Live Like You’re Running Out of Time

I saw Hamilton last night at the Orpheum in San Francisco with the wife and daughter. Our seats were on the second balcony, just under the overhang of the third balcony, which gave a balanced perspective of the theater’s woody charm, the audience and the wonderfully detailed bricked stage set.

My daughter and I walked down to the end of the stairs on the second balcony to post a photo on Instagram. As I was taking a few shots for her, the usher indicated the show was a few minutes away from starting. As we headed back to our seats, I noticed a change in the murmuring of the audience. I turned and looked down at the floor level. There were already a large number of phones out everywhere, but you could tell there was a shift in attention by the number of phones lighting up around an area 6–7 rows back from mid-stage left. The Internets were already aware someone of note was there.

As I sat back down, the attention of the crowd spread to the 2nd balcony. Everyone in sight was focusing on the floor now. A few people were starting to cheer. My wife later commented she thought that perhaps it was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the playwright of Hamilton. A few moments later, my daughter said “It’s Steph Curry”. I glanced down at the floor again then back at the crowd. People were standing, focused on seeing Curry. I wondered to myself how the crowd was able to pass his identity so quickly up to the second balcony.

“Who’s Steph Curry?”, I asked my wife, raising my voice. The woman behind us glanced at me curiously. My wife laughed. She knew I knew was kidding. Another woman in front of us dutifully turned around and passed on the information required, “It’s Stephen Curry, the basketball player!”

Thanks for the moment, crowd.

But, Which Moment to Live?

I know who Stephen Curry is and I know he plays for The Warriors. I loved playing basketball when I was in high school (we went to state). Even today I will play if get the rare chance to do so. I’m 6'8" with shoes on and can still toss down a good shot, so bring it! ;) Moreover, I thoroughly enjoy watching a live game and have had enough good fortune to stand court-side for a few NBA games. I also know Curry is a great ball handler and appreciate his talents and ability to play in the moment.

All that said, I can’t honestly say I am a ‘fan’ or ‘follower’ of basketball, given mostly to the fact I do not visualize. Games on TV or the Internet aren’t something I can replay internally and talk about with others later, which means I can’t “talk” sports with someone — I must play it with them. For me, when I watch them, games are mostly about analyzing the strategy of the players, observing their split-second skills or watching the crowd’s reaction to great plays. I’ve found most of this is best done “living in the moment” and I’m grateful for those moments when I have them.

Most of the people last night in the Orpheum experienced a “moment” out of context, when they all realized Stephen Curry was there in the Hamilton audience. The desire to capture this moment of him was clear, given all the phones that came out and the fact a lot of people began moving out of their seats to get a better/different ‘view’.

As the usher from early began living her worst nightmare trying to get people back into their seats, I did stop to wonder about Curry. I’m certain it’s nice to be appreciated by others, but his purpose there was to be an observer of the show called Hamilton, in a theater called the Orpheum. This wasn’t Oracle Arena. There were no basketballs. People had not come to see him play. We were all there, including Curry, to watch Hamilton. As I was mulling on this group-think phenomenon, a young woman behind us summarized it for me by saying to her father, “It’s just a basketball player. What’s the big deal?” Moments later, in seeming disagreement to this young lady’s comment, people on the floor began chanting “MVP! MVP! MVP!”.

I never saw him. I didn’t even try. I’d like to see him play live sometime.

Distracted by Connectedness

The network crowd effect in society today is a strong one. It is being driven by the Internet and further drives our distracted use of devices to access and post to it. Sure, the Internet itself helps define who and what is important and trustworthy, but it also drives how we respond as a whole to items of interest, regardless of the rationality or context in which they are experienced and captured. Interactions between people are increasingly centering around saying “look at this” to the next person. This effect is captured best by taking pictures of things and posting them to “your feed”.

When we are playing the role of sports fans at a Broadway musical it really isn’t that big of a deal. At best, a few people got to see Curry in person. At worst, a few gigabytes of storage were used up.

However, when we see these effects manifesting within our government, I think it is a HUGE deal. At the least, our choices are being removed when we work together to define what is important and trustworthy. At the worst, people will die. This was pretty much what the entire musical was about.

If we are to have choice to live our lives the way we want, how can we fight these changes if others are working against us through the effects of technology, all without even knowing it?

Maybe the answer lies in what Lin-Manuel Miranda asked of Hamilton:

How do you write like you’re
Running out of time?
Write day and night like you’re
Running out of time?
Ev’ry day you fight
Like you’re
Running out of time
Like you’re
Running out of time
Are you
Running out of time? 
How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive?
How do you write like you need it to survive?
How do you write ev’ry second you’re alive?
Ev’ry second you’re alive? Ev’ry second you’re alive?

Every second you are alive is an opportunity to fight the urge to “go with the crowd”. Every second you are alive is another chance to choose to live in the moment, your moment.

The story of Hamilton last night taught me that writing was important to him to live in his moment in time. I’m decently good at writing myself. I have thoughts I want to share, which I frequently don’t. I worry about the effects technology is having on our choices to live in the moment and I hope writing about it more raises awareness. There are ways in which we can find a type of peace with technology by making it just a little more sacred. Perhaps that’s questioning whether we really need to have devices with us all the time.

So, would you be willing to go to a musical without your phone, even if you knew Steph Curry was there? How about coffee? Could you go on a run without it? Where are you comfortable not having it with you?