We went to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston this weekend, and it was great. I felt like we barely scratched the surface of the truly beautiful artworks on display there.
Yet I also often saw people sitting on benches in the galleries, staring at their phones. Not that it should be a phone-free place, at all. I took pictures of some pieces for myself, as well as sharing them via text with others. Maybe that made me less present, but I feel like that was okay, that it broadened the experience without pulling me all the way out of it.
But some of the folks I saw were doing the time-killing thing, staring blankly at their screens, thumbing idly through some feed or other. Which I won’t pretend that I don’t do sometimes, let alone claim it’s some horrible thing that nobody should ever do.
But maybe when you’re in the middle of one of the largest museums in the United States, with a permanent collection spanning more than 6,000 years of history, with some 64,000 works from six continents [citation provided], just maybe those Insta stories or tweets or even “breaking” news can wait for a little while. Maybe (certainly) I’m writing this to remind myself of this, for the next time, and the time after that, and not just when I’m in a world-class museum.
Leave your phone put away, and look around.