It’s Halloween 2021 tonight. I have a concert to attend, one of the acts to whom I’ve paid attention has invited me to see them live. So, I’m abandoning my traditional “trick or beer” routine and heading down to a lovely smaller theater in my town for an evening in a crowd. Prior to 2020 and the pandemic, this was my routine, in bigger or smaller rooms, several nights a week, almost every week. Then, as we all know the world changed.
What we didn’t know then, and what we are still learning now is that the world will not change back easily. That’s the true horror of tonight, the night when we face down demons and hopefully appease them with candy.
Maybe it’s because I’m 60 now and have seen a few things, read some books, traveled a bit and broken away from the same old, same old where I live most of the time. Maybe it’s because I’m just heartbroken at the ways in which everything has moved. Or, maybe, because this is Halloween when we face “evil” it is becoming all too clear that on the rest of the days we are simply just ignoring it.
Go back and look at the podcasts and stories I’ve published. They always circle back to the same theme. Live entertainment is the collective cathartic experience of a crowd. It’s that jolt of pure joy which spreads through you when the band kicks things into gear and the crowd explodes. That can come from the way in which The Foo Fighters bring Times Like These up from a slow start to a rocking finish or when the lead singer of a local band jumps off the stage and over the barrier into a crowd of barely dressed girls who are agog at the prospect of being 5 feet from the stage and beneath the crowd surfer. It’s positive energy. It’s love radiating and empowering everyone within the space.
Although we have many ways in which to moderate the effects of the pandemic, we’ve politicized the process and made it a badge of identity to be for or against ameliorating its effects. As a result, live events continue to cancel, postpone or those which play do so to diminished audiences as those fans afraid to get ill simply stay home.
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It is near impossible to mount a tour and survive the expense unless you are in the top 10% of all acts, and absolutely impossible when you are at risk of intermittent cancellations due to Covid. The same is true for Broadway shows which spend millions to ramp up and cannot afford to close for three days when their stop in Cleveland is for only 6 nights.
But sadly, this is now our life as the war rages on across social media, Facebook, and through the increasingly narrow targeted news distribution outlets. We are no longer one country which holds ourselves out as Ronald Reagan described: America is, and always will be, a shining city on a hill.
Where we once stood together at ball games and BBQs, in concert halls and on festival fields, a poison has spread. It is commonly said there is no ”I” in team.” Over the past several years that has mutated to where there is also no “we” in team. It’s “them” and “us.” And, as a result, civility suffers and the bond which holds this country together has been swapped for the hatred which is pulling it apart.
This land holds out the opportunity for anyone to become whatever they wish, whether that’s rich, famous, politically powerful, or just happy to be with their family in their community. There was only one expectation: be honest. Remember George Washington and that cherry tree. You are only as good as your word. Spreading false or misleading information is lying pure and simple. It is unacceptable in any context. Speak your truth, but make sure your sources are credible. Facts exist. Opinions vary. Know the difference. Your reputation depends upon it.
Maybe, tonight as we all come together and watch the World Series, it might be worth thinking about whether it matters whether Atlanta wins or Houston wins. After all, next year they both start again at zero wins, zero losses. What happens to them next year will simply be a result of the work they put in to maintain excellence. In life, as in baseball, victory usually goes to the most prepared and those who put in the extra effort. You can’t debate the score. It’s right there on television every time someone gets safely across home base.
That’s kind of how life works too. You win some, you lose some. Time is better spent trying to win the next one than arguing about what is already done. If there is any single universal truth it may be this: time is the only thing we cannot acquire. Your time is done when it is done. No one tells you when your final day is coming, and there is no negotiation when it arrives. Use your time wisely. Here’s that thought put to music by The Foo Fighters:
As the doorbells ring all evening tonight, with ghosts and witches, cowboys and unicorns all seeking a treat while “threatening” a trick, there is a lesson there too. These children know that the treat does not come because of the threatened trick. It comes from the love of the community for their children.
Maybe it’s time to try that at the grown-up level. When people share values and goals they understand that taking turns gives everyone a chance and listening instead of talking is how trust rises and social norms prevail. That is how politics once worked. It is how business still works. And it is absolutely the foundation of love and family from which everything of value flows.
As you face down the devil at your doorstep today and appease him/her with some candy, perhaps think about trying that with the “devil” you harangue on social media. Maybe, you both like the same television show, are trying to learn the same song on the guitar, or both have a real desire to see Paul McCartney play one more time.
A society is the sum of its members. My suggestion is we note the change in seasons and remember what we once took for granted. United we stand, divided we Fall. We beat polio, together. Smallpox is no longer a threat. The only cholera at the Opera appears onstage. Even the Nickelodeon’s “The Angry Beavers” had a sense of humor. Perhaps a look at their antics might put ours into perspective.
Happy Halloween all. May you receive the candy you desire and sleep free from the ghosts which haunt you. I will be listening to live music, beer in hand, and raising a toast to each of you and to love, family and the speedy recovery of community.