fleeting moments in the age of technological permanence

I was at a bar in Seattle listening to the band’s hard thump in the adjacent room, when I spotted a man sitting on a bar stool against a dark wall. He had an acoustic guitar in his hands and had an open face. This was 1992, when creativity and young friendship breathed in the air all throughout the city.

His name was Caleb and he was traveling around the U.S. busking. We chatted for a while in that ill-lighted bar. Like most nomads, he didn’t have a place to sleep that night. I invited him back to my house where, over glasses of red wine, we continued our conversation spinning long into the night.

Caleb left in the morning for his next adventures. He had no address to share, and I moved too often for anyone to keep track, so that moment was caught up in the ever-moving stream of time. The youthful encounter with a stranger lives as a mystery in memory.

If that connection had happened today, we would have exchanged emails, cell phone numbers, and found each other on Facebook.

Would having sustained connection take away some sense of the special from that night? The progressing relationship changes the memory from an ethereal occasion to a static point in a continued timeline, with mystery lost to knowing.

Do these constant connections reduce the mystery in our lives? While it is wonderful to forge new friendships, have we lost something uniquely special by the forfeit of these exquisitely ephemeral moments?

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