“Live in the moment” is a phrase I struggle with. The idea behind it seems to be that, if one’s consciousness could stop engaging in various forms of fretting and recalling involuntary memories, it could focus all of its faculties on the Now, which would be a purer, “truer” lived experience.
It may be better to simply stop at the part about shutting out distractions. The sense of self, sort of our brain’s operating system for running consciousness, gets assembled in the wake of immediate experience as a story we tell ourselves about what we’re doing. Some people’s wakes are short; they surf their qualia on the bleeding edge of experience. Others’ wakes are long; their experiences are time-released, their impressions crystalize after some period of subconscious rumination.
But there is no optimal “wakelength”, really, it’s more like a healthy range, with each extreme having its own drawbacks and assets. “Living in the moment” sounds great when it evokes a yogi exuding peace and tranquility, but you know that impulsive friend whose life has been plagued by hasty, bad decisions? Yeah, they’re also living in the moment. On the other hand, those with longer wakes have time for more reflection, whether consciously or not. This, I think, has its own advantages, which brings us bizantinely to the only image on this post, and to the subject of photography more generally.
Only after returning home, then uploading and editing my shots from a recent trip to Philadelphia did I realize just how much I was enjoying myself at the time I took this photo. I was in the middle of a very enjoyable trip, but very tired from the effort and the heat so far. Crouching in the far corner of this old generating plant, I was just content that I was able to get enough distance in this crammed little area to frame a shot well (I hoped). But now, working on the final image, I was struck by just how much I liked being there. All the colors and shapes were there at the time I hit the shutter, but the beauty of my moment only hit me later. Was I not “living in the moment” at the time I took the shot? If I wasn’t, I’d argue that I get to do that now.
TL;DR: Photography can be a great way to give one’s perpetual sense of disconnectedness a good pseudo-intellectual burnishing.