At Attention

Some moments can’t be recorded, photographed, or put in a time capsule to return to later. They must simply be lived, absorbed as if by osmosis.

I was thinking of this at a concert we went to several weeks ago. Sitting between a friend and my husband, listening to the best banjo and mandolin players in the world—there’s something that can’t be recorded. It’s why we still pay to see live concerts in the age of Youtube and live streaming. There’s something about being in the same airspace, with the sound floating, leaping out at you, surrounding you, soaking into you. The music seems to seep through your skin, into your soul. You can’t get that any other way—no matter how good your Bose surround sound might be.

We sat in a mass of humanity, riveted by the tinkling melodies of the duo so unassuming on the stage, surrounded by other heads nodding in time to the beat, slight smiles of delight tilting the corners of mouths. You could feel the real-ness of it—the aliveness of the moment. I could feel the music seeping through my skin to my soul. 

The thick musky scent of the sea grew steadily stronger, telling of a rising tide filling the port. And the breeze, the cool breeze, longed-for respite after the hottest week of the summer—sweeping in around us, between us, dancing with the music. It was a moment that could not be recorded—it could only be lived. And I sat at attention at this realization, not wanting to miss anything, wanting to absorb it all—the music, the fingers flying over frets and strings, the garish Little Mermaid set in the background, the whoops and applause of appreciation, the breeze, the sea air.

Isn’t most of life like this? You can take hundreds of photos of your wedding day, but never be able to bottle up the symphony of sounds, smells, colors, feelings of that day when you committed your life to your spouse. You can’t recreate the moment when your child was born or smiled at you for the first time. You can’t repaint last night’s sunset, or the way the sky boiled gray and looming from the approaching storm. We only capture these moments, we bare our souls to them, opening wide to let them in, to soak up as much of them as possible—or they slip by.

We live in a distracted world, and we’re pulled on every side away from the life moments steadily streaming by. We look down at our phones, and not at other people or the scenery. We play games alone on our devices instead of carrying on a conversation. And we become irritated when life knocks on our shoulders, pulling us to the moment, distracting us from distraction.

The Bible says there is wisdom in numbering our days (Ps. 90:12). I think part of this is recognizing the scarcity of the life here available to us. The moments are limited. They’re a treasure, not a luxury.

We capture them by keeping our eyes open, by attending, by listening deeply. We make room for them by slowing down, by refusing to make busyness a virtue. We stay on alert for beauty, for joy, for delight. We watch for them, embrace them, or miss them.