The Gift of Being Present

"Mo, put the camera down."
"Just one more shot, please!"
"Mo, put the camera down."
"Just one more, it'll look so good in the compilation video if I get this!"

This conversation is a small snippet of the inner dialogue I had with myself while attending the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Parade earlier this evening in Tin Hau, Hong Kong. A few of my fellow exchange friends and I met up to attend the first of what seems to be several festivals we will get to partake in during our time in Hong Kong. I've been looking forward to this exchange for years, and now that it's here, it makes sense that I would want to capture Every. Precious. Moment. 
However, in so doing this, I realize how easy it is to miss the moment.
I'll spare you the details of academic research that has successfully-obviously-concluded that my generation has an obsession with archiving. Thank you Facebook, Instagram and Insert Social Network for highlighting our inner desires to collect and share [ and show-off] our moments, from the life-defining to the mundane.
The problem is that as we're so busy taking selfies (selfie-sticks in hand) with the Bruce Lee statue on the Avenue of Stars, we're missing the moment of realizing that we are standing with THE Bruce Lee statue on THE Avenue of Stars. The effort we put into capturing the moment causes us to miss the moment itself, until we're thumbing through our iPhotos and are reminded that we've had an experience.
Life is meant to be lived, not thumbed through.
Don't get me wrong, I consider myself a photographer and have even written a poem/letter to the DSLR camera I intend to buy. I believe in photography, filmmaking, journaling, audio recording, and all the other things we've invented to help us record what matters most. What I'm against is getting so caught up in how amazing the record of the moment could be, that we don't take it in as we experience it.
Food tastes better than it looks in our Instagram feed, just like I always tend to look more flattering in person than any selfie I have ever attempted. Yes, it's exciting to capture all of these amazing events, but being able to look back on a moment where you were fully-present is always better than searching for a hashtag of it.
Tonight, while watching the process of parade participants burn incense sticks to light the dragon, I fought for eyespace not with the others attending the parade, but with their phones and DSLRs rapidly clicking away. There was this particular moment when I finally had the process in clear view, literally, the perfect view. But quickly came a Samsung Galaxy that snagged the view from before my eyes. The worst part about it all is that the resulting photo couldn't hold a candle (or an incense stick!) to the amazing process unfolding right before our eyes. It was too blurry, with poor lighting that could never tame the dragon before us into a camera lens.
This is a photo of people taking photos:
(I realize including photos in this post is nearly contradictory, but I thought I'd spice up the visuals!)

Every experience we get is a gift, and that is why it's called the present. This is a main theme of what God has been teaching me this year, and highlighting since I arrived in Hong Kong. I have this sort of fantasy of being back at USC in the spring, and just being effortlessly cool and wise and cultured because of my time abroad. Every time I picture it, I remind myself that by the time that image could come true, my current time in Hong Kong will be over. And though I decided to come here with the hope that it would open the door for me coming back in the future and maybe even living here, the future isn't nearly as tangible as the now.

This is not a word to YOLO for YOLO's sake. This is a reminder for both me and you, dear reader, to embrace what we have in front of us, and who we have in front of us, because that's the only thing we can control.

I brought my phone and camera to be able to document what I experience here in Hong Kong, and sometimes, I forget to do that until my phone dies and I have no choice but to be present to these experiences. Although I'm looking forward to the compilation video I've been working on for this trip, I hope that it shows more than a pocket full of memories I was too busy composing to enjoy, but a video-guide to a time where I fully enjoyed being with God and my new friends, in a land that took our breath away, over and over again.*

Thanks for reading!

*This "take my breath away" statement is an allusion to the fact that Hong Kong means "fragrant harbor." Too corny? I'll accept it.

1 comment:

Gabby said...

your writing skills though...
Lol seriously the way you put words and ideas together is amazing. "Look forward to the present", I've stuck by this concept while being here in SA. In constantly thinking and worrying about the future I realized that I blinded myself to the reality of the present. It's kind of cool that we are learning similar lessons at the same time :) Keep growing Mo =]