A few years ago, some friends and I went to a performance of the Ahn Trio – a trio of sister musicians – at our local university auditorium. We had great seats and were mesmerized for hours listening to them play. Afterward, the sisters sat at a table in the foyer and signed CD’s, of which we were eager to get a copy – both for their signatures, but also to re-live the experience. To play them in our cars, in our living rooms and ‘be there’ again.
And I remember getting home and playing their CD a few days later. Wondering, “Is this really them? It’s not the same.” But it WAS the Ahn Trio, and their recording was masterfully done. The music was beautiful. But there was one difference. We weren’t THERE. In the same room, breathing the same air. The sound wasn’t the same, no matter how fine the stereo.
Last night, my husband and I had the opportunity to go to a small community theater play – ‘The Odd Couple’ written by Neil Simon. It was fabulously funny, irreverent at times, and chock-full of humor and event subtle truth. We were in the second row of the small sold-out crowd. If I were a taller person, I could have squeezed my leg past the woman in front of me and propped it up on the stage. We sat in padded folding chairs, sipping inexpensive Texas wine, waiting for the pieced-together red curtains to open. During intermission, Curt leaned over and quietly said, “You know, all these people could be anywhere on a Saturday night. But they’re here, and there’s nothing else like it in town!”
I smiled at him, “Yep, there’s nothing like real.”
Stage hands reset the props and we heard the actors shuffling off stage. We could have been at the movies, or at home watching any of the thousands of films on Netflix. We could have searched youtube for any variety of performances, from all over the world. But it would not have been the same.
Despite all these things – this technology, this entertainment literally at our fingertips 24/7, we still love the real stuff. It moves our soul in a way that the replica never will.
My daughter troubling over her favorite song on the piano in the living room.
My son mimicking a radio tune on his trumpet.
The smell of the second edition Louisa May Alcott book on my bookshelf.
A scribbled kindergarten drawing wadded up and stuffed into my hand during Mass.
A poem scratched in pencil on the inside of a book cover.
A girl singing her soul out on stage for an audition, bringing tears to everyone’s eyes, even thought she doesn’t make the cut.
The man making a crowd roll in laughter, and he can feel the vibrations through the cracked wood on the stage.
I remember when I was 19, standing in the Louvre, staring at the Mona Lisa. I was stunned. Not by the beauty of the painting. She really is more intriguing than beautiful. I stood there, feeling my feet on the floor, the brush of bodies past my shoulders, breathing the air of that room and realized that I was now one of them. One of the hundreds of millions of people, across generations, whose eyes had stared at that very same canvas. Who had stood at this same distance and been in awe. No where else could that have happened, for there is only one Mona Lisa. We do not stop and stare at the image of her on my computer screen.
We can print out almost any artistic masterpiece on our home printer, yet they still go for millions in auction houses. We can listen to music for free on our devices, but last month in Dallas, the world’s most expensive Stradivarius made an appearance, valued at 16 million dollars.
Almost despite ourselves, we still love beauty in its rawest form. Where we can see the sweat on the brow, the pencil strokes, feel the vibrations, hear the cracked note and see a hand tremble before it plays.
If anything, maybe we know it more now. We recognize the real things almost as if they’re glowing neon in the night, compared to all the hubbub of the digitized, recorded, streamed and screened.
Our hearts yearn for things our senses can verily touch. So I still have some hope for us yet.