On Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, my roommate and my brother were sitting on my living room couch as they heard a gurgled scream coming from my room. They immediately ran to my door.
“G-Garrett?” said my roommate in a concerned tone as he gently knocked.
I couldn't speak, so they barged in, only to find me lying back on my chair, drooling and shaking with tremors, my eyes rolled back into my head.
I was having a seizure.
My roommate immediately called 911. When he told them that I wasn’t breathing, the dispatcher instructed my roommate to lay me down on the floor and to tend to me until the ambulance arrived. Emergency responders got to my house in three minutes and immediately got to keeping me alive. They put me on a stretcher and took me to Medical City Frisco.
I came alarmingly close to dying that afternoon. I would have surely turned into worm food had I not been within earshot of someone, and even then, it would have almost certainly happened had EMTs taken any longer to arrive. Everything had to go right, and every day since, I've thanked my lucky stars that it did.
This traumatic memento mori has changed my reality in many disruptive ways, but it also gave me a newfound lease on my life for the simple reason that I am no longer afraid of death. Of course, I want to live as much of a long, healthy life as possible, but when the gravity — and certainty — of your own mortality truly sinks in, you realize there’s an undesirable trade-off behind increasing your longevity. Abstaining from red meat, for example, can make you less vulnerable to carcinogens (or so they say), but do you truly want to spend those 20 additional, cancer-free years not eating a juicy rib-eye or a greasy hamburger?
I bring this up because music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz said in a Feb. 29 blog post that the coronavirus outbreak will “kill the concert business.” Perhaps he’s being hyperbolic, but the fact remains that some admittedly legitimate fears are causing the public to stockpile food and other necessities so they can stay bunkered in their homes, and that is even more frightening than the coronavirus itself.
I will be the first to admit that I have no clue what the future holds for the coronavirus. I don’t know whether it will infect people in the thousands or millions. I don’t know if it will last for a few weeks or even a few years. But I do know that the economy takes a hit when everyone sequesters themselves from the public for a long period.
Forget the stock market (though we shouldn't); human beings need entertainment and culture in our lives, and the longer we go without having a nightlife, the more likely restaurants, clubs and venues are to shutter, and that, too, is more frightening than the coronavirus.
We need a vibrant culinary scene because food shatters cultural barriers. We need local restaurants because nothing sucks more than Googling “Italian food near me,” only to see a long list of corporate chains. If we don’t patronize local restaurants, we stand to lose any semblance of a food culture.
That is more frightening than the coronavirus.
Bars and clubs give us an escape from the minutiae of daily life. Sometimes one night at a club gives people much-needed stimulation and keeps them from feeling like another cog in the machine. Millions of people go to local bars after work to escape. Many people meet their significant others at bars and nightclubs.
Losing that is more frightening than the coronavirus.
Music is a form of communication that predates language. Human beings are creative by nature, and music is such an important part of our expression that even the most economically devastated regions on earth have music scenes. Music gets us through tumultuous periods of our lives and is conducive to any mood or expression we may feel. Concerts are a multibillion-dollar industry, and in the era of streaming, touring has never been so crucial a revenue stream for artists.
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Taking that away is more frightening than the coronavirus.
I’m not saying the coronavirus isn’t a threat. It is, and we need to do everything we can to prevent its spread. I am, however, emotionally indifferent to it, because I am not allowing it to change my routine. If the disease spreads to our area and devastates our community, I’m still going to experience nightlife and engage with the vibrant culture the area has to offer.
After having a front-row view at what death looks like, I’m not afraid of its potential to kill, especially since death will be my inevitable conclusion. What I am afraid of, however, is a world in which culture and entertainment are seen as inessential and disposable and not as life-affirming aspects of our existence.
After all, what’s the point of living if we’re not even living?