Remember this ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When I was an undergraduate, I took a course in critical theory. It's as bad as it sounds, if you're wondering. Most of my nights that semester -- and some of my days at my tutoring job -- were spent poring over theoretical texts with a dictionary and a thesaurus serving as my only other companions.

Though difficult to grasp, I really enjoyed the class discussions on the essays we read. Several of these essays touched me, though no other grabbed me quite as much as "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Written by Walter Benjamin, the essay questioned the sincerity of art forms once reproduced from the original copy.

For example, my professor noted, many spectators feel underwhelmed when they see the Mona Lisa in person. After all, you can search for the painting online or in any art history textbook and find it within minutes. You can even order a print of it online to hang the famous work of art in your very own home.

With all this information at our fingertips, Benjamin reasoned, a certain experience is lost. I knew this was true two years ago when I read the essay but realized how pertinent it is to my personal experience a month ago.

For my mom's birthday, my best friend and I took her to see Turnpike Troubadours at George's Majestic Lounge. I had seen the band before with both of them, but there was something different about it this time.

This time, I wasn't so caught up in worrying about the future and college graduation and money. I was also about 60 pounds lighter this time, removing a lot of concern I had that people might judge me for dancing or singing loudly.

So I sang loudly. I danced. I befriended an intoxicated young woman named Jessica. At the end of the show, the band performed a cover of the song "Long Hot Summer Day." With the constant refrain "for every day I'm working on the Illinois River/get a half a day off with pay," the song encouraged everyone in the crowd to come together.

It was so loud and I knew I was being kind of obnoxious, but I didn't care. I felt like I was part of something important, not just a single voice in a crowd. No, it was a crowd of voices. It was a sea of people who worked hard all week and needed this reprieve.

When I listen to that song now, I understand what Benjamin meant to express in his essay. Because I saw the band perform that song live and have the memories of dancing with my best friend to the beat, the music means so much more to me now.

That experience has impelled me to go out more and to see and do more. At the end of my life, I won't have anything but these memories to hang onto.

I hope I have enough for a lifetime.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News.