Monday, July 29, 2013

You had to be there

We may not always like to admit it, but someone who is eighty five years old may not be around for that much longer. Ennio Morricone, the great film music composer, was a few months short of that age when he conducted an orchestra and choir in Dublin recently. So why did more than a hundred people walk out to the bar during his performance of Gabriel's Oboe?

They were ignorant: Ignorant of the nuisance they were causing to other concert goers. Ignorant of the insult they were paying to the musicians. Most of all ignorant of what they were missing.

When I was growing up ‘ignorant’ was one of the strongest rebukes my parents used. An ignorant person is someone who does not know how to behave around others. They have bad manners and, worse, they are don’t know that they do.

So why were so many people, who had paid large sums of money for their tickets, so ignorant?

One thing that has changed since I was growing up is that now we are accustomed to using technology to record and replay our pictures, music and movies over and over again. If you wear headphones much of the day you learn that you can change, or replay, your soundtrack whenever you want to.

When you are used to the idea that you can pause or rewind at will, maybe what gets forgotten is that each moment is unique. Friends lives change, children grow up—‘I will someday’ becomes ‘I wish I had’ before you’ve even noticed.

Most of the thousands of people watching Morricone conduct on a rainy Dublin evening will never have had that experience before, and never will again. When the clouds parted and a rainbow arched over the stage we shared a moment of magic. You had to be there to feel the music then.

That is really what the people who trudged to the bar while the music played were ignorant of—physically they were there but they missed the experience.

Technology can help us to remember, but a recording is not a substitute for an experience.

Life comes to us in a series of moments, special times and special days, often shared with special people. These moments are fleeting, they pass, loved ones pass away, stolen by time.

We need the art of being in the moment to get the most from the chances we are offered—to share, to experience, to live.

You can press replay as often as you like, but you can never bring a moment—or a missing loved one—back again.

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