While trying to suppress my crowd anxiety and avoid getting burned by the tips of lit cigarettes that seemingly swarmed around me like bees, I overheard a man raise a question that seemed too private to be asked in a crowd of over 90,000 filtering out from the main stage on Friday night at Bonnaroo 2012.
“Do you know how I know there isn’t a god?”
My ears still recovering from eight hours of deafening music perked up.
“Phish is playing a four hour set. If there was a God, it would have been Radiohead.”
I laughed. I may have said “amen.” Then I realized the point this guy was making.
I’m going to go ahead an assume his atheism is based on actual philosophical belief, moral values, scientific theories, and whatever else it is that causes individuals to cling to their worldviews. But there, in that moment, it was the fact that he only got to see Radiohead for two hours when Phish got to play for four. To him, it seemed so wrong that he didn’t even want to believe in a god that would let such a travesty occur.
If someone asked you what the most spiritual experience you’ve ever had would be, would “Church/Synagogue/Mosque/Whathaveyou-God” even be a part of it? For some, their answer would be an early morning hike to see the sun rise, the moment after a brush with death, that time they tripped on psilocybin. For this guy, the Radiohead show* was just so spiritual that he answered with certainty a question that philosophers have grappled with since the beginning of time.
It got me thinking in the way that you do after you hear someone say something you wish you said first. World wars could probably end if everybody would just go see some shows together. Go back and stick the Axis and the Allies in a jazz bar together, and I guarantee things would have gone a whole lot smoother.
Next time you’re at a show, see if you can see it: the mic as the pulpit, the guitars as the angelic choir, the drummer preaching a hellfire sermon, the audience a praising congregation. Better yet, go to Bonnaroo and see it happen hour after hour for four days. That way, when your parents ask why you see it necessary to spend all that money to wallow in the mud and heat in B.F.E. Tennessee, you can tell them because it’s definitely going to change your life.
*(Yes, the Radiohead show was that good, and no, neither me nor this guy were under the influence of any illicit substances when the events described above transpired…)