Whenever I’ve been engrossed in a good movie or TV show and the credits finally roll, there’s a moment of shock when I return to my immediate reality. It seems like I had been in a completely different time and space; like I had been in the movie. When it’s all finished and I look around me then and see the room I’ve been in, there’s that jarring moment when I remember who and where I am. I’d like to call this a cinematic forgetting.
Being in a completely new environment, a fantastic and inviting environment, I’ve been disappointed in myself when I walk around with headphones, as I often do. I play the music and it’s like I’ve superimposed my own soundtrack onto something else… I’ve disengaged with the environment as-it-is to create a highly personalized and explicitly constructed version of the environment. I was walking to the grocery store listening to whatever it was… “Alone” by Singularity? I was somewhere in my periphery: the recently rained-upon cement and the asphalt roadside, but nowhere in particular… in a music trance. And suddenly a confetti-storm of brilliant yellow leaves fell and swirled from the high trees. I looked up and realized that there was a present moment. I stopped in awe of them. What is kind of sad and ironic is that I didn’t take my headphones off and then I proceeded walking and wondered what the swirling leaves must have sounded like. I think I relished in imagining what they would have sounded like more than listening to what they actually sounded like. And then I felt like a narcissist; like my version of the leaves could have been in some way better than the leaves themselves. I realized that I’m in the habit of indulging a cinematic forgetting. And then I realized that, perhaps by way of technology and our own unavoidable zeitgeist, we have all come to prefer a cinematic forgetting to what is immediately before us.
THEN I realized that by lamenting the current state of affairs, I was falling prey to nostalgia… like there was an earlier time without technology when we all engaged in the present moment. No, no. If it wasn’t headphones, then certainly is was just plain old egotism. A hyperactive intellect or a hyperactive self-consciousness or other preoccupation that prevented people from being aware of/connecting with their present. It would have been the same egotism without the sexy ubiquity of glamorous music and glamorous headphones. Sexy people selling them to us.
If we attribute our disengagement with our present moment and our environment to some other construct like capitalism, or late capitalism, or you name it, then we’re missing the point entirely. Call me a hopeless Romantic, but I think the Individual still needs to take responsibility for their disengagement. We do have the ability to take headphones off… or, we still have the ability to love yellow leaves despite headphones. It is still a possibility to decline our egotistic superimpositions and embrace or remember the present moment. To embrace the other. We don’t have to be fundamentally egotistical beings. But we can be if we really want to be. I’m not saying it’s universally correct to decline the cinematic forgetting. But I propose that there is a great deal of beauty in the experience of uniting with immediacy and now. Perhaps moderating cinematic forgetting and yellow leaves makes for an everyday balanced diet.