The idea of living in the moment is as old as Buddha. It’s just that never in human history have moments become so difficult to live within. Take a romantic dinner for two. You arrive at a restaurant and your spouse checks in on FourSquare. She discovers that she has a friend who has also checked in at the same restaurant. Romantic interruptus. Later you open the menu and start checking reviews on your phone. And so it goes. Another moment lost to sharing and searching.
I was watching a basketball game the other night with Jonah, one of our sons. I asked him how the two teams were doing this year. I expected his best guess. Instead he summoned the standings on his iPad to show me. A minute later Los Angeles Clippers’ power forward Blake Griffin scored on a monster dunk. I said it was the best dunk I’d ever seen. Jonah immediately called up a video of a previous Griffin dunk that was even better.
Every time I made a comment or asked an off-handed question, Jonah went to the iPad. I’m not sure he saw more than two minutes of the game. We didn’t experience the game together in real time; we processed it search question by search question, each one being an opportunity to leave the moment.
It’s even getting difficult to live fully in fictional moments. One of the great joys of reading a short story is that you willingly suspend your disbelief and in return are transported to another time and place. But if you’re reading on a tablet or e-reader, you are prompted by links to search out the meaning of a word or find related biographical detail. You might even be encouraged to engage in a real time conversation with other readers of the same book.