Friday, June 27, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Remember when you had a bedtime? Remember when someone carried you when you got
tired of walking? Remember when you wiped your nose on your sleeve? Remember metal
lunchboxes? Remember when you didn’t have to plan or even pack for vacations? Remember
when you would run—really sprint—for no reason at all? Remember when Smurfs and
Matchbox cars were children’s entertainment, and actually entertained us for hours?
Remember when someone had to remind you to take a shower? Remember when you used
phonetics and mnemonics to spell words? Remember when staying up until midnight was a
special treat? Remember when you made a Chanukah or Christmas list? Remember when you
had a birthday party every year? Remember when you were always a passenger in a car?
Remember when you chose foods based wholly on smell and/or appearance? Remember when
you traded brown-bag lunches with a friend? Remember when you didn’t know (or care about)
the monetary value of things? Remember when you had to be dropped off and picked up in
order to see a movie? Remember when you had to ask to eat candy? Remember when you
routinely forgot to brush your teeth? Remember when you actually wore a bathing suit with
socks and sneakers? Remember when you played hopscotch or kickball or wiffle ball for
hours? Remember when sundown signaled the end of your day? Remember when you stored
your money in your sock drawer, or a piggy bank? Remember when growing up seemed the
ultimate goal? Remember when you built your first snowman? Remember when you didn’t
know what the words calorie or carbohydrate or protein meant? Remember when you had to
get up to change the channel on the television? Remember when summer meant more than
warm weather? Remember when you didn’t want to sleep late? Remember when you tried to
catch your dolls and stuffed animals talking, or having a party, without you? Remember when
you played House? Remember when you played Bank? Remember when you intricately folded
notes to friends? Remember TV Tag? Remember when you needed permission to chew gum?
Remember when the arrival of the ice cream man was cause for celebration? Remember when
you used to get reprimanded for sliding your sneakers on without untying the laces?
Remember when getting dressed up for an occasion was exciting? Remember when you
jumped into puddles rather than walking around them? Remember when you danced in a
torrential downpour? Remember when a snow day meant no school, unlimited hot chocolate
and watching The Magic Garden? Remember when you went sneaker shopping twice a year?
Remember using oaktag for school projects? Remember when you sent—and then had to wait
to receive—letters in the mail? Remember when a phone call cost a dime? Remember when
you didn’t know how to drive and, while you were learning, it seemed like a skill you couldn’t
conquer? Remember how free you felt when you passed your driver’s test? Remember when
homework and an extracurricular club meeting seemed like a busy night? Remember when you
didn’t attempt to interpret your dreams? Remember when you spent hours creating mix
tapes? Remember when you fell in love on a weekly basis? Remember when doing laundry
was a total mystery? Remember when you didn’t know too much about the celebrities you
liked? Remember when you had to stop at a gas station to use the pay phone so you could
call someone? Remember when you thought college was as great as life could get?
Remember the first full meal you cooked? Remember when the thought of having a child was
merely abstract? Remember when you didn’t pay attention to (or understand) the economy,
the environment, the state of health care or what the U.S. government is up to? Remember
when you only thought about yourself? Remember when you realized life is so much fuller, so
much more exciting, and just so much better now that you share it with others?
Sunday, June 1, 2008
“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak. But there is another sense in which seeing comes before words. It is seeing which establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it. The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. [. . .]. The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe. [ . . .]. We only see what we look at. To look is an act of choice. [ . . .]. We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are.”
- John Berger, Ways of Seeing
John Berger’s Ways of Seeing is a very cool and interesting book I had to read in college and have since re-read several times. I consider it philosophy, though I think it falls under the category of media studies. I have been thinking about it a lot lately. About a month ago, my bestest pal Steven won 2 tickets to see Madonna at Roseland Ballroom. Roseland Ballroom is, literally, an old ballroom; its standing room audience capacity for a concert is only 3,200 people. The only other person who loves Madonna as much as I do is Steven. Love is really the wrong word; revere, appreciate and adore are more appropriate words. Steven and I both entered a Verizon Wireless contest, and out of 35,000 people, Steven was one of 15 winners!
He invited me. For a week I referred to him only as my hero.
On Wednesday, April 30, 2008, I was within 25 feet of Madonna. She sang for about 36 minutes. The concert was amazing—her new songs are terrific, she looks fantastic and the energy in the room was electric. I couldn’t see much, because there weren’t any of those huge screens we’re used to from stadium concerts, but at the time it didn’t matter—it was me, Steven, Madonna and only 3,197 other people rocking out! I was breathless for the rest of the week.
After the adrenaline high wore off, I started to ponder something I had observed but not processed during the concert. Although I’m kind of short (OK, totally short, I admit), it wasn’t just my lack of height that prevented a view of Madonna on stage. Nor was it a plethora of tall people in front of me. The reason I could not see Madonna (or Justin Timberlake, or her dancers) very well was because there were hundreds of cameras, attached to hundreds of arms, in front of me. Even after the first song, people continued to hold cameras in the air, shooting picture after picture of Madonna.
I am still thinking about these cameras, and not just because they blocked my view. If all those people were watching the concert through their cameras, did they truly experience the concert? Did they feel the heat in the room increase when Madonna took the stage? Did their bodies register the thunderous, floor-quivering applause when Timberlake made his surprise appearance? Did they dance? Clap? Scream?
At least once a week I encounter tourists in New York City viewing our sights through digital eyes of cameras or camcorders, and it bothers me. First, because they seem to pick the worst spots to stop and snap photos, like the entrance to the subway, or on a busy street corner, or directly in front of the building I am trying to enter. Mostly, though, it bothers me because these tourists don’t stop to stare at a landmark, they merely take pictures or shoot video of it. I have to wonder: are the tourists, and the Madonna fans, forsaking a visceral memory for a great photo? If people do not really see—literally see, with their own eyes—are images ingrained in their memory? Or will they only remember the image as they saw it, and continue to see it once they have returned home, through a camera?
I do not think cameras are bad; in fact, cameras allow us to share magical moments as well as mundane monuments with our loved ones. They also encourage us to study details we may have missed in person. But when the camera eye begins to replace the human eye, I worry. Memory can be extraordinarily strong, but it is a muscle, and like all muscles, it must be utilized to stay strong.
It wasn’t until the Madonna concert that I fully developed these thoughts; however, for the past several years, without knowing exactly why, I have not taken pictures of stunning sunsets, riveting rainbows, fascinating fireworks, or mind-blowing music concerts. Instead, I stand very quietly and let the images wash over me, into my memory. I open my mind and try to encapsulate the moments that very often leave me speechless. I look. I observe. And then I see.
I would rather remember these moments of beauty and perfection myself, without the aid of photos. And if the memory fades, well then, it was meant to be.