This Christmas, See the Forest Instead of the Trees
My 11-year-old grandson has been taking violin lessons. He is getting quite good at it.
Today he appeared at a Christmas music recital for the residents of a senior citizens assisted living center.
He was one of several young boys and girls who dedicated a Saturday afternoon, in addition to many hours of practice and preparation, to get the senior citizens a little bit into the Christmas spirit.
My grandson played “I wish you a Merry Christmas.”
It was a short performance, perhaps a couple of minutes long.
Of course, like any proud grandfather, I wanted to take photos of his appearance in order to remember and share later.
I started clicking as soon as he started playing and, before I knew it, he had finished.
It then hit me that I had been so focused and so intent on snapping those all-important photographs that I had not really listened to his beautiful music; that I had not really taken-in his face, his eyes, his expressions while he was playing his heart out; that I had failed to enjoy some of the most precious moments in my grandson’s growing-up.
In my immediate regret and self-reproach about what had happened, it occurred to me that many of us are often guilty of—in our rush and excitement to capture moments of our lives—neglecting or ignoring the broader and longer-term aspects of our lives.
How often do we concentrate so much on the process, on the mechanics that we fail to see, appreciate and take into consideration the people and the lives that are involved or even at stake?
How often do we focus on the nitty-gritty details of an event at the expense of understanding why such an event happened in the first place?
How often do we fail to absorb the beauty of a spectacular sunset because we are still ruminating over the day’s events?
How often do we fail to fully appreciate—at times even reject—someone’s long friendship because he or she has acquired some political views different from ours?
How often do we focus on and react to certain words we hear or manners of speech we perceive instead of listening to and trying to understand the entire message?
How often do we capture only quick, partial and incomplete snapshots of someone’s conduct, speech or writings in order to “authoritatively” and systematically tear him or her down?
How often do we focus on the differences of the moment, record them, replay them and even amplify and twist them in order make our point, in order to win our argument despite the similarities and common ground we have cultivated and shared over the months and years, even over a lifetime?
I have been looking at the photos of my grandson, they are nice. However, they don’t show the gleam in his eyes, the pride that I know he felt and the little nervousness, too. I hope and pray that I will have another chance soon to watch, listen and truly enjoy my grandson’s talents. I can assure you that, when I do, that camera will not be anywhere near me; that I will listen and observe with my own eyes and ears and that I will record the images and the emotions in a place and with a fidelity that no technology can match: my heart.
I have learned my lesson. This holiday season I will rely less on iPods, iPads, iPhones, etc. and rely more on my heart, mind and soul to enjoy the true spirit of Christmas and to watch and listen to my loved ones unobstructed and undisturbed by an electronic lens and by the clicking, blinking and buzzing of an iWhatever.
Wishing you a joyous, non-snapshot holiday season.