All good things must come to an end…unless you have a camera. The digital age has allowed us to capture the best and worst moments of our lives. But at what point does the camera become a barrier to our experience instead of a safekeep? We’ve all scrolled through social media to see long recordings of concerts or every possible moment of vacation. Maybe you were even the one posting it. But in capturing that moment do you change it?
Life provides the seeds for a mental garden. Experiences dig the holes, water the plants, and wait for them to blossom into precious memories. Photos and videos can be a guide through that psychic landscape; reminding us which turns to take and the names of our sweetest smelling perennials. But they can also be the weeds. There’s room for coexistence between flowers and weeds, but the problem with weeds is that they stunt the potential of their more desirable companions and left unchecked will smother them. Mechanical lens can do either. With a quick snap, memories come flooding back, opening the garden’s gate wide to nooks and crannies once forgotten. However, too much artificial dependence leaves you with just the petals and none of the rose. How can Experience nurture the garden if you never really experienced the moment to begin with? If documenting the moment takes precedence over your presence, the moment’s colors are dulled, sapped away by the act of clicking a button. And it’s even worse if the picture is for public consumption. The moment loses its spontaneity, intimacy, and most importantly its genuineness. In short, the weeds take over. With the click of a button, you’ve cheated yourself.You’re left with the essence of the rose instead of the rose itself. And that isn’t nearly the same thing. Tricked into the false sense that we can relive that moment through technology, the right amount of importance isn’t given to actually living it.
But maybe cameras are neither guides nor weeds. They’re flower pickers which poses a problem. To pick or not to pick; that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to let memories, like flowers, wilt and fade on their vines. Or take arms against the hands of time. And by opposing them, pick it. You can dress memories in a vase. Dry them between pages of books and store them away for later. But ultimately, they will wilt and fade too; lost among albums of other once prized moments. If the end is the same, why does it matter which road is taken? I believe that there is something more precious about a moment left uncaptured. There is beauty in ephemerality and understanding that makes all the difference. Realizing what you have right now, you can never have again, forces you to be present so that finality can truly be cherished.
It’s hard to be present all the time. A matter of fact, I imagine it would be quite exhausting and maybe even a little depressing recognizing that everything is fleeting. So, I’m not advocating for the complete dismissal of cameras and other memory aids. They have their place and purpose. But I bet looking back through your digital catalogs the most spectacular parts of that concert or the most joyous parts of that vacation were left unseen by artificial eyes. Some flowers were not meant to be picked.