“You can’t get this moment back!” Said the dynamic Zolani, the lead singer of Freshly Ground from the stage after the applause. It seemed like she was looking straight at me as I gingerly lowered my awkward tablet, which I had been using as a camera to try and record her mesmerizing act. It is a habit I have, to insist on documenting every moment so that I can keep it and show it later one day in the future. I had an illogical sense that it was my responsibility to record this concert. (As if it were a tribal duty. I guess I am a natural story-teller and I felt there was a historical significance. This was the last concert that Freshly Ground were playing with the beautiful violinist Kyla Rose and Zolani was so heavily pregnant with her second child.) Yet there were professional camera’s properly recording the event it was not necessary for me to be trying to capture it on my own insignificant digital device. It was not my work to record it. It was finally a chance to relax and enjoy and have fun.
“You can’t get this moment back!” Zolani reminded me, and I felt so ashamed to be trying to hoard moments.
Zolani reminded me that there was no reason to hold on to the history. It was about being fully present now. Where was my spirit and energy to join the song and move my body to the music? By doing that I would be open to receiving the incredible energy she was giving out and to give some back. I would then be fully participating and therefore able to join in the spirit of the community of that amazing moment, which was a gathering of old friends just around Christmas at this very special show. That would be living it for real. Its a drag to hold on to moments. Literally, you hold yourself back and you put a spanner in the works. Even worse, I was trying to dance and record at the same time. Thereby spoiling both the video footage and the dance.
Yet it is so often that we feel that significant moments have to be captured on some external memory in order to exist. I realize that this is a global phenomenon of the digital age. I am not the only one being so illogical. So often at my local the beach, I see tourists from the far East in their formal clothes and shoes. Their children are enjoying the waves enjoying the sensations of sand and water. Yet the adults are holding up camera’s capturing the moment madly as if it were a photo shoot. I empathize with the children whose parents are even too busy in this moment of free time to connect with their children and their environment playfully because they have such an urgent need to capture the moment. To try and own it, it is a misguided sense of power. Does recording each moment of their holiday make it feel more real? Is it a habit of being over-responsible and always having to be working on something? Or does it help them to integrate it with their idea of reality? Is the intention to record being on the beach while the children splash in the waves in this instant, so that later in their apartment they will have it as a physical memory that they traveled somewhere else. Will they have the time to trawl through those hard drives. Will they feel the moment then? Will they tell themselves that they took a long happy moment together that day, when in truth, they did not really even take their shoes off and feel the sand beneath their feet.
“We cannot hold on to this moment.” Says Zolani, who has an awesome capacity to feel. She is fearless in how far she is able to take it, Sangoma-like, she allows herself to be filled with spirit and by doing so, finds power and energy in reaching a full embodiment of complete spiritual presence in universal time, channeling the message and connecting us all with her powerful voice and lyrics. It is so spiritually uplifting that the crowd loves her. They jubilate with cries of delight. Yet many of us hold ourselves back, and remain separated from the extreme emotion and intensity that she is offering, we shield ourselves from the energy with our screens as we hold up our tablets and phones, remaining impartial, like the media. It kind of keeps us above it all. Floating like observers watching it on TV. We stand at the concert watching it on our little screens, when we could be enjoying the real thing. This also happens when we hold up our camera’s and phones to try and capture a beautiful sunset, the beautiful view, the beautiful moment. But we cannot hold on to a moment. Moments pass.
Just as lives pass. Parents pass on into the next realm. Children grow up. We grow old. We live to see another day, or we do not. The chance is only here now. Then it passes. How much are you prepared to take in now? How much are you pushing away? How much are you keeping at arms length, like me with my tablet, while I stayed comfortably neutral in my comfort zone. Yes. I heard Zolani’s warning. I put it away for a while. I got down and moved my body. Allowed myself to feel, to make a fool of myself for the love of it. Dancing to the African music enjoying the joy in it. It was a treat to be there, and I did not want to miss a second of it. Yet, like an addict, I took that tablet out again as things got more intense later and I tried to capture more moments so that I could try to hold on to them.
It is so strange to see tourists holding “Selfie sticks,” (camera’s on a stick with a trigger device) taking photo’s of themselves sitting on rocks in the ocean. In the past this would have been seen as vanity. But nowadays, the digital image of a moment seems to be more important than the moment itself. The photograph becomes evidence of ones existence. Self-realization and self image seem only possible if they exist on the internet. We become cardboard cut-outs hiding behind our social media profiles, as apposed to really just being in a place. Breathing it in, and breathing it out. Noticing the world around you.
Observation is the highest form of intelligence. A psychiatric nurse from Switzerland recently told me this, she said that research showed that the element of surprise is the best form of “shock therapy.” Traveling to new places, taking oneself out of ones comfort zone is an easy way to introduce the element of surprise. Electric shock therapy is still found effective in treating extreme depression. “It allows your mind to relax an let go.” She said. Letting go is unpredictable, it makes open to the element of surprise. This involves being open to the new, thereby getting out of a rut.
In the modern world it is so easy to get into the rut of trying to remain in control. Being in control is an illusion. “When you slide down the water slide in Muizenberg, you have to let go of trying to be in control. You have to let go. If you try to hold on you get spun out into spirals of your own trying to control your journey. So to enjoy the ride you have to let go.” Another friend told me. One should ride waterslides more often to get used to this fact.
We are heading into a time of more chaos and uncertainty as we spiral into Climate Change in 2016. We have just begun the Chinese year of the “Shifting Fire Monkey.” Be prepared for the element of Surprise. Those who try to hold on, will be left behind.
You can’t hold on. One day you are gone. Then those you leave behind may have this photo you took of yourself on a rock in the sea. Will someone you know hold onto it? Or would the moment be better spent allowing your soul to breathe in the salt air. To feel the wind and to remember its true limitlessness. When you pass on, will that moment go with you? That moment you took to just be there, feeling the ocean around you, alive in space. Alone. Would this be on your mind while you pose for a selfie to illustrate your Facebook profile or Instagram reputation as you try to justify your existence on your digital platform of significance?
When your life is drawing to a close, and family are circling around you, saying their goodbyes, will you be at peace, knowing you have truly lived. Or will you be regretting missed opportunities to connect, to say sorry, to declare your love for someone special, or to truly feel that love. To give and receive with an open heart requires unblocking it in the first place. Or were you too afraid to feel your hearts truth? Afraid that it would hurt or that it would it would cause some inconvenience, discomfort, or shame. After years of a habitually shaded heart, it becomes calcified closed, like a rusty door. Living with true heart open and is a great risk. But living with a closed heart is much more dangerous.
We are so held back behind our records of ourselves and the stories we create of each moment, trying to hold onto them and give them meaning. I do believe stories and pictures are important and significant, but I am beginning to see that it is a habit to hold onto moments. Zolani woke me up to that. I did get some pictures of the concert, but due to some technical hitch, the video I painstakingly took, sacrificing my chance to revel in the spirit of dancing to the music, did not even come out. But at least I have these photo’s and a lesson in being in the moment.