Sunday, January 3, 2010

Of moon parties and cynicism

Two nights of body painting:

For New Year's Eve we all went down to Koh Phangan. As I mentioned before, the island is famous for having beach parties on the full moon that attract crowds in the thousands. This year the full moon (also a blue moon!) fell right smack dab on New Year's Eve for the start of the new decade. We couldn't ignore these auspices, so we joined the masses. I think, though I have no way of proving it, that at the stroke of midnight, when the fireworks were going off, it was the biggest party on the planet. It was a crazy, almost apocalyptic scene. We spent the whole night on the beach intermittently dancing, socializing, drinking buckets (see earlier post for information on buckets), hooting, and hollering. It was unfamiliar to be among such chaos. For example, I had the least regard for my own refuse there than anywhere else. It was the only place where I could be drinking a beer, and when finished with it, let it fall from my hand to a resting place that was just as valid as any other. The whole beach eventually became like an open landfill, but people would just clear out their little space for dancing or passing out. By morning, instead of the water line being covered with shells and seaweed, it was covered in bottles and flip flops. My disgust with the scene was tempered because I think the Thai locals are totally alright with it. They're making a fortune from us. Every westerner has Baht practically falling out of their pockets (actually, Miles found 1,200 baht while snorkeling, so baht is literally falling out of pockets), and the locals seem more than happy to oblige our various whims.

Even so, a cynic would have an easy time tearing apart party scene on Koh Phangnan. There are a plethora of bitter and true observations they could make, such as the party being nothing but privileged westerners abusing their bodies, the environment, and Thai hospitality for hedonistic pursuits. But seeing the party that way is seeing only one side of it. It is also an act of unity. People travel across the world to meet up in one spot with a common goal: to have fun. And the parties are so popular because of the very fact that they're so popular. It's a positive feedback loop. People thrive on other people's energy, which is a beautiful thing. I hope I'm not being too literary if I quote a John Donne poem for illustration of my point:

No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were. As well as if a manner of thine own or of thine friend's were. Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

In this interconnectedness, I think there is universal balance where every act of evil is counteracted with an act of good. A cynic has the affliction of only seeing the evil. An example of this balance was a fight I saw break out on the beach. The evil was that two inebriated guys perceived some injustice, trivial as it may have been, as justification for violence. The good, however, was that there were immediately people there to break the fight up and cool the nerves of the would-be fighters. Just like the balance of yin and yang, there was neither a net gain of good nor evil--the whole universal balance was contained within that brief moment. But from this point of view, I also think that it's a myopic idea that there can be peace on Earth. Just like night defines day, chaos defines unity, and evil defines good. To eradicate evil wouldn't leave us with peace, it would leave us with nothing; the whole spectrum of good and bad would no longer exist. And I don't know if that would be a good thing.

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