Can silence feel more pressing and important than a ping? Instead of imaging the next text, the next tweet, the next Instagram post…what if I could imagine living in this moment, without wanting more? The question isn’t whether or not your stuff sparks joy. The question is: Can you spark joy all by yourself? Do you remember how that feels?
Gliding across the ice covered lake on skis, over just enough fresh snow to make skiing possible after weeks of no precipitation, I turn south toward the midday sun and stop in my tracks. As the sun shines its chilly January light on the day, it looks as though millions of tiny diamonds have been strewn across the surface of the frozen water in the form of snowflakes. I think to myself that this must be what glitter is trying to emulate. It looks like stars have dropped out of the sky to coat the landscape with the sort of shimmer that is only possible when a certain quality of light and texture of snow are willing to fully harmonize.
I stand there for awhile just looking at the sparkling landscape, feeling the sun through the chilly air, leaning on my ski poles. My phone with its camera has been left inside charging on the countertop in the kitchen. But I wish I had it. I want so badly to document the beauty that I’m seeing and share it with someone – and more often than not these days, that happens on social media. I’d rather say I just stood there marveling at nature’s beauty, fully present and mindfully enjoying the view, but I’d be lying if I did. No, distraction from the allure of making an Instagram post out of what I was seeing dominated my mind. In that moment, I was trying to spark joy from the wrong place. Instead of living in the moment, I was imagining the next post.
The energy of wanting more from a moment is hard to side step. I can’t say I side stepped it successfully that day out on the lake, but at least I noticed what was happening. Observing yourself sometimes doesn’t make you want to whoop in celebration. But the more I do it, the more I notice myself falling into the habits that don’t serve the kind of life I want to be living. Thinking about how I’ll turn a breathtakingly beautiful moment of stillness and light into a social media post is not how I want to move through life. There is certainly a time and place for photography, and sharing photos is fun to do. (By now we certainly know that the dopamine hits your brain receives when people like your posts are fun, too.) Things that are shared can inspire others, and for some, those social media shares are part of a job and help pay the bills. In the age in which we live and work, using social media as a tool on the job makes good business sense.
But where we run into trouble is when we can’t remember how to spark joy without the share. We run into trouble when we can’t remember how it feels to just experience something without making it into something else.
Beauty should be shared, there’s no question there. But beauty should also be experienced without turning it into something it’s not. That day out on the lake wasn’t an Instagram post. It was a human bearing witness to a brilliant tapestry of light, water, and air that will never weave together in that exact way again. A social media post can’t capture that energy, no matter how expertly it is edited or how many little red hearts light up the screen after it’s been shared.
See if you can experience more moments for just what they are, without making them into something else. Practice savoring the experiences that remind you what the texture of life can offer. Deny the pull to view life through an Instagram filter. Give more power to silence than the possibility of more pings. Live in this moment, not the allure of what you want the moment to be. See if you can remember how to spark joy from the inside.
I’ll meet you there.