Live in the Moment, but Do It later
Be mindful to step out of the moment…so you can relive it again and again
Not one self-development article browsing session goes by that I’m not hit with a plea to stop taking pictures and to live in the moment. Anyone feeling the urge to espouse this particular advice in the future should take a picture of this article for later reference.
Two and half years ago, having the opportunity to pursue a drastically different lifestyle than any I had known, I sold everything except a few duffle bags of clothes, bid farewell to life on land, and moved onto a sailboat. If ever there was a period of time to not dwell on the past or fret about the future, to “live in the moment,” this was my time.
For twelve months I sailed through beautiful sunsets and sunrises, snorkeled with rainbows of fish, lounged on my own deserted islands, learned how to ride a motorcycle, brushed up on my Spanish, immersed myself into other cultures, speared lobster and grouper for dinner, and was pursued by sharks trying to steal those dinners. That condensed period of twelve months packs more memories than my previous 20 years of vacation.
And what activity do I appreciate more than any other during that epic period of life? Taking pictures.
That’s not to say I particularly enjoyed the act of taking pictures. I didn’t revel in the moment like an Ansel Adams or Chase Jarvis, passionately pursuing the perfect photograph. And while I did enjoy the self-gratuitous, social media harlotry of some images, it wasn’t what made the endeavor worthwhile either. No, what I value most about those photographs is my ability to revisit again and again those fleeting fractions of time.
As human beings, our memories are fallible by design. We weren’t built to remember everything, nor do we want to. The sole purpose of our memories is to be self-serving for the future to the extent it improves our lives. Memories are lessons that help us avoid previously encountered dangers and once again obtain food, clothing, shelter, and sex. Over time, however, as we’ve crawled out of dangerous caves and into our comfortable lives of leisure, we have found ourselves wanting to remember things that aren’t necessary to our continued survival, and we have the technology to do so.
The collective effort necessary for me to write this essay included grabbing my phone, opening Google Photos, and scrolling with my thumb. In fact, the most difficult part was having to lean my torso forward off of the couch in order to snatch my cell from the coffee table. And the reward for such effort?
I just relived the freedom that is being towed in warm, turquoise waters behind our boat in the Bahamas. I had a conversation with two old men I can barely understand through their thick accents as they carve up their day’s haul of fish and conch while nurse sharks and green turtles wait for their scraps. I smelled the staleness of a brick of sea-soaked marijuana jettisoned from a drug runner’s freight onto an uninhabited island, and remember the excitement of thinking we might stumble across a small fortune of cash. I felt the pain of two second degree motorcycle burns after an endlessly frustrating day of sliding down a clay soaked mountain in suffocating mist. I’m reminded on that same day I almost died when my motorcycle nearly dragged me under the railings of a bridge into the ravine below.
I relived all of that from the comfort of my couch, all because I stopped “living in the moment” for a few seconds and snapped a photo. And for that, I am grateful.
So, shoot away, shutterbug. Shoot away.