Perhaps the intensity of adolescent belonging, when the metal door opens for you and then clamps shut to keep out the uninitiated, is a chimera of youth, dangerous to desire in adulthood. Still, the community I felt in those sweaty crowds during those nights can remain a goal. In my relative cultural homelessness now, I still find some version of it in little pockets when I really connect with other people – they need not share my taste in music or clothing to make connection possible, though now as ever, these commonalities make it easier.
Is it cruel to have the experience of total belonging for a short time, and then have to settle into wider worlds where treaties must be made and maintained one by one, where commonality and strangeness intermingle even in the person of our closest partners? What is the lasting effect of such intense but transient communion?
On one hand, maybe it sets us up to ask too much. A few hours in a music-saturated room is like the erotic thrill you have early in a relationship, before children enter the picture and then only sporadically afterward. You wouldn’t want to trade those things away. They set a standard that serves to bound the range of our experience, some ideal that makes sense of the realities we live with more regularly. We can and should desire to have more of them; ecstatic self-abandon should be a recurring feature of our lives. We need to lose ourselves now and then.
But of course, these are peak experiences, oases in the desert. No politics – God help us – should be aimed toward that kind of belonging. No family life or romantic relationship will consistently exist in that haze. To demand it is to court resentment, failure, and the deformation of the community and its members. It is to remain an adolescent far past when one should.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor