The ill-titled Pursuit of Happiness

I guess many people have seen the movie „Pursuit of Happiness“ with Will Smith. I was on a similar task last weekend in Utrecht. Nothing noble compared to the film itself, I was chasing the music that I love, with some twist. I thought it is worthwhile noting down because I have explored a bit more of the boundary or limit of my own happiness. Maybe you can guess now where the illness comes from — it involved trying out chemical substances.

I remember it was 13 years ago when my friend showed me some electronic music on his orange Sony Ericsson. The same friend with whom I was going to Utrecht with. Some time later, I discovered „A State of Trance“ (ASOT) on the internet, hosted by the Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren. Ever after I having been listening to similar kind of music called Trance. The rhythmic basslines gives me the grooves and the energetic supersaw lead sound with beautiful melodies, whether an arp or a simple chord progression, lifts you a little higher, amplifies the happiness and simply puts a smile on my face. I am in general a happy person, I would say, and I have heard others, but with the music, it goes up a notch. Feeling happy is the best thing and last year before my world trip, it was not easy to find it back again. And last weekend, the ASOT Radio Show was celebrating the 900th episode, 18 years of airing. Meanwhile my taste has shifted slightly and the one DJ that I wanted to see – Above and Beyond – was playing. So I decided to go check them out. It was also easier to convince my friend since it is a big festival with 35k people.

Trance itself has accompanied me for more than 12 years, a journey of itself. I listened to radio shows first, became obsessed with a few tracks (for example, Dash Berlin – Till the sky falls down), started to cut them out of the episodes since the tracks are usually not released. Some years later, the show started to turn mainstream. I was not very happy about the track selection, so I started to listen to all the so called 0-day releases and to put together my own set to “express” how I would feel. I have burned them onto CDs and listen to them when I rarely go out with the car (of my parents). Then I started to find some tracks, starting nice, ending rather far away from my taste. The next thing you could do is to try to create your own interpretation – e.g. remix. This is a more complicated process and I maybe got a little better after 6,7 tracks, while watch youtube tutorials. Till today, I would still listen back to some of them. Even though they suck ass, some of the ideas still remain there and the emotions can still quite vividly appear in front of my eyes. The creation of those remixes were one of the (maybe few) moments so far where I actually felt having dived into the whole process without thinking about anything else. Where maybe sleep or food were even forgotten. Maybe this is what passion is / was?

I can’t recall what triggered me into wanting to try out some new chemical stuff. Maybe the thought has intrigued me seeing those ecstasy named pills giving people the urge to take it to reach a state of happiness. Maybe I was curious what kind of happiness that is. Is it a different kind of happiness? Some people get addicted, will I fall into that hole? After some research and listening to my friend, MDMA seems rather safe and the risk of addiction is low. People say you get into a happier state for 3—6 hours but after that you might have trouble falling asleep or the next day you would feel down. Your body has produced so much “happiness chemical” (the substance basically lets the body release more serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) in that time frame so that the next day, your perceptions will need to adopt to the normal level again.

My friend was all pumped up that night since he hasn’t taken one since more than a year and he was assuring me it is the best thing ever. I was nervous thinking about what could happen and what if I took too much since I am rather lightweight compared to the 190cm and 90kg across my desk. After hesitating for 10 minutes, I swallowed 1/5 of that purple pill with Don Perignon inscribed on it and hit the road to the concert hall.

After 45min, shortly before the entrance, the effect kicked in. I was feeling suddenly a bit dizzy, almost like the tipsy dizzy, but all was still clear, with my eyes wide open. My sight perception changed a bit with more concentration in the middle of the viewfield. All around it seemed a bit blurred, like a fish eye perspective. But was I feeling happier than usual? Not really. I was at the same show 3 years ago, and another time 2010. I felt the same. I saw Dash Berlin, Andrew Rayel in Zurich, Armin after Street Parade. Sometimes I was even happier. I was feeling awake, but definitely not more happy.

The music is awesome, and unlike alcohol, the initial dizziness has faded. Under the influence of alcohol, things are rather a bit more “träge”, but now, things are clearer than ever. With the usual work schedule, I would feel tired, but no trace of any or that. Then the effect faded after 4 hours, you can feel the tiredness immediately. Well, Above and Beyond was everything I expected it to be. And the happiness comes from the music and not from the pill itself. And it is a familiar feeling that I used to have when I listen to the trance tracks that I love. Maybe during the normal everyday life, you tend to hold back a little and not go crazy in the train.

The second day, when I woke up, I was nervously checking how I felt. I was not down at all. I felt actually better than a night out with a lot of alcohol. Was I “unhappy”? not at all either. I could clearly remember that aspiring music the night before. After that check, somehow I felt even happier, more relieved that my own happiness is coming from within. Or actually not within, but with what I like, and not a artificially induced reaction (going back to the philosophical discussion of what is right or wrong, the facts are actually the same, but the triggers are different), but I hope you know what I mean. And combined with the fact that the pill did not make me feel happier than before or feel another happiness that I did not experience, I really appreciated that I tried it out. Now, I do know that there is nothing (maybe this is too absolute) that can make me feel happier than I felt before. At least, the happiness that I felt are the real happiness and the chemical reactions that was happening was stronger than the artificial effect of produced substances. When you know that the feeling you perceived were the best ones that you will ever get, that gives you also the kind of assurance that, you do know what actually makes you happy, is the real thing, like listening to what you love to, to feel appreciated by others and to see the ones that you like.

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