The Grand Catharsis

Issue 01/15

Sometimes all we need to balance the gruelling monotony of the daily grind is one grand unbridled party and celebrate everything worth celebrating.

Work, eat, sleep, repeat. The gruelling monotony of the daily grind can provoke plenty of self-doubt and existential grief. Why are we so shackled to this onward march to who-knows-where? Who do we serve? How big will that pot of gold waiting for us at the end be?

Holi Festival of Colours, Spanish Fork, Utah, USA

Some of these questions may creep into your mind as you collapse on the couch at 2.00 am on a Thursday night consoling yourself with the proximity to the weekend. Ah the weekend! That priceless two-day reprieve. The temporary laying down of arms. Those treasured 48 hours of freedom that allow you to reboot before you restart the weekly routine all over again. Or maybe you’re just too exhausted to even question anything beyond your next death-defying deadline.

Pushing ourselves to breaking point at work can often force us to embrace similar extremes in our personal lives. We numb the accrued pain with alcohol on a Friday night. We embark on intense holiday expeditions to far-flung jungles or foreign mega-cities—even if we return more tired than before we left. It’s as if one extreme is sought to remedy the other.

Like an extraterrestrial observing humankind from afar, the Dalai Lama once said that this puzzling phenomenon was what most surprised him about man: ‘Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.’

Our subsequent choices often reflect an innate thirst for balance—even if we don’t realise it at the time. This perpetual quest can take us far and wide; a journey paved with joy, disappointment, doubt and occasional interludes of clarity. Yet, sometimes what we’re looking for doesn’t require a plane, train or automobile. Sometimes all we need is one grand unbridled party to let loose and celebrate everything worth celebrating.

Festivals—with all their colour and cheer, give us an opportunity to break free from the routine and rigidity of the working week. The curative power of primal beats, dancing to your heart’s content, sharing pure moments of togetherness with your friends—these raw ingredients swirl together to form a grand catharsis, cleansing our mind and—if we’re lucky, nourishing our very soul.

Holi Festival of Colours, Spanish Fork, Utah, USA

A dance party in a remote forest gives us a dose of late-night adventure. Dancing to the primal beats of our favourite bands and DJs elicits a unique strain of happiness. That’s what people do at festivals—be happy. Wet blankets and sourpusses need not apply. A festival of world music, dance and food, reminds us of everything good in the world, and masses of people coming together to celebrate peace, equality and oneness, is perhaps the greatest expression of what makes us human.

Many years ago, I was lounging under the fig trees of a city park in Australia, surrounded by festivalgoers young and old. The infective power of a Mexican songstress was lighting up the afternoon and a friend of mine raced past in a flurry of cartwheels, squeals and ecstatic giggles.

‘What are you doing with your life?’ I jokingly yelled after her.

‘I’m living it!’ she bellowed back, before rocketing into the pulsating crowd, laughing as she continued to dance with reckless abandon.