A beautiful song played on the radio while we drove out to a Christmas dinner. It began with two alternating bass notes which were soon doubled on a nylon guitar. The distance between the two notes was jubilant. A few bars in a young girl began to narrate in French, her words indecipherable yet sweet. As the song progressed, more layers emanated eventually cumulating in a wonderful ambiance against the wind through my hair and backdrop of skyscrapers and rivers.
I never found out what the song was. The radio host did mention the name but it was too strange to understand. But somehow I did not care. I was comfortable with the moments transience. I simply did not mind that I may never hear that song again nor recreate that specific experience.
There is a strive for control of knowledge we have developed in this technological age. No fact shall elude us. With information at our finger tips we can call upon the most esoteric, useless fact to appease our curiosity.
Such a feat is of course extraordinarily helpful at times. It is a marvel of thousands of years of human innovation. Minutes after that experience our little smart phone helped us contact a new restaurant and map out a route after giving up on our intended one barricaded by ridiculous Christmas time road closures.
But whether or not such power is always the best way to enhance the human experience is dubious. There is an element of mystery that we lose. With the absence of control and over analysis, we blissfully give ourselves to the haphazard winds of fate. I long for a time when people traveled not with phones, cameras and iPods but rather their eyes and ears.
There is a certain joy in not knowing if I will ever hear that song again. Moreover, when I do hear it again the pleasure will be doubled at the appreciation of my luck.
There is a certain joy in learning every detail about your airplane companions wildly different life and then departing the plane, not having exchanged contact details, seeing them slip into a sea of people never to be seen again.
There is a certain joy in watching a sunset in a faraway place which you will not visit again, forced to capture the moment with all your senses, not a lens, forced to look back upon it with your memory and imagination, not a piece of paper.
Maybe we could compromise. How great it would be to travel and create your memories as sketches in grey, having to notice every detail possible. We could get lost in streets, never minding if we knew the right way to our destination. And then sending hand written letters, ferried across the skies, patiently and personally, to our loved ones back home.
I do not mean to chastise materialism. Sometimes technology can enhance our experiences, letting us log detailed images and words to our travels and connect in ways we never dreamed about. We can of course now fit more into our lives than ever before. But some times efficiency does appear to have its cost by making each moment a little less special.
And so finally, consider that there may be a certain joy in the mystery of not knowing how if all began. Because if we did, what would we wonder about while staring out at the night sky?