Date: Sun, 10 Mar 1996 15:51:18 -0800
From: (Nancy)
Subject: Harmonious Experience

I would love to hear people's personal stories of their rave experiences. The mental and physical journey, personal and collective transcendence, the realizations and joy... What is for you the highest moment, the meaning?

Harmony was, for me, such an ecstatic experience, that I'd like to share it with all of you (it still influences me despite being three weeks gone). I don't make it to parties every week-end (it is too time-, moneyand energy-consuming!), so when I go it's a special occasion. This year I've been at Begin Again (pure happiness!), All in the Family (busted at 4:20am ;> !), and Harmony.

I went to Harmony with a new friend, someone who I had just met and only spoken with a few times, but who definitely exudes great vibe! He was an enthusiastic raver back in the day, but had not been to a party in a year... Originally, a group of us were going, but everyone flaked, which left just me and my new, not-well-known friend. As the rave experience is an intense one, I was apprehensive to share it with someone I hadn't hung out with before.

We left the East Bay late, and wouldn't be getting to the mappoint til at least midnight, for a party that was sure to sell out. I called F-8 and tickets were almost gone! I pleaded with them to set tickets aside (I've been wanting to go to a Harmony *forever*!). Taking pity on me, they agreed to despite that it would probably mean their waiting a while for =only= me, and getting to their own party later. Symbiotic rave experience #1 of the night! Thank you, F-8!

We arrived at the Acme warehouse. Despite the great controversy surrounding that particular location, every party I have ever been to there has been AMAZING! Acme reserves a special place in my heart, despite my wish for a bigger, better-ventilated, safer locale.

We went straight to the top floor. Hard trance, yes! With my favorite d.j. Ethan spinning, and many familiar faces smiling, and hands clapping, and congos drumming, and vibe building, my friend and I whirled and stamped around for a timeless while... We then went in search of our mutual friend, let's call her "E", and retired to the chill room, to discover each other. We found many things in common - our upbringings, beliefs, values, humor - and started a friendship that remains strong now, in sobriety.

I have found that deep connections I make on ecstasy remain true once we return to "reality." Sharing the ecstasy experience with someone, hours and hours of sharing, talking, and dancing, is a bonding experience that allows for an instant friendship, cutting through the slow process of conventional acquaintance. Ecstasy is often accused of producing a mindless, unauthentic closeness. I have found, though, that my E-established friendships are not indiscriminate. People I meet and hug [:)] with pure love, without having to know them first, do not become my new best friends. But those with whom I embark on a night-long adventure, in which we truly learn about each other, have become *real friends* through a shared intense experience. Maybe it's a chemical that lowers the inhibitions that keep us from other people. Maybe it's a chemical that simply causes "unnatural" happiness, making us blissfully smile at strangers. If so, so what? The experience is real, regardless of the source. The realizations that come may not be possible in our daily mindset, our closed frames of reference. Application of the realizations to our "real" lives is the bridge from the illusionary nature of a drug trip to the material reality of our lives.

My friend and I parted to do some solitary explorations. I floated through the party, buoyed by a strong communal vibe, like threads connecting us all. I previously had excused the widespread use of ecstasy at parties, thinking that each trip was an individual thing, incidental to the fact of the party, which was more about the music. I suddenly realized that the purpose of a party *could* be a huge, collective, E trip! 500 people all in the exact same, loving place - and how powerful that was! Moving away from remnants of judgemental attitudes, the feeling that rampant drug use somehow invalidated the "purity" of the party, I came to see that a large gathering of people to jointly experience transcendent love is an extremely potent, and valid, thing! In fact, mass ritualized intake of hallucinagens have been part of spiritual ceremonies for millenia... In that, raving is merely this moment's manifestation of ancient knowledge, sheathed in technology for this 21st century generation....

During my journey, I caught sight of a video playing on the main floor. Flashing before my eyes were images I had never seen before, pictures of suffering in the Third World. The images were so unbelievable (people living on top of dumps in Africa, scrounging for scraps of food; starvation; prostitution; ill people ravaged, with absolutely no medical treatment; and more...) that at first I had trouble comprehending them. I had *known*, abstractly, that conditions of life were very harsh in parts of the world. But I had never really seen it! These pictures are not shown on our televisions. I had always had the vague sense that countries, despite their poverty, somehow provided for people, that there was some sort of safety net. Here was proof that human beings are existing on this planet in wretched conditions - living in Third World countries that have few, if any, resources, and whose lives consist of simply trying to subsist. I saw very clearly how *rich* our country and the West is - the vastness, plenty, the obscenity of our affluence. Westernization and industrialization have meant wealth for the few, while consigning countries that can't compete (harboring 80% of the world's population) to absolute poverty. I think these images are purposely kept from us, because it would cause people to question the economic and hierarchical system that keeps the West secure, and keeps our standard of living going, to the severe detriment of most of the world's people.

I was in a very open and emotional state, and each image struck me to my core. I have many times walked past homeless and begging people, thinking, "don't bother me!" Thanks, I think, to ecstasy, I was able to *feel* each person's situation, in all of its pain and implications. I have always been progressive and concerned with social justice, but this video made me aware of just how blind, sheltered, and privileged I am, how much I really have as a "starving student." I wanted to thank the people of Harmony for having the consciousness to show this video. At first it greatly distrubed me (and caused me to worry about anyone on acid who might see those pictures!), but I am now utterly grateful for having been exposed to this, because I have a new, real awareness of the global situation. I am graduating this semester and am now considering doing aidwork in a Third World country for a while.

I am a Political Science major and had previously been active for international women's rights, but had withdrawn out of frustration and resignation. This video made me see that what is important is being a witness, standing up and saying that "I see this and it is wrong!", rather than expecting an immediate change. I am now empowered to return to my concern for global human rights that I had previously thought hopeless - something I had thought was forever lost to me.

After spending about an hour alone meditating on all of the above, I once again ventured into the party. I met a teen-age boy who confided in me his fears that he is becoming addicted to speed. We talked a while about drug addiction, his hopes for himself, the deadend of drug abuse. I told him that the loving and open person he is now would be lost to the paranoia of speed, and impressed on him how expanding and exciting higher education is. He found me at the end of the night and heartfully thanked me, telling me he has renewed inspiration to fight it. I also met a girl who had dropped out of school, and encouraged her to return. At 26, I felt like a rave "big-sister," but these connections were not sermons, but given and received very positively as loving knowledge.

Finally I went back in a "trance" upstairs and danced for hours, ending at 7 with a group of about 50 of us getting into a great circle, all holding hands and cheering. On the way out I was allowed to take, as a souvenir, a fantastic decoration - a lovely violet fur silhouette of a teddy bear, with adorable cotton ball tail. I am sewing it onto my ravepants, so keep an eye out! ;)! We left the building, blinking in the newborn sunlight, to be sent on our way by several happy crayons, running about the parking lot and waving, "bye-bye! bye-bye!" Although my car had held only two on the way there, we crossed the Bridge back to Berkeley packed with six of us - our family had expanded.

I laid in bed all the next day, recovering. Still in a beautifully open state-of-mind, I spent the whole afternoon on the phone, re-establishing deep contact with two friends who I had thought were going their own way...

Thank you very much to the Harmony crew, who had put in so much time, love and effort. I have *never* seen Acme look so beautiful, with so many hand-painted signs and decorations, and so many inspirational sayings... This party was, for me, what it's all about. See you all next week at Chrysalis!

Love, Nancy