The Main Event

Every night, there’s a free light and water show in front of Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s iconic “three skyscrapers with a boat sitting on top” hotel. It’s called “Spectra.”

When we visited the city, my girlfriend and I got lost in the mall beneath the complex, and once we found our way out, we barely made it in time for the show to start. Of course, by then, the prime viewing spots had all been taken, but we found a pier to the right of the main stage that not only had good visibility, it was even close to the fountain from which countless water columns had already started rising and falling.

We settled in, took some photos, and then let ourselves be swept away by the experience. The music swelled, and streams of water danced in perfect sync with it. What’s more, the spotlights sitting beneath the water jets covered the entire scene in an equally well-paced rainbow of ever-changing colors. It was a magical 15 minutes, and after the last note rang, that seemed to have been the end of it.

A few weeks later, after returning home, I wanted to find one of the songs that had played during the show. When I turned to Youtube, I found a good recording of the show, and a kind commenter had even mentioned the title of the song I was looking for already. As I clicked through the clip, however, I realized something: We had missed the main event.

The recording had been taken from one of the better seats looking square at the show setup, and from there, not only could you see the dancing water streams and beautiful colors, you also had the privilege of witnessing all kinds of shapes and creatures made of rays of light flying through the fog and spray the water fountains created. That was the actual show — and that’s why it’s called “Spectra.” It’s about the light more so than anything else.

To my surprise, I was not disappointed when I discovered we had seen the show from the wrong angle. If anything, I thought it was funny. But the wonderful feeling I had had when sound and images worked in perfect harmony right in front of me? That could not be diminished. I did not feel any worse off for missing the main part of the show, and if I hadn’t found out by accident, I’d never even have known I did.

That prompts a question: If you miss the main event without knowing it — or at least without regretting it — have you truly missed anything? Maybe for you, the main event was something else.

In the movie Tolkien, not-yet-famous inventor of The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien takes his future wife Edith Bratt to see Richard Wagner’s Götterdämmerung — or rather, he tries to. With no seats available and not enough money in his pocket, Tolkien takes Edith in through the back door, but they only end up next to props and costumes, a place from which they can’t see anything — but they can hear. When the music erupts, Edith grabs a shawl, and the two begin their own little show, which ends in their first kiss.

Even if they didn’t yet know that they’d be married for over 50 years, I’m sure neither of them regretted missing the actors on the actual stage. Had their visit been a more public one, they could never have been so intimate with one another. Maybe for Tolkien and Bratt, hanging out in a coat room was the main event. Just like for me and my girlfriend, seeing Spectra without the lasers was enough.

The next time an event doesn’t go to plan, ask yourself: Might there be another, bigger plan? Go with the flow, make the best of the situation, and maybe tomorrow you’ll discover: You didn’t miss the main event. You were just meant to be somewhere else, and you ended up exactly where you needed to be.