With the dust settling – and by that, I mean finding its way out of my body’s various orifices while my brain returns to some sort of balance – I’m ready to reflect on and integrate my five day expereince of Esoteric 2022.
From the moment I arrived, I could tell this year’s event had an extra bit of charge to it. Given the two year break due to the pandemic, it was a long time coming. And as I think back to when I was first introduced to ‘doofing’ – by sheer chance seven years ago in Sydney as I walked by a small psychedelic art exhibition – I can’t help but feel it has been an even longer time for me.
I finally got to experience the magic that makes these events what they are. And by that I mean the passion, creativity, ingenuity, collaboration and loads of hard work that turns acres of barren land in the middle of nowhere into somewhere enchanted. A place where 7,000 strangers can come together under the moonlight and lasers to dance, connect, laugh and just be their true selves far from the expectations and pressures of day-to-day life and modern culture.
It’s truly a beautiful thing to see grown adults embodying different characters, carrying soft toys, and showcasing all sorts of creative costume ideas. These are people of all shapes and sizes comfortable in their skin in an environment where not even a drop of judgment can be found.
Those ill-informed might throw out words such as escapism and hedonism. Sure, there are elements of that… Just like we can find people binge drinking at any pub in the city. I stand in agreement with Terrance Mckenna who has roots in the original counter-culture moment of the 60s, in saying that what really goes on at these festivals, at their core, is rather about connection and self-healing. One of my favorite snippets of Mckenna is the following:
…Phenomena as diverse as surrealism, body piercing, psychedelic drug use, sexual permissiveness, jazz, experimental dance, rave culture, tattooing, the list is endless. What do all these things have in common? They represent various styles of rejection of linear values. The society is trying to cure itself by an archaic revival, by a reversion to archaic values. So when I see people manifesting sexual ambiguity, or scarifying themselves, or showing a lot of flesh, or dancing to syncopated music, or getting loaded, or violating ordinary canons of sexual behaviour, I applaud all of this; because it’s an impulse to return to what is felt by the body — what is authentic, what is archaic — and when you tease apart these archaic impulses, at the very centre of all these impulses is the desire to return to a world of magical empowerment of feeling…
I left Esoteric feeling closer to myself and connected to others – having attended with a crew of around 30 people. I left believing that community is possible – especially when the divides between groups continue to grow. I left with memories of laughs around the campsite, synchronistic deep and meaningful conversations with strangers (such as talking about my ADHD diagnosis journey with one, and how I learned to dance with another), and moments of transcendence where I felt at one with thousands of people around me as we rode those juicy beat drops together.
I left with the memory of sitting in a hanging pod with just one long-term friend as took some quiet time to watch the moon set between trees, as well as walking back to the campsite with my partner as we looked up at the milky way. I left with a rekindled passion for dance having seen the mesmerising looks on people’s faces as I gave them shows with my newly purchased LED light gloves (thanks Euphoriumstore). I left with an understanding that the time I take away from the rat-race is important and that I’m allowed to do it.
Festivals take a lot out of you, but they leave you overfilled and inspired in many other ways. These few words don’t do the experience justice, you’ve got to come along. There’s another coming event named Elysium which I’ve been asked to participate in, so hopefully, I’ll see you there. Look for the glowing gloves, and don’t hesitate to ask for a light show.
Big thanks to the Esoteric team and everyone else that made this experience what it was.