Forget the selfie, seize the moment
Let’s mash up a few titles and call it the Unbearable Lightness of Being There.
It’s the name we’ll give to a feeling you get on your travels at a very special point in space and time: a sense of “wow, here I am”. You may not be at the most beautiful spot on your journey and it certainly won’t be the most surprising, secluded or serene: in fact, it’s likely to be one you, and thus most other citizens of the world, have known about all your life.
These days you’d whip out your selfie-stick and be off. But I’m talking about savouring the moment. It is about reflection and may not even require pictorial proof.
A few examples? I am in a chamber in the middle of the Great Pyramid of Giza, fending off claustrophobia after a dark, narrow climb, and think of the purpose of this monument, the person whose final resting place it was millennia ago, its builders, its plunderers and the intruders since (including me). But here I am, standing inside one of the original seven wonders of the world.
New York City: what great opportunities to be struck by a sense of Being There. Atop the Empire State Building at dusk; nothing more exciting. On Page 10, Anthony Roberts gives you the lowdown on where to re-create a pivotal moment from Woody Allen’s Manhattan. My own special experience is peering out from the crown of the Statue of Liberty. At its base, those stirring engraved words, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ...” cause me to tear up and then I remember, I’m not even American. Indeed, my love of all this is born of a childhood devotion to Hollywood and TV shows such as 77 Sunset Strip, Bonanza and The Donna Reed Show. I climb the staircase and here I am in the skull of the statue, with the sweep of the city and the Hudson before me (through tiny windows). What an odd place to be in the world: inside looking out.
These moments are not all about being stuck inside something. We are bustled off a bus, engage with a sea of hawkers and beggars, deal with suspect security and then, the vision splendid: the masterpiece of Mughal art and architecture, the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. Hundreds of others are here to marvel, of course, but it’s majestic and now it’s part of my life, beyond pictures in books.
My last moment may have readers outside Sydney groaning. It is a special feeling I get every time I visit the Opera House, especially at night, looking away from the house, over the city, across the bridge to crazy old Luna Park. Look at that dark, powerful body of water all around. I understand Kenneth Slessor’s poem Five Bells about a man drowning in the harbour, and John Olsen’s tribute mural in the Concert Hall’s upper foyer.
Here I am, not needing to selfie-away with the visitors. Dorothy and Toto, you know the next line: There’s no place …
Susan Kurosawa is on assignment.