The last two essays I’ve read have been entitled “Of Idleness” and “Of Liars,” in which idleness and lying have been roundly condemned. I wonder if these things can be extended and applied to the peculiar spectacle of the European all-night dance club.
While the people at the dance club are not physically idle as they are dancing, Montaigne might argue that the thing which drives them to such an excess of unthinking, gyrating, repetitive dancing is nothing other than a society where many people no longer need to combine analytical thought with physical exertion. Young professionals and students who simply sit at their computers all day could be said to be leading idle lives. Since they have a physical need to move, perhaps their lack of movement during the normal week contributes to the excesses of the all-night dance club.
But for me, the thing that really is unsettling about all-night dance clubs is the “all-night.” If the music is decent I can have fun dancing for an hour. I can stomach the atmosphere for another hour on top of that. But anything more becomes insupportable.
In Paris this weekend I was at such a place with Isabelle and some of her friends. We stayed until closing time at 4:30 AM. After the two-hour period of acceptability had passed and I was tired from jumping around to the music and I stopped and looked around at the people who carried on endlessly in an unvarying rhythmic, jumping, gyrating, and alcohol-induced frenzy, the inevitable “Why?” jumped to my mind and stayed fixed there, completely baffled yet again. The “Why?” is always asked and never really answered.
The most satisfying answer is that these people need some sort of an outlet and that this is what they enjoy. But it isn’t exactly a satisfying answer in the sense of “reassuring.” Is it really a gratifying outlet for them? Being in extremely close proximity to a bunch of strangers (and maybe some friends), getting touched accidentally and intentionally by invisible hands from the anonymous crowd, getting drenched by your sweat and other people’s sweat and your spilled drinks and their spilled drinks, making out with strangers or having making-out strangers bumping into you all the time, yelling at the top of your lungs into people’s ears and not being heard.
Gratifying, or not? A product of idleness, or not? Well, at least it doesn’t seem like a place where you can lie. Of course, lying isn’t possible when truth doesn’t exist–when conventional standards of conduct are forgotten or unanimously ignored. Perhaps not an immoral place, just an amoral place. Where people can’t lie to each other, because words can’t be exchanged. Where they just bump into each other, cast seductive glances at strangers, lose their voices and their sanity, jump around, and sweat.
When all you want to do is leave, but you have to wait for the people whose apartment you will be staying at to want to leave (because you don’t know where it is and you wouldn’t be able to get in even if you did) all of this palpitating nonsense changes from perplexing and distantly fascinating to infuriating and disheartening.