On Being Present

Why does my phone have to die for me to live? In a world in which we are more connected than ever through technology, it seems as if our advances are becoming counterproductive. True connection lies in the way we interact with each other – with people we know, people we just met, and people we’ll never see again.

This past weekend, I attended the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware with a bunch of friends. To the narrow minded, the words “music” and “festival” together mean shitty music, shitty beer, drugs, filth, and a lot of sweaty people rubbing up against each other.

Now, while all of those things are certainly a part of Firefly, our beloved music festival represents many other things to us as a group. A weekend away, dreading my inevitable return to the “real world” made me realize that I was in the real world. What I lacked in hygiene, I made up for in consciousness.

Firefly is not just an excuse to get drunk and not shower for three days. It’s freedom. It’s a sense of community. It’s getting in touch with nature. Learning about the real you. And, perhaps most importantly, connecting with other people.

At festivals like Firefly, we learn so many things about others: what they like to drink, how they dance, what songs they enjoy, how many hot dogs they can eat in one sitting. We meet countless people we will probably never come across again in our lives, and they become our friends for the weekend, the day, or sometimes just the next few songs.

Last year, we befriended our neighbors staying at the campsite next to ours. Our grill wasn’t functioning properly the first day, so we asked if we could borrow theirs. This led to us cooking together, enjoying meals, playing beer pong, and starting a slip-n-slide party that truly got out of control.

This year, I met a girl from Texas and talked to her for about twenty minutes, learning about what she wants to do when she finishes college and how she wants to impact the world. I doubt I’ll ever see her again. I also danced and sang along with another girl for an entire set, only to be shot down when I was about to make a move. (She had a boyfriend. Nice girl, though.)

The beauty of camping without electricity for three days is that my phone remained dead for a majority of the weekend. So, instead of living behind a screen, I enjoyed the privilege of living in the moment. People should do that more often, huh?

A friend and I went to go see Cake perform last year at Firefly, and the band’s lead singer, John McCrea, addressed the crowd during the set. He urged that the crowd put away their cellphones and cameras and enjoy the moment. He said something to the effect of: “We will all never be here again in this moment, together. So, I encourage you to be present. Right here, right now.” Posting a video or tweeting or updating a status wasn’t as important as the show we were experiencing at that very point in time. Nothing was.

All experiences are like that, though. We will never be in the same exact location with the same exact people doing the same exact thing ever again. So, why do so many of us choose to live behind screens? Why can’t we appreciate experiences for what they are?

I understand that people want to have photographs and videos to capture certain moments. But if we are at a party and the only thing people are doing is taking pictures, what will these individuals say when they look at their phones and cameras in the morning? “Oh god, what did we do last night?” (HINT: The answer is “nothing” because all they were doing was posing for pictures.)

People always tell us to live for the moment (sort of like “Don’t think. Just do.“), but many fall into the trap of living for the memory of the moment. They fear that they won’t remember the important aspects of certain experiences, so they attempt to document every little detail, in turn missing out on the intrinsic value of the experience.

I mean, I would love to remember everything significant I experience, but if I need to worry about remembering it, maybe it’s not so significant to me in the first place. For example, I haven’t the slightest clue as to what the girl from Texas’ name was, nor her major, nor her aspirations. I just know that she told me those things, and I listened.

I wasn’t concerned with the future. I didn’t try to get her number or “Facebook” her or anything. I appreciated the encounter for what it was, and then moved on. (In other words, I went to urinate and she was gone when I got back to where we were standing. Nice girl, though.)

What makes an experience important is that we experience it. It is something so incredibly significant to our growth as people, and it happens to be something entirely intangible. No matter how many pictures or videos we take, we will never be able to capture the experience we gained from being in any specific situation. So, we shouldn’t be living for the moment. We should be living in it.

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3 thoughts on “On Being Present

  1. Pingback: My Sit-Down Comedy Set, With the Help of Twitter (Part 2) | Putting It Into Perspective

  2. Pingback: The Lies — WHEN WILL THEY STOP??? | Putting It Into Perspective

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