9 June 2011

"Turn the music down or the tractor's coming in..."

So, when we were 21 and were invited somewhere we only needed one minutes notice didn't we? Get a call, someone says want to come to such and such an event and you go yeah, why not. You put your coat on and go out the door. Simple. 

I could go out when I was younger and stay out for days and nights on end; sleep on any old clothes line, as it were, spend all my money on frivolous things that just took my fancy and not worry about anything except what was going to happen in the next few hours. Now it's all direct debits, budgeting, worrying about how I’m going to get back to my lovely bed and whether or not I can get my 8 hours sleep in and set aside the much needed recovery time before I get back to work.

Getting into these set rules and not breaking then every single time is so detrimental to the business of actually hanging out with your friends and having fun and pursuing the elusive happiness; one of the primary reasons for being alive I think. Don’t you?

Does a venue have comfortable seats? Shall I take a chair to the woods? These questions should not be the primary reason for actually going to a place. Does hitting 50 distort primary motivations of happiness pursuance?
Happiness is a state of mind anyway or a feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy. Aristotle said that the highest good for humans, the highest aim of all human practical thinking, is happiness. Happiness is properly understood as an on-going and stable dynamic, a way of being in action. Happiness (also being well and doing well) is the only thing that humans desire for its own sake, unlike riches, honour, health or friendship.

Our old mate Socrates thought that all human beings wanted happiness more than anything else. Socrates is convinced that virtues such as self-control, courage, justice, piety, wisdom and related qualities of mind and soul are absolutely crucial if a person is to lead a good and happy life.

In 350 Aristotle stated that happiness is what everyone wants. He also thinks that happiness is best achieved by a life of virtuous activity in accordance with reason. Aristotle does not think that virtuous activity is pursued for the sake of pleasure. Pleasure is a by product of virtuous action. So the pursuance of virtuous activity with the payback of pleasure is always the desirable outcome is it not? So how come reason went out the window this weekend?

Let me explain...

Twas an interesting weekend for tVC Sound System. We weren’t doing a party this weekend. Oh no. It was Si’s birthday and we’d, well Si, managed to persuade Sir Matt of the Woods to let us jump in on his son’s 16th birthday party camp-over that Matt had planned already.

We did a party there two years ago and loads turned up. It was a great party but Matt thought too many turned up and put the kybosh on another one the year after.

So, Si, being a tVC DJ these days asked fellow tVCers, Mike SU and me to play. He also asked The Sideways Crew to come along and do a few hours; which they agreed. We used the tVC rig, lights, backdrops, mail-list and music style of preference. But it wasn’t a tVC party right?

It was also Scouse Steve’s 40th birthday. He’d gone out and rented a massive marquee, had decorations from Tracy-Ann and set up the Warren/Steve rig and Stoney's lights. He even had a couple of port-a-loos for those unused to the vagaries of outdoor partying. He’d managed to get a site sorted out really nicely. 

Only problem; it was on the same night as Si’s birthday. Or, as it turned out Si’s was on the same night as Scouse Steve’s. Who knows? It made my life feel like hell as I was torn between the two, wanting to attend them both and wanting to play at both and not wanting to upset either Steve or Si. I playing it well but didn’t have much fun.

Here’s my dichotomy; I love them both dearly like a man loves his lawnmower. I love them because I know them and like them; they are both extroverts who tend to be gregarious, assertive, and interested in seeking out excitement. These excellent humans are good at living life; they do it well and beautifully. It’s what makes a virtuous character possible, which is in turn necessary if happiness is to be possible? Well old boy Mencius argued, 2,300 years ago, that if we did not feel satisfaction or pleasure in nourishing one's "vital force" with "righteous deeds” that force would shrivel up. I could never see Si or Steve shriveling up.

Si and Steve don’t know it but they are both followers of the Epicurus ethical theory that is hedonism. Hedonism is the view that pleasure is the only intrinsic good and that pain is the only intrinsic bad. An object, experience or state of affairs is intrinsically valuable if it is good simply because of what it is.

