Earlier this year, on a very cold and breezy morning inside the Arctic Circle, I was standing on the snow covered bow deck of a cruise ship.
At 2 a.m. a call to my cabin had prompted me to dress in many warm layers of clothing and summoned me to this position overlooking the front of the boat. Under normal circumstances this message would probably have resulted in a certain degree of blind panic, but this was no dire emergency and we weren’t being required to don our life jackets and ‘Abandon Ship’ just yet.
So here I was at this ridiculous hour, waiting patiently, hardly able to move in the apparel cocoon I’d built around myself, my warm breath a white mist and my toes starting to tingle.
But I’m happy, expectant and excited. (see a man can multitask)
Hopefully I’m about to witness a spectacle, the main motivation for coming on this particular trip, the incredible and extremely illusive Northern Lights.
Understandably I’m not alone. The ship’s entertainment host has been keeping the entire company informed as to the possible occurrence and quality of the long awaited event. The signs are good and there is a palpable air of expectation among the waiting mass of well insulated, sleep deprived and in some cases (me) slightly inebriated passengers and crew.
Suddenly a distinctive mass of green light traces across the sky. It crinkles and tumbles like loose ribbons as it tracks along its pathway, then another a little brighter, and another.
I have worked in the theatre for many years but this was a light show to rival the best of the best, and as this audience marvelled at the amazing display the only thought in my head was stunning, truly stunning.
Then, totally unexpectedly, another phenomenon illuminates the assembled congregation.
The glow from several hundred camera screens suddenly cuts through the darkness to light up the entire area. With flashes going off in all directions and devices held high in an attempt to capture the unfolding atmospheric acrobatics the whole mood of the occasion changes.
Those with better equipment trying to take time-lapse images start shouting their frustrated abuse. Others, annoyed because their clear view has been ruined by so much light pollution, begin to tut and mutter. In the tightly assembled crowd tempers start to fray.
And I get to thinking……..
Today’s technology is all about allowing us all to have access to anything at anytime, information, communication and entertainment, but most importantly memory.
We require our devices to contain masses of storage space to ensure we can record and recall anything we need, but it has progressed from helping us to keep track of telephone numbers, addresses and diary type information to something more worrying in my very humble and obviously out-dated opinion.
The people around me on this evening seemed to be spending their time desperately trying to capture images showing the significant activity that was occurring, more time in fact than actually just watching and enjoying this ‘once in a lifetime moment’.
I wonder if we dilute an experience by our methodical efforts to confine any given remarkable spectacle to a record of a few million pixels, which will probably only get confined to the back of a drawer anyway.
With this kind of behaviour will we really be able to say that we’ve collected memories to last a lifetime……………or merely until the battery dies??