Close your eyes and think of a moment from your life. What time of day is it? Are you inside our outside? Are there other people with you? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you taste?
This basic sense-memory exercise is the kind I do with the students in my directing class, one designed to conjure up the complex array of emotions that accompanies every memory.
Having recently returned from an incredible couple of weeks traveling around Europe, I am left with a tapestry of memories that delight my senses and my emotions.
A man walking his dog ahead of me on a street with no sidewalk in Berlin.
Five French women laughing in a packed 2nd class train compartment traveling from Avignon to Lyon.
A woman smoking in the dirty courtyard below my 3rd floor Parisian hotel room window.
These moments are banal. There is nothing in them to label them as significant, lasting, unique. I will no doubt forget many of them in time. You may even wonder if there were more “significant” moments? Sure. But they are outnumbered by far by the banal ones.
The black smudge on my backpack.
The sound of the ticket validation machine in the U-Bahn.
The smoky smell of a neighborhood bar on the outskirts of Prague.
Banal. Banal. Banal.
And yet, if my trip was full of banal moments but still fantastic, then I must attribute the joy of travel to its very banality. Because what is life if not the accumulation of banal moments? They make us bland, ordinary, mundane. But they also give us grace and humility, and make us human.
I have a multitude of photographs to remind me of the banal moments of my trip, not to mention a collection of short video snapshots, which I have uploaded for your enjoyment. All of these are about a simple, fleeting, moment in time.
I invite you to watch and then perhaps take a moment out of your busy schedule to reflect on that mote of dust floating through the air in front of you. Or that man crossing the road. Or the dirty plate you forgot to put in the sink.
Take a moment to celebrate your banality.
Tempelhof Airport, Berlin:
Berlin to Prague:
Mala Strana Square, Prague:
The Mona Lisa:
Paris to Aix-en-Provence:
P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Liz and Reed Fish, who since January have been gracing the web with daily video-moment poetry, and whose work is truly inspiring. Check out their website at http://www.thefishesloveyou.com/#388734/Ten-Second-Moments.