Monday, March 02, 2009

Theology & Clubbing Culture

One of the project my boss gave me is to transcribe a few interviews done with a group of famous Christian musicians. These musicians are committed Christians and they collaborate with Asia's who's who pop-stars. And as I was transcribing just now, I came across this remark made by one of the musicians when he recalled his clubbing experience,
[The surreal-ness that nightlife] gives me a sense of everlasting realness that doesn’t end. Everything seemed solid and exaggerated... a fake reality. For example, you can instantaneously become best friend to a total stranger in a club, and the following day, both of you remain strangers to each other. [The alcohol] makes us feel very light and easy-going at that moment but when we bump into each other in the car-park the next morning, we simply don’t recognize one another. It’s rather pathetic and superficial. (Kenn Chua)
Being someone who is interested in theology yet harboring nightlife as a recreation, I can totally sympathize with what Kenn said.

Yes, nightlife exaggerates everything. Clubbers come out in stunning outfits and make-ups. Everyone suddenly look outstandingly attractive. Blasting musics and discotheque lighting establish borders on the building's floormap. Bouncers became the territorial markers of this space. And the DJs are the high priests.

Such world has its own language and mannerism. People groove and move in patterns that only exist in MTVs. Laugher and tears come with certain rythme and tone. Handshake as greeting gesture is replaced by affectionate hugs. Public-Display-Affection is not disdained in this social circle. Everyone seem hyper-realistically happy. Everyone unconsciously submerged into this simulacra.

And you wonder how I take this as a recreation?

I appreciate this simulacra not as a space where everything are exaggerated. Contrasting that, it is a spot within the real and secular world that experiences transcendence.

In this space, music and lighting don't stay merely as music and lighting that occupies the ears and the eyes. Here, music coupled with lighting commands movement. And I don't mean only body movement. They move us away from being too obsess in ourselves. And we need such movement. Such liberation.

Perhaps it is strange but people in the club, as I observed, are transcended from cold individuals into eschatological creatures. They generally seemed more warm, friendly, and accepting. People actually smile more in the club than they normally do. And you don't even feel isolated, or worst guilty, even if you don't feel like talking after introducing yourself. The music override the awkwardness. In such space, people are liberated from excessive normalcy and hollow pleasantry. Isn't this a picture of re-creation?

Let's face it. This simulacra is critiquing the real world. For one, it shows us that we can actually do better to live with one another. Like all simulacra, this imitates reality and provides a better parallel. If there is nothing substantial about clubbing, do you think this industry can exist until now?

People craves for transcendental experiences. And it doesn't need a club owner to know it.


pearlie said...

Interesting. I am not a clubber though once in a long long long while, I have to do it for various reasons, and I do see your points.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Pearlie,

Have you reflect over this culture before? And could you share what were some of the various reasons you clubbed?


pearlie said...

No, I have not reflected over this before, which was why I thought your reflection was interesting. I only go because I have to ... I'd rather not :) I'd rather snuggle in bed and read a book.

(the word verification these days are getting too close for comfort: ruckshe! LOL)

Sze Zeng said...

Oh I see. Understand that.. probably there are company's function or friends' events like birthday bash. :)

pearlie said...

Yup and more often than not, I leave early.

blogpastor said...

Thanks for your vivid description of club culture. Its very interesting and new to my ears. I have wondered what is it about clubs that keep people going there again and again and your post gives me an idea: clubbers are seeking to have deep inner needs met through the experiences they find in the club.

How do you think the Church can help meet some of these very real needs that drive clubbers? I am interested in reaching young adults and I know most clubbers are in their twenties and thirties.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Kenny

Thanks for your comments and questions. Yes, clubbers are seeking to experience transcendence but there are more to it. I’ll continually post thoughts over this culture here. Clubbing, like all cultural artifacts, is multi-faceted.

How the Church can help meet very real needs of clubbers? First of all, accept their connectedness with that culture. Given that clubbers often meet up only in the clubs, it is hard to engage them in other places as a group. If for individual clubbers