Tuesday 28 February 2017

Screen slaves will never savour the lush pleasures of the power of now

Memories are made by experiencing them in the moment, not through a digital gadget, says Miriam O'Callaghan

Miriam O'Callaghan

SAY CHEESE: On holiday this summer, I see families sitting, scrolling around dinner tables, silenced and separated by technology from each other and the moment. Photo: Stock Image
SAY CHEESE: On holiday this summer, I see families sitting, scrolling around dinner tables, silenced and separated by technology from each other and the moment. Photo: Stock Image

It is morning in early summer. A Sunday so still, that bells rung 20 seconds before in the towers of Christ Church or St Patrick's peal in the thin, salt air of our suburban garden. At the round glass table, the adults drink coffee from jewel-colour cups. A small boy sucks cold, fluffy milk through a yellow paper straw. His smaller sister, wellington-ed, straw-hatted is eating a cut-up apple at her tiny, green, parasol-ed table set for one. Since its arrival, she likes to dine alone, or as on that morning, in the company of a chimp, purple-tinged in a certain light, soft-snug in a pink preemie romper, her golden eyes lightly scratched, the possessor of a soul.

There are no photos of that morning. No recordings. It exists only in time and memory. But having lived that morning - really lived it - 12 years later, it is possible now to relive it, moment by moment, and do so with every sense. Springy grass; sweet cinnamon on sharp apple; rough stone under rubber flip-flop; smooth cold of the heavy table; smoother warmth of light young skin; the cigarish coffee with its velvet crema seething against teeth; Issey Miyake; Johnson's shampoo; salt damp tamping bare forearms; a tang of fox that arrives on the same breeze as the scattered bronze notes.

In contrast, on holiday this summer, I see families sitting, scrolling around dinner tables, silenced and separated by technology from each other and the moment. Every day I dodge tourists, arms fully-extended, taking in cities, not with their senses, but through the rectangle in their hands which seems to pull them with an irresistible force. As they rush headlong towards another cathedral, another sculpture, another bridge, I expect them to take flight, like Superman, parallel to the cobbles or paving. Throughout, they are oblivious to the sound of the bells; the clink of ice as a waiter carries a tray of Aperol spritz to the elderly customers in the local hairdressers; the belt of setting lotion as he shoulders open the door; the lungful of coffee from the local bar; the cold curve of a 15th-Century drinking fountain under the hand.

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