Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Finding Nowness

Recently, on The Art of Manliness blog, in an article called "Being Fully Present as a Man," I  found that Brett and Kate McKay had written about something that has been floating through my dome since I first heard John Mayer's song "3X5":

Today I finally overcame
trying to fit the world inside a picture frame
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I'm in the mood to
lose my way -- but let me say:
You should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes
it brought me back to life
You'll be with me next time I go outside
no more 3x5's
Yes, I know -- Mayer has recently said things that often make us wish he wouldn't keep losing his way with words, but the notion in that song sort of shook me out of the digital fog that was settling around me at the time of the album's release. (He really is an insightful lyricist, and if he can keep his head from toppling sideways and rolling down the stairs, could become one of the best of all time.)

Click pic for source
The McKays focus on men and their need to be more present in the lives of those around them (it is, after all, the focus the site calls for) and they do a great job with a deep look at how men function in society emotionally, mentally and physically. Here, let's stick to the influence of technology that they touch on -- how it pulls us (men and women both) mentally and emotionally out of the picture.

We are all losing our -- what? Will? Desire? Instinct? -- to be present in the moment. The fact that we can record most of our lives on cameras has us rushing to do so. Maybe it is the same attempt man has been making since the beginning: the quest for immortality. If we click it in a picture of take video of it, the moment is preserved forever. We've stolen something from Time. We've dropped anchor in the great, rushing river.

I once had an older chap tell me, the day after my first son was born: "Make sure you capture everything on video. Believe me, you will be thankful." His kids were older and out of the house -- I get where he was coming from. But what is worth more: the experience or a record of the experience, short on one whole physical dimension? -- a record that costs you the full enjoyment of what was happening while you were fumbling with dials and trying to hold a viewscreen steady?

Click pic for source
Consider the evolutionary chart: a proto-man on all fours; then, a man standing, hunched, until finally he is upright. I wonder if we won't soon need to add another figure: the final stage of evolution will be a man walking, hunched over a cell phone/camera/iPod.

We're looking down, but we're not looking into ourselves. We're looking out, but through an eyepiece that feebly hopes to squeeze infinity into a frame. We're laughing at the fun, but not until later. We are recording to remember, but all we remember is the recording.

The solution? Take some pics; shoot some video, then put the damned camera down and sit and watch. Engage. I'm not an extremist, here. Pictures and videos are nice. But not nearly as nice as the glow that floats around a good time with friends and family. You can't smell the wine in a DVD clip.

Cheer for the at-bats; sigh contentedly in the warm glow of candles on the cake and smell the smoke after the song as you clap both free hands together. Hug your kids with both arms; play ball with them instead of watching. Paint pictures to friends and family later with words: recall, describe -- lie a little to make the story better. Your brain has far more gigabytes than any camera ever invented. Put your phone down and listen to the band. For God's sake, don't post to Facebook from the apex of a roller-coaster drop. Inhale that joyful fear and let it out in a sixty mile-per-hour yawp. You can't record that feeling anywhere but in the annals of your human soul.

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