Epicurus identifies happiness as a more or less continuous experience of pleasure, and also, freedom from pain and distress. He recommends a policy whereby pleasures are maximized “in the long run.” In other words, Epicurus claims that some pleasures are not worth having because they lead to greater pains, and some pains are worthwhile when they lead to greater pleasures. The best strategy for attaining a maximal amount of pleasure overall is not to seek instant gratification but to work out a sensible long term policy. All night parties fulfill this model but, to me, maximising pleasure “in the long run” involves thinking about potential clashes and how to avoid them. For the sake of hedonism, darling, for the sake of hedonism.

Steve I’ve known probably 20 years; stalwarts together of the emerging free party scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s together. Many a night I’ve been DJing in the zone and hours later have looked up, late Sunday morning, Steve standing next to, still going strong, no one else left at the party.

Si, I’ve only known a few years but love him for his enthusiasm, dedication and knowledge. And his ability to pick up a speaker and hump it around Kent. Can't beat that. I’ve been feeling very close to him recently, although we don't spend as much time together. Our differences usually clash over the drink after work arrangement where I want to meet at 5.30 then go home and Si likes to meet at 7.30 and spend the night out. Till then our dream of us both playing at a tVC party all day and all night and all day will just have to wait a bit longer.

But neither of the stubborn bastards would postpone their party; neither of the obstinate twats, who just see their own star twinkling bright in the firmament. Both were very committed to their night. They both insisted that both parties would go ahead despite pleas, admonishments and worn knee pads from those close to them. So what happened?

Both parties were great.

No, that’s not true at all; both parties suffered a little from the fallout of the atmosphere created by the clash. To me anyway. Both parties were not firing on all cylinders, although they were firing on most; both parties did not have all the people there they should have had there, I was split. It was a shame but everyone, well, maybe just me, felt it and nobody mentioned it.

I’m not angry or pissed off or upset by all this political Vril. A bit disappointed that it didn’t have the most desirable outcome; two cracking parties for two cracking guys.

Here’s what happened.

A widely publicized study from 2008 in the British Medical Journal reported that happiness in social networks may spread from person to person. Happiness tended to spread through close relationships like friends, siblings, spouses, and next-door neighbours and the researchers reported that happiness spread more consistently than unhappiness through the network. People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected.


The night before Si’s not-a-tVC party Scouse rings me up and asks me to play ‘later’ at his party. He ‘had to be sure’ that tVC were not doing a party the same night. I reassured him that it was just Si having a few of his chums over for a little birthday shenan. Everyone who knew Steve would be at his party and yes I would love to play in the morning; hopefully, in my head I’m thinking this, the sunrise set.

My playing at Steve’s involved leaving Si’s party around half twelve and getting to Steve’s around 1am, hanging around all-night, albeit in a pleasant manner socialising with old, good friends – Christ! Some I hadn’t seen for a very long time - until around sunrise or 5amish when I managed to get on the decks, after much effing about, with Shaun tVC. Five minutes, yes five minutes, later Dave the Land Owner comes over and turns the sound right down saying that it’s to stay that low and wo-betide anyone who turns it up. If they do, he says, he’ll drive his tractor in and up to the decks and... He lets his threat tail away.

This, of course, ruined the whole vibe for Shaun and me, as we were just starting and just beginning to settle in, really looking forward it, what we had waited for all night, we were seeking the "life of engagement" (1), wanting to experience the beneficial effects of immersion, absorption, and flow that individuals feel when optimally engaged with their primary activities. We did an hour then got hustled off the decks and I just thought ’Oh well, I’ve had enough of this. I’m not playing to these unappreciative hedonists’ (of course they are not unappreciative hedonists at all, they are my wonderful old friends who I love dearly) and if I’d said anything about how unhappy I was at being treated like some snotty drum and bass DJ who had just blagged his way onto the decks I maybe would have got into a serious disagreement with someone and just didn’t want that to happen so we stopped playing and we decided to go back to the other not-tVC party.

The state of mind I was seeking, am always seeking is called Flow, or a state of absorption in one's work. It is characterized by intense concentration, loss of self-awareness, a feeling of control, and a sense that "time is flying." Flow is an intrinsically rewarding experience, and it can also help one achieve a goal (e.g. winning a game) or improve skills (e.g. becoming a better DJ). I had Jo in one ear and Dave the Landowner in the other. ‘Flow’ was the last thing that was going to happen to me tonight.
The other party of course had by this time ended in a flurry of damp squibness because so many people left around midnight or 1am to go to Steve’s party that poor Simon on his own couldn’t maintain the momentum and thus by 5.30am he had sent me the inevitable text, which I hadn’t seen till I come off the decks at 6, that said ‘gone to bed’ and as much as I tried to revive him via phone and texts neither him nor Da Lovely Lin could not be revived. 

