Last night, after I got our two-year-old to sleep, I came downstairs to find my wife watching the movie Marley and Me. It was near the end of the movie, when the family dog, Marley, is showing signs of age and infirmity. His owner knows that Marley does not have much time left, so he takes Marley for a walk through the Pennsylvania countryside. When Marley gets tired, they stop and sit on a hilltop so the dog can rest a moment. As man and dog sit looking out over a peaceful vista, the movie soundtrack becomes touching and sentimental. It’s a signal to movie watchers to pay attention to a special moment—a moment of tenderness, intimacy, and deep emotion.
As I sat there watching that scene, I found myself thinking it would be nice if such sentimental music would play whenever we experience those kinds of tender moments in real life. Perhaps if a soundtrack kicked in whenever we had an opportunity to really connect with someone, we would pay closer attention to those moments, remembering to zoom in for an extreme close-up, gazing at our loved ones with a flattering soft-diffuse filter. Hollywood uses those kinds of effects to manufacture emotion and indicate pivotal moments, but we receive no such signals in our daily lives. We simply have to pay attention, and when we get the opportunity to connect with a spouse, a child, a friend, or a family member, we need to slow down and savor the moment. We need to look them in the eyes, listen to their words, and realize that such moments don’t necessarily come along every day.
Or do they, and we simply miss them because we don’t hear the soundtrack?