I was at a Springsteen concert recently. One of his most famous songs — Hungry Heart — usually leads to him falling back onto the audience. He’s passed around from one group to the next miraculously ending up back on stage by the end of the song. The trust he puts on his audience is remarkable. In fact, several times during his concerts he engages his audience by breaking the “fourth wall” and snaking his way through the crowd. What’s less interesting is how many people feel compelled to pick up their iPhones to record the moment. For one example of this look at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLxPHtQs4mQ. It’s as if by not recording the moment it never happened. In fact, what is really happening is that the “fourth wall” Springsteen is so desperate to break is being erected again by the audience. They are putting an iPhone between Springsteen and themselves. This is so true of life in general. We are no longer living in the moment; instead, we are hoping to grab the moment to do…to do what with it?
More recently, I travelled to San Francisco and ended up in Dolores Park. I looked around at everyone around me and I did not see a single iPhone. No one was recording the moment. They were living the moment. The two events could not be more different. No selfies. No photographing. Just living. Neither of these moments will ever exist again. And I emphasize, the moments will never happen again; so which is the best way to have experienced them. The answer seems obvious to me.
The famous acting teacher Sanford Meisner often talked about living in the moment. One of his most famous exercises involves “repetition.” Two actors face one another and the first actor mentions one detail about the second. The second actor then repeats it only to have the first actor repeat it again. This goes on for a little while until the two actors are living in the moment. Nothing is getting in the way of them. The ultimate goal is to do away with any and all distractions and put the first actor’s focus on the second and vice versa. This creates a beautiful connection between two people and, in turn, they are able to affect one another.
Meisner was years ahead of his time. If he only knew how our attention span would shrink, how much technology would alienate us from one another, and how little of life would be lived in the moment, he’d be terribly discouraged.