This past summer I decided to face my addiction, one that had managed incrementally to keep me unfocused, missing parts of important conversations, and distracting me from fully attending to the wonderful people in my life…in real time. I gave up looking at my iPhone every three minutes—checking my email, my Facebook page, my Twitter feed, and latest updates from The New York Times. I quit cold turkey after getting some advice from a neuropsychologist at a conference on creativity and the brain. He told me to never check my email, but only look at email when I’m prepared to respond to it. He told me our brains are filling up on what we’re not doing, rather than focused on what we are doing. Looking at email that you’re not prepared to reply to is to fill your brain up with things left undone. This was life-changing advice, and it has freed up more time that I would have ever imagined—time for more theater, more reading, and more in-person conversations.
But one of the things I know about my addiction to that phone is that it happened for a reason, the compulsion to look came from my need to feel connected. Might I find a text message from my spouse if I looked? Would someone new friend me on Facebook? Maybe I’d come across an important article that would provide an important learning opportunity. As co-director and co-choreographer of Traces, Gypsy Snider, said in one of our conversations leading up to their performances here at ArtsEmerson, “humans have a pure need to share who we are with other people.” Traces is a reflection on that need, and it got me thinking about the question so many of us ask now as we consider untethering from our mobile devices and computer screens; how do we feel a sense of human connection in the internet age?
The artists of Traces may provide a possible answer here. As they share their stories, and as they risk life and limb through acrobatic feats most of us will never approximate in a lifetime—they also risk the possibility of real human connection with us, their audience. Their theatrical athleticism is our pleasure. Their willingness to “go live” each night to introduce themselves with a virtuosic physicality surprises and delights us. Risk, pleasure, surprise—a formula for filling our need to connect, a reason why art matters, why an old art form like theater still feels necessary and vibrant. And I’m so grateful to learn from the artists we have the pleasure to present at ArtsEmerson. They risk so much so that we can live fully, in the present moment.
And my wish for you is that you can turn off that part of your brain that is going over all of your undone tasks of the day. That you can cajole your brain into the present moment, that you can risk letting go of what can just as easily be dealt with tomorrow morning and that as Gypsy Snider said to our ArtsEmerson staff— “that you can put down that phone and live this moment with us, NOW!”
Traces will play at the Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre from Oct 1 – 12. For more information and tickets, visit our website here!