Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - The Selfie Stick vs. The Roman Coliseum, Part One

Part One
"The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it." Thich Nhat Hanh

The first historical site we visited when we landed in Italy was the Roman Coliseum. We expected to be overwhelmed with the scale of this 2,000 year old masterpiece and the many centuries of our collective history that we'd feel in those stones. What we didn't expect was to fly 5,113 miles and then be swarmed, literally swarmed, by crowds of pushy vendors hawking - not souvenirs - but SELFIE STICKS! Nor were we prepared, once inside, for every view to be obstructed by dozens of sightseers wielding their cameras atop those ubiquitous shafts.
All of Italy wasn't like that, but it does seem that the essence of modern tourism is no longer about being there, marveling at the amazing sights and sounds and tastes of faraway places. No, modern tourism now requires BEING SEEN in those faraway places. That requires photographs of oneself with those famous sites in the background, which, in turn, creates the compelling need for selfie sticks.
Pity the poor tourist who arrives in one of those famous places without selfie stick in hand. Once they realize the gravity of their plight, they have no choice but to buy some cheaply-made selfie stick at extortionate prices from one of those hordes of vendors buzzing around the entrances to every attraction in the world. To do otherwise would totally ruin the whole trip!
Somewhere along the way we have lost the sheer joy of simply being there.
I remember, not many years ago, sitting with my children in the early morning light on the top steps of the Grand Pyramid of Kukulkan in Chichen-Itza, Mexico, and being awestruck with the magnificent setting.

I remember, not many years ago, going up in the elevator in the Eiffel Tower - the EIFFEL TOWER, for heaven's sake - and pinching myself that I was actually in Paris.

I remember, not many years ago, seeing Iguazu Falls on the border of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay and having a hard time catching my breath at the grandeur of the jungle and the rainbows and so much water cascading down from every direction.

This stunningly gorgeous world is so full of so many amazing places that deserve to be savored and relished for themselves, not merely used as a backdrop for yet another selfie.

I fear that our selfie culture is quickly robbing us of the ability to appreciate beauty, creativity, and historical context. In just a few short years, we have begun to lose the ability to be in the moment. I worry that our capacity to celebrate the present, to enjoy the here and now, is slipping away from us.

In our quest for "likes" and "views" and "followers" and other measures of social media fame, we are forgetting what it feels like to feel. We are missing the wonder and magic and happiness of simply being there.
To be continued.

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