Last Friday, two nights ago, we had a bit of a get together. We visited with my parents, Uncle D, and my sister and her boyfriend (T**** and D****). I think B had brought up psytrance parties in response to some of the music I had put on. T**** responded by asking what we thought the point of going to them was. Things got a bit noisy what with Uncle D being around, and the conversation in general going all over the place. It was a few hours later I felt that perhaps I could try to answer her question. It’s not something I can say I feel really passionate about, we’ve gone to a couple in the distant past but not any really recently.
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|I can’t say there is any point in going to them, that in general it’s just a large group of young people getting together and getting as shitfaced as they can, as fast as they can, on as much of whatever it is they can get their hands on. Oh yeah, and then there’s the terrible music being played at an even more terrible volume, for a terrible amount of time – a couple of days of all of this usually. I guess the idea looks good on paper, to a certain kind of person. I don’t know why it got brought up, I don’t know why I bothered to say anything about it. I’m not sure we will ever go to another one for as long as we are alive.
But oh well, whatever, anyway.
What I did say involved challenging yourself, putting you in a situation that challenges you on just about every level. In general I think it’s a pretty difficult environment to get comfortable in. On paper it seems easy enough; pitch up, get shitfaced, have fun, enjoy yourself. Let yourself go. At some point you can pack up and go home. The parties usually start early enough on a Saturday, and end at some point on a Sunday, so it’s not like it always lasts forever. I don’t know why I’ve got it in my head that it feels like they last forever, although, some do last for a couple of days. I’m not sure we’ve ever done more than a day and a half ourselves. Maybe what makes them feel quite long is they go on right through the night so.
So what I was saying had something to do with putting yourself in a challenging situation, I think I meant it from a particular kind of perspective, not necessarily from the perspective of most of the people that go to these things. B and I aren’t cut from the same cloth as that of most of the people that go to these things. Not from the same demographic of the general crowd that goes. Not really young, not very foolish. I don’t mean that as an insult or anything. And then there’s the thing about it being a certain way in the past, it not necessarily being the same in the future.
So reflecting back on what it’s been like for us, when we went to a few parties in Cape Town, the drama started even before the party, at the mere mention of the possibility of it the drama started. B and I usually wrangle over it for a while, or at least, that’s how I remember it, maybe it happened once like that, that’s how fuzzy my memory of it is, how long ago it was that this was a part of our lives. Then there would be more drama preparing for it. More drama getting there. More drama arriving there, where to set up the tent, setting up the tent, getting dressed, what to wear, whether we should drink, whether or not to take anything, getting hold of something to take if that’s what we end up deciding.
How we feel about the people – how they behave or misbehave. Whether they make us feel insignificant or insecure. Whether we should dance, what the music is like, how much we should dance, whether we should call it quits, what the weather is doing, too windy, too hot, too cold? What the food and drinks situation is etc. A million and one points of conflict. Putting this down on paper fills me with a sense of regret, that it’s sad having to be like that. I wish it could be a whole lot easier, I wish we could be a whole lot more laid back. Well. Who knows? Maybe at some point in the future. Point being, it’s an environment that can, that does, put your patience to the test. Okay so now off on another tangent…
Parallel to all this is the idea of wanting to grow, to be / become a better person, a person that behaves a certain way. Or expecting that idea to manifest as a consequence of some kind of spiritual evolution, making progress on a path. My sister and D**** for example recently started to attempt a meditation practice again, attend a meditation class. B and myself spend quite a bit of time exploring similar territory, have spent a lot of time looking into what our options are. At this point we dabble, we try to dabble, in a little Kabbalah, and a little Buddhism.
Okay so then you have all of this going on in the background, and life is where you get a chance to take all that stuff for a spin. I mean, this isn’t the exclusive domain of the intellect, this is a way of being, these are tools that can get you to a certain space, and you might ask the question one day about how much you’ve managed to achieve getting to that space. Something along the lines of wanting to gauge whether it’s made any impact, any difference, and to do that to test yourself, to measure whether you’ve achieved anything, measuring whether you have any work still left to do, that kind of thing.
If you fiddle around with meditation for example, check out the places where these ideas come from, check out the people and what they use it for etc. We are talking about a very different thing to how it has been regurgitated in the west; in what is meant to be the modern domain. Back there meditation is like a type of kung-fu, and it’s used to fight a big battle, a battle that involves big stuff; death, pain and suffering, the loss of a loved one / loved ones. And not just these things from a personal perspective, but expanded to a global level. We typically have a bit of a toned down version of this fight, and turn it into a fight involving ourselves, our own minds, and the constant chatter that distract us from whatever self-help objective, day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute. It’s a selfish fight and very us-centric.
I was saying to T**** how meditation is a powerful tool that we aren’t encouraged to practice using on difficult things, if it just involves yourself, your ‘stressed out’ busy mind then it’s a bit self-indulgent. At best only having to deal with a busy mind and trying to cultivate a peaceful demeanor is a little like using a bazooka to hunt a duck. Or a butterfly. It’s a little over-kill. At best having to deal with a busy mind is the equivalent of having to deal with a schoolyard bully.
Going back to where this stuff comes from the practitioner is encouraged to challenge themselves, challenge their practice, put their practice to the test. A practitioner might sit in a graveyard cultivating their meditation skills, and I don’t mean like in a cemetery like we are used to, I mean to sit among decaying corpses. Sadhus live in austerity, renouncing all worldly possessions including clothes and shelter, they rely on charity to get fed – it’s not an easy life at all – it’s very challenging. What might be the equivalent of these types of challenges that could be used to achieve the same thing in the west? In the lives of people that are spoiled rotten and in general not left very wanting?
Now that you are learning kung-fu where is the Chuck Norris you need to practice defending yourself against?
I think T**** started feeling a little picked on at this point, having only recently signed up for meditation classes. I had to point out I was just using this as an angle to answer a question, thinking because it might be an angle she could relate more to, and so understand my answer better. My point was that putting yourself through an uncomfortable experience, for example a few days worth of trance party, might provide a challenge, an opportunity to test your practice. It was one possibility involving what the point of going to one might be. I don’t know, now that I’ve put it all down on paper it seems a little weak. In fact that’s not just the case right now, I think it seemed a little weak, unconvincing, at the moment I was trying to use words to make the same point, even if I covered a lot more ground than I covered here.