Last night I was at show #6 of the year. It wasn’t initially what I had planned to see, but after hearing who was performing I immediately know I had to go. It’s part of the second annual Big Smoke Festival at Tallboys, a bar and restaurant near Bloor and Ossington in Toronto. When I looked at where it was happening, I grimaced a bit. The location given was “heated tent behind the bar.” As in outside. When it was -15 C out. I knew that “heated tent” would mean “barely above freezing tent” and boy was I right.
The bands were pretty great, but during the first two sets I could feel my toes burning with cold and I found myself tapping my toes to the beat not only because I was into the music, but also to keep my feet from going completely numb. In the tent there were two heaters, and I was near the smaller of the two for quite a period of time, which made me much happier when final act Harlan Pepper took the stage.
But something I noticed was that this icy, blistering cold actually brought out the better part of me. Normally, when I’m in a crowd of people and don’t know anybody, the last thing I usually do is actually talk to people. But our common goal of trying to be as warm as possible had me talking to all kinds of people I had never met before in my life. And i have to say it felt really good.
A few years ago, I remember getting really, really angry at some classmates. Me being of the generation I’m part of, I wrote a Facebook note about what pissed me off. It was rather simple; in my class, late in the year, two of my classmates still didn’t know the name of a girl that sat in front of me. I barely spoke to her, but I at least made an effort to know her name in case I ever worked with her. These two classmates of mine, anyhow, asked me what her name was. I think I said something like “Come on, are you serious?”
So I wrote a post on Facebook about I was convinced that humans are, at their base, only interested in themselves (I was seventeen when I wrote that so I hope you can forgive the logic cliff-jump I took there). And it’s very easy to say that humans are selfish when one takes a look at all the awful things that happen in the world. And we learn about these awful things because that’s what the news presents to us. I’m not saying this is a bad thing—we should be aware of what’s happening in our world, lest we be as ignorant as the people in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
It’s now four years after I wrote that particularly scathing high-school level critique, and I think I’ve definitely had a change in opinion about my theory. I believe that, in essence, there really is goodness in everybody, only I think it takes some special effort for that goodness to become apparent.
I’ve already written previously that sporting events, major ones, can bring people together. But it also takes something as simple as trying to stay warm. I didn’t learn anybody’s name last night or make any real friendships, but I did genuinely bond with people over the fact that it was so warm when you put your hands directly over the heater.
All the way back in 2003, as many will remember, there was a huge blackout that affected something like 10 million Canadians and 45 million Americans. I remember it clearly because I was sick that day, and I didn’t immediately realize how big this story was going to be. It was later when I found out about some very positive things that happened while no one had power- people hosted impromptu barbecues to cook meat that would otherwise go bad, and invited neighbours to come join in the fun. I’m sure lots of people were good Samaritans and helped out those who might not be able to swiftly respond to those kinds of crises.
The internet has been responsible for lots of ills, no doubt, but it has also morphed into an alternative news outlet from time to time, telling some very heartwarming stories of real people helping other people in need, such as one man in New York who handed out money to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
People are good, everybody. Really. It just takes some time to see it.