I'm on my way home yesterday, commuting via public transportation from one end of downtown to the other. Earbuds in, listening to music. In my own little commuter world. Headed home, but first to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make mac 'n' cheese for book club. Making mental grocery list.
I take the bus tunnel. Could walk from Westlake home, but the streetcar is at its southern stop. I get on. Find immediate seat. Thinking about ingredients. Listening to music.
And then I look up. The young man standing next to me is filming another young man and an older gentleman. Small handheld video camera. Pause.
Nothing life altering, but I sit and watch the younger man ask the older man about his paper-folding business. As the older man works slowly on folding a flower and talking about his website domain on go daddy. Look for a documentary featuring an interview of a paper folder on the Seattle Streetcar, coming soon to a theater near you.
It was a good reminder, however ultimately uneventful it was, to take the earbuds out. Put the phone away. Raise my gaze and pay attention.
It's a frequent topic of conversation in these iphone/crackberry/camera/mp3-player days. We all have these gadgets that can do some pretty phenomenal things.
As our guide in Thailand took video of us interacting with Burmese children, I was thankful he had that gadget on him.
When I get a funny, random text message from a friend, I'm thankful for our mutual gadgetry.
But when it takes away from our capacity to be in the moment; to truly listen to and witness the world around us; to be present with the people we are interacting with - That's where our technology has the potential to fail us.
I'm no luddite. I think technology can be used for good, and can actually help connect us in remarkable ways. It is powerful stuff. But it can also be addictive and distracting and take us out of the moment.
When I was sitting at Banya5 the other night with two dear friends, this came up. Our phones were all locked away. Other than a clock on the wall (which reminded us how long we had until they closed) - there were no signs of the outside world. We were able to relax, relate and be completely present.
We reveled in this.
A word surfaced in our conversation. Being intentional with technology.
Music can set a mood and a soundtrack to your day. Intentionally disconnecting from the world around you and listening to songs that will lift your spirits? Sounds like a good use of time.
But then, so is intentionally leaving your phone off for awhile. Letting it settle to the bottom of your bag. Leaving it at home altogether. Easvesdropping and people watching on the bus. Paying attention to things as you navigate downtown streets - like music echoing through alleyways and creative grafitti.
(Like the little silver stencils of people figures that showed up rather recently along 9th Ave N.)
The second night of our island stay in Thailand, we went to the beach to watch the sunset. The night before had been stunning. But when we got to the clearing and saw the horizon, there were a lot of clouds. It was hard to tell whether we'd get a sunset as bold as the prior night's.
And then we looked up and noticed a little rainbow up above the clouds. We all sat and watched as one little rainbow turned into three - colors shifting, moving, dancing, playing off eachother.
Definitely goes down as one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen.
And I didn't take a single picture.
It was too beautiful to get behind another gadget and spend time playing with settings and trying to capture it perfectly. (Which never would have happened.)
I needed to just watch it, through my own eyes, and fully experience it. Our group got a photo in front of it. I didn't join. Because that would have required taking my eyes off of it. And I couldn't.
I didn't want to understand the science behind it. I didn't want to break it down or have it explained to me. And I know I'm not doing it justice by attempting to describe it here.
I don't have a picture (that I took at least) of one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my entire life.
And I couldn't be happier about it.