TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Should we live in the moment or should we stop and take a picture? - Is it worth losing part of an experience in order to remember it?

Joshua Foer says, "Our lives are the sum of our memories". But remembering takes effort, and in trying to do so, we become distracted and we lose part of the experience we are having. For example, we can enjoy the sight of a beautiful mountain and be caught up awe in the moment, or we can enjoy a beautiful mountain and wonder how we are going to take a picture and show it to our friends. Is it worth losing part of the experience in order to better remember it in the days or years to come? Is it worth losing parts of future experiences by trying to remember those of the past?

(As a much broader question - and to use Daniel Kahneman's terms - what is more important: the experiencing self or the remembering self?)

One answer I've contemplated: What is important is not the memories we have but rather the quality of our experiences. Instead of focusing on the memory of an experience (by taking photos, making mental structures, writing things down, etc), we should strive to achieve a state of flow - a state in which we fully immerse ourselves in the present moment, undistracted by thoughts of the past or the future. By doing so, I believe we will find satisfaction in each experience in the present, rather than always looking to the satisfaction to be had in the future through our memories of the past.

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    May 10 2012: Let me just state beforehand that I'm an amateur photographer, and I've frequently thought about these issues.

    "Should we live in the moment or should we stop and take a picture? - Is it worth losing part of an experience in order to remember it?"

    "Is it worth losing part of the experience in order to better remember it in the days or years to come?"

    Well, I think one should do both. It's not impossible. Just take the darned pic, and then revel in the beauty of the scenery. One doesn't necessarily "lose the experience" when snapping photos. It's only when they get carried away and go snap-crazy without remembering to really soak in the moment that it's lost. And no one can judge that, except for themselves. I have to admit, though, that with dynamic environments (Sunsets, for example), looking at the sun through the LED screen or viewfinder while it sets feels somewhat different than actually looking at the real thing without pieces of glass in between. But hey, the experience is not actually lost. It's just a different experience, a different feeling. One might argue that it's inferior, but that's subjective. Personally, I do think it's a wee bit inferior (Just a bit), but it's worth it for the photo(s), which won't fade, unlike most people's memories.

    "Is it worth losing parts of future experiences by trying to remember those of the past?"

    I don't get this one =/ What parts of future experiences are lost?

    "...what is more important: the experiencing self or the remembering self?"

    Again, I'll say both are equally important. To immerse one's self in the moment, to remember one's feelings of amazement/wonder/etc., and to record it on camera. One can end up forgetting all one's experiences with time and age, but photos will endure (And help one remember!).

    Stuart: Just for the record, I love looking at other people's holiday photos =) The beautiful/unique ones, anyway.
    • thumb
      May 10 2012: I agree with you. I would also wish to add that photography, i.e. the kind of seeing involved in making pictures with a unique or personal point of view is a very engaged form of observation.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.