The Birth of the iPhone (and the Death of Concerts)

A few months ago, I went to a Mumford and Sons show at an outdoor venue near Kansas City.

The whole show was incredible, but one moment in particular has stuck with me.

Towards the end of their set, they started playing “I Will Wait”. If you’re not familiar, it goes a little something like this.

As I listened to that song under a full moon in a clear sky, and a little fog started settling over the venue, I felt something in me move. I felt like I was rising. I felt like I was lifted. I felt my heart swirl. I felt it hurt, in the best possible way.

And as that feeling rose, I started thinking about one of my good friends who joined a convent this past year, and I remembered this talk she gave on a retreat for some of our students about that song, about how Christ waits for us to return to Him, to “[come] home, like a stone, and fall heavy into [His] arms,” about how we must “be bold, as well as strong, and use [our] head alongside [our] heart” to find Him in this life.

It was a beautiful and powerful witness, and I missed her in that moment. I wished she was there with me.

I started to pick up my phone to call her.

Now, this is silly for a couple of reasons. One, she’s in a freaking convent and I don’t have the number there. Two, even if I called her and got a hold of her and held it up so she could hear the performance and know I was thinking of her, it wouldn’t really do what I wanted it to do.

That moment of lifting in my heart was what music is meant to do: music makes us ache, makes us long, pulls us out of the moment and into some fine, sticky web of Beauty that is always around us, waiting for a song or painting or mountain view to draw us in and force us to roll and thrash to strain towards what lies just beyond it.

No phone could help that.

There’s something perfectly natural about wanting to share those moments with others; if you’ve seen the movie Into the Wild, that is the realization Christopher McCandless arrives at in the end of the film (even though it’s not quite so neat and tidy an ending in the book).

We want to share our deepest experiences with those we love most.

But there is a danger inherent there, one many fall into at concerts and I perhaps fall into as well. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in trying to catch the moment so we can share it that we miss the heart of it ourselves. It’s not the moment that should be caught, but we who should get wrapped in its web.

This picture makes me sad.

United Cube in London, live at O2 Academy Brixton, 5th December 2011

So many missing the moment! So many missing the point! And sometimes I miss the point, too! Put the phones down and get stuck in the mystery of the Good and True!

This danger is present in my family life as well. We often try to capture those moments with our daughter that are cutest or most endearing so we can send them to our families. This is usually a good thing, of course, but there’s something dangerous there, too.

Sometimes it can turn into a performance of sorts, and what we really wanted to share in the first place is gone altogether.

Other times, we want to send moments to others that are really meant just for me and my wife to know. There’s an intimacy, a sort of secret closeness, within families. We will know our little girl better than anyone, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. There will be a tenderness and a communion in the knowledge that much of her life is between her and us, a gift from God meant for our eyes and hearts that the very chasing of causes to dissipate in the wind and be lost, not only to those we wanted to give it to, but to us as well.

Some things are not meant to be shared. Some moments just are.

They are exactly what they should be for who is present to them. There is an ethereal individuality of this life, a romance God means for our hearts so that He may draw close to the deepest places in our soul.

He will come to others as He wants. We need not always try to send His love to those we know. Sometimes, we must simply be present to His love in our own lives and be sensitive to what should be shared and what should instead be treasured as the unspoken lover’s smile meant only for the beloved and no other.

Our phones make it possible to share many things, but there are some that God wants only for us.

He is in love with us. I must learn to rest in that and not try to steal those moments into the “memory” of my devices.

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