Some years ago, my mom took me, and my younger sister, to a fantastic Josh Turner concert at the Ariel Theatre in downtown Gallipolis, Ohio. Josh and his mates put on a wonderful show, and we all had a good time singing and dancing. We spent some time after the show visiting with the band members outside, and all in all it was an incredibly fun night. Somehow I ended up driving down old 2nd Avenue a night or two later, and seeing the same theatre venue now all empty, silent, and cold. The contrast struck me on a deep level emotionally, and I never forgot the way I felt that night. It was like the time I walked alone on a snowy night with the cold wind biting my face, and I saw the light of a living-room window pouring out into the winter dark. I thought of the happy warm family inside.
It’s been 18 years since that night, and now I find myself in Salt Lake City for a professional conference of veterinarians practicing bovine medicine. I’ve lived in Idaho, Utah, Canada, Ohio and California in the time between that Josh Turner concert and now, and I even spent a summer in southern Ecuador. I found bars to be too loud, mostly unfit for having a discussion, and overall not the most enjoyable activity for me in each of those places.
I went to a reception event at Keys On Main one night this week. It was prepared by Endovac Animal Health for veterinary students, practitioners, and affiliates. It was loud, warm, and packed with people inside. Sitting at a table, near the dueling pianos, I could sense the vibration of every keyboard percussion through my fingers on the tabletop, I could feel the floor slightly trembling from the nearby dancing, and I could pick out the raised voices of nearby students singing along with the Styx cover. The memory of the cold theatre came rushing back to me, and as I held my pint of Blue Moon, I all at once saw the entire experience differently.
All of it – the chaotic noise, the trembling floor, and even the radiating heat from all the people nearby in the small space – it’s a celebration of Life. It’s just like my 18 month old son, dancing by squatting up and down, throwing his hands in the air, and walking in circles every time he hears music. The lifeforce we have to be able to do such things as sing a song, dance around a floor, or play a keyboard loudly, is an incredible gift. We are in an enormous elemental universe of stars, supernovas, and black holes and yet somehow, in this moment of space and time, we humans are together, in this room, feeling the energy of one another and contributing our own energy to the group. We are all aware, deep down, of the inexorable coming of our death, and maybe Dilan Thomas could have written another verse to Do not go gentle into that good night, one about dancing and song, as a way to rage against the dying of the light.