Standing in the “inner circle” under the claw at the second Melbourne gig as Bono walked past (no, not bragging, just projecting an image heh heh) I looked around at the sea of iPhones and cameras around me, everyone had one, a couple of people never seemed to put it down, many pulled them out every time one of the band members came close. Adam Clayton stood over us almost playfully, shiny bass in hand, a wry grin over his face in a rock-
star god pose and out came the phones, and it got me wondering. A little while later the same thing became almost annoying, and as I noticed a few people almost recording the entire event while watching it through the shiny lit up mini screens only to occasionally look beyond the screen to catch a glimpse of the event that was going on in front of their eyes.
(Tangent – many people took the time to turn their camera phones away from the event in front of them in order to turn away and take photos of their friends, or in other cases of themselves. As I watched this happen over and over again (and later was informed that the same thing was giving my fiance the willies) I wondered how much narcissism is needed in order to spend $100 on tickets to an event that you would turn away from in order to take photos of yourself… perhaps there’s another thing to talk about in a little while. Tangent over… )
Hundreds of people in front of me, behind me, around me, all with their retina displays and small cameras in hand watching the concert through a screen that presented only a small image of reality, for the stage, the people and the music was too big to capture in this way, to see in this kind of way. The image would only capture a small part of the reality as the stage was so large that I had to regularly look around in order to gaze at the “bigness” of it all, the music recording would only capture a pathetic representation of the concert that they were experiencing, the bass alone distorting any hope that you could listen to this on the way home in the car, the sight of the people blurred and over exposed due to movement and bright lights would never give you a realistic image of the person as they walked by.
Then I wondered, (and here is where my fiance tells me that I read too much into these things, or that I really should stop reading philosophy and theology books and get into some good old fiction).. I wondered if what was going on before me was what we speak of when we retell the stories of the call of Moses and other Prophets in the Old Testament.
In the story of Moses God appeared and spoke through a burning bush, his true image and voice inaudible to anyone God had to find new and different ways to meet with his creation. In this story the burning bush was a necessity, a way that God and Moses could connect, could commune with one another. It was a way that Moses was able to see God but not see God, to hear God but not hear God, without it the meeting would be impossible and the friendship would not have developed.
Perhaps the people around me were holding their phones up, watching the band as they walked by through their screens for a similar reason, all-be-it a distorted and ill-conceived reason, for, as you know Bono is not a God, Niether is Edge or Larry or Adam, they’re people who are great at their art and at sharing their music in new and interesting ways… but they’re only people. We don’t need to see them via a screen, no burning bush is needed, no alternative ways of connecting need to be developed. What’s more important is that Bono and the crew are not interested in a one on one relationship in the same way that we’re told God wanted from Moses, instead their relationship with us is a once off, never to be repeated again experiment in mass communication, occasionally interrupted and inspired by a mass response Bono would touch his heart, but that’s it people, nothing more.
Perhaps we’ve lost the understanding of what is holy and what is celebrity, what is beauty and what is orchestrated and marketed…
When the celebrity becomes holy perhaps we need magazines and televisions and iPhones in order to not be blinded by their holiness?
Maybe it’s just that people can’t simply be present anymore, perhaps we’ve lost the ability to put the connections down and to enjoy what’s in front of us, instead turning our heads and minds to our next thing, whether it be watching this in a cafe or pub with friends saying “this is where I was” or “this is me and my friend at the U2 gig, (sorry you can’t see the stage, our faces are more important)” or perhaps “this is where they sung my favourite song so instead of just being in the moment I recorded it to share it with you”
(Tangent – last tour I was front row when Bono sung “Miss Sarajevo.” The girl next to me picked up her phone to tell a friend that “he was singing her favourite song ever and how awesome is that, it’s so beautiful, yeah, I know, his voice is just so…. blah blah blah” and hung up from speaking when the song was over. What about the experience of hearing your favourite piece of music or viewing a stunningly holy piece of art have we lost when our response to something beautiful is to phone someone to tell them that you’re watching something beautiful happen without really paying attention to it’s beauty?)
Perhaps people are just weird like that…
Or maybe there’s something else going on, perhaps the iPhone has become a quasi burning bush, an artificial and self-imposed way to distance ourselves from those around us, whether they be Bono or other celebrities or the friend that we meet in the cafe. Perhaps these types of personal connections are just too holy for us to understand to connect with anymore, perhaps their voices are too much for us, their being too bright to stare at for any long period of time, their voice too beautiful to listen too with un-sheltered ears, their friendship too special for us to truly embrace…
Then again this could be one huge wank…
Sorry, I said wank, I know it demeaned everything that I just wrote.
And if you’re reading this on your iPhone is it because my words are too holy for you to read on other monitors?
And I know that I wasn’t going to brag, but check this out…