I had such a time of it with people whinging in my ear and trying to get Warren back on, he’d had already done a 5 hour set earlier, that I virtually saw all the gas in the good airship Oz disappear into the air in a cloud of fiery despondency similar to the LZ 129 Hindenburg catching on fire. The end of the airship era indeed.

Geoff Allday
The Tea Tent of Happiness balanced me out. I remember, whilst having to deal with Dave the somewhat angry landowner after he had turned the volume in the main tent down to a virtual whisper, say to me ‘lower, lower’ and I said ‘It’s not this rig that’s making the noise it’s the tea tent out back’. We could hear the generator above peoples’ voices, then the tea tent volume. Dave, moaning; Jo, moaning. None were the attributes that, to me, that correlate with happiness: relationships and positive social interaction, extraversion, marital status, employment, health, democratic freedom, optimism, endorphins released through physical exercise, eating chocolate, drinking tea, having a good income and proximity to other happy people.

The other bonus was that a nervous Matt, who expected ‘100’s’ of people to turn up to his woods, was greatly reassured that only around 40 or 50 showed up. Those that did were very well behaved and showed due respect to the woods. So much so that he said that we could do another party there again later in the summer. A classic example of positive psychology; as David T. Lykken says. The next woods party will be the ‘results of actions that individuals deliberately engage in to become happier’. According to Clifton and Rath ninety nine out of one hundred people would prefer to be around positive people.

Hopefully this time there will be no birthdays, or competing birthdays anyway, no other parties on that night to split the crowd, no landowners pulling the plug and threatening ultra violence and no characters pissing on my chips and trying to throw me off the decks when I’ve only been on for half an hour. I want a ‘Meaningful Life’, or "life of affiliation", I want to derive a positive sense of well-being, belonging, meaning, and purpose from being part of and contributing back to something larger and more permanent than themselves (e.g. nature, social groups, organizations, movements, traditions, belief systems).

I want Mindfulness, defined as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally; it is also characterized as non-judging, non-striving, accepting, patient, trusting, open, curious, and letting go. Its benefits include reduction of stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. I want that.

I do hope I get another chance to play with the lovely Shaun though and at least have a go at meaningful mindfulness. And Mike. And Si. And the Sideways Boys. Who knows? It’s a small dream but it is still a dream none the less. As the Buddhists say perhaps ultimate happiness is only achieved by overcoming craving in all forms. Don’t crave good parties and I’ll be happy? Anathema mate, anathema.

 The paradox of hedonism, also called the pleasure paradox, is the idea in the study of ethics which points out that pleasure and happiness are strange phenomena that do not obey normal principles. The paradox of hedonism points out that pleasure cannot be acquired directly; it can only be acquired indirectly. We fail to attain pleasures if we deliberately seek them.


Next party? The Smack in Whitstable on Saturday 11th June with Martin Bird, Oz and Si and a beach bum parade after if the weather is hot. Which I now know it won't be. Next time perhaps?

(1) Some researchers (Seligman, 2002) in this field posit that positive psychology can be delineated into three overlapping areas of research:

1. Research into the Pleasant Life or the "life of enjoyment" examines how people optimally experience, forecast, and savor the positive feelings and emotions that are part of normal and healthy living (e.g. relationships, hobbies, interests, entertainment, etc.).

2. The study of the Good Life or the "life of engagement" investigates the beneficial affects of immersion, absorption, and flow that individuals feel when optimally engaged with their primary activities. These states are experienced when there is a positive match between a person's strength and the task they are doing, i.e. when they feel confident that they can accomplish the tasks they face.

3. Inquiry into the Meaningful Life or "life of affiliation" questions how individuals derive a positive sense of well-being, belonging, meaning, and purpose from being part of and contributing back to something larger and more permanent than themselves (e.g. nature, social groups, organizations, movements, traditions, belief systems).