the experience.
I hesitate to compare myself to a large, cumbersome, migrating mammal, but if you go to all that trouble to see something, why not actually see it?
Maybe we should take a leaf out of Osho’s book (more about him another time) and “be here now”, fully present and engaged in whatever’s happening as it’s happening: seeing a concert, whale-watching or watching Strictly.
Like most worthwhile things, this is easier said than done. Social media has conditioned us to have shorter and shorter attention spans. If a photo doesn’t grab our attention within a second it’s dismissed with a flick of the thumb. Same with looking for a partner: swipe, swipe, swipe. We dismiss people like we’re swatting flies. Whether it’s a movie, a piece of art or a potential spouse, we seldom take time to find the substance of anything. The sorry result is that to get noticed everything’s getting brighter, louder, ruder, meaner and more sexualised. The only way anyone can catch our attention is to shock us, and what’s shocking now will be tame next year. Cole Porter was right, “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking, but now God knows, anything goes.”
It’s one of the reasons I write these little articles instead of sharing pictures of my breakfast. I’m hoping there are enough people out there with the attention span to read the whole thing. And since you’re here, that means you. Well done!