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OPINION: In the moment

by Devin Houston | October 13, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

"I've always believed in savoring the moments. In the end, they are the only things we'll have." – Anna Godbersen, "The Luxe."

"I guess they're called moments because they don't last very long." – Sarra Manning, "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me."

While trying to clear some space on my computer, I was surprised to find that I had 9,704 photos and 383 videos stored on the hard drive. The photos spanned a period of about 18 years. Some were rather trivial, such as the model and serial number plate of a lawnmower that needed repair. Others featured beautiful sunrises, flowers or, ever increasingly, my granddaughter Maggie.

I thought about the billions of people who possess smart phones, incessantly recording both the mundane and the spectacular moments of their existence on digital media. Would our grandparents have taken photos of a meal with their 35-mm film cameras? Probably not, since the cost of film processing was rather prohibitive. There was also no instant feedback/gratification involved when using film media. A moment snapped by a camera back then wasn't seen until the photos were retrieved several days later if you remembered to drop off the roll of film for processing in a timely manner.

Digital photos provide instant feedback. You can take multiple shots of your restaurant meal, delete and retake, or edit right there at the table, in a matter of minutes. You don't run out of film, no time is spent loading the camera, anxiously hoping to not miss the moment you want to capture.

Photos are moments from our existence. We don't have to rely on our memory as much; we have a physical record of the moment right in front of us. Context may be missing, but the photo perhaps jogs our memory for a fuller understanding of the moment. But in the rush to capture a moment, do we actually experience it?

I attended concerts where many held up camera phones to record the entire event. They basically watched the concert through the lens of a camera, rather than becoming a part of the experience. So much for savoring the moment.

Moments, unlike photos, aren't static; the dynamics and physics of time prevent us from stopping a moment for a period of examination. We often don't realize the impact of any one moment until it has passed. As one ages, though, we begin to understand when a moment is happening. It can come upon us suddenly but, once recognized, a mature mind may allow an appreciative contemplation of the moment, even as it plays out.

I watched the last minutes of my father's life play out, part of me saddened and helpless, while another part observed with unemotional objectivity. I knew it was a "moment," and I needed to remember not only the event, but everything else involved with it: The noises, the rush of people around his bed, orders being shouted, as I watched his eyes close and knew.

Or attending a simple family meal at an outside venue, pleasantly surprised to see old friends there as well. My nephew was playing guitar and singing as Maggie and her friend tossed bean bags into the cornhole boards. As I sat there, drinking a beer and recalling old times with the school chums, I felt a moment come. Suspended between generations, my son with his family, me with my wife, watching the nephew on the courtyard stage sing Bob Seger songs, and remarking to those around us that we used to change his diapers 45 years ago. The sounds of traffic passing by, the feel of warm air from a summer evening washing over us as time seemed to slow ever so little, it was all felt. I didn't need a photo to record the moment. I was living it, and the experience was special.

-- Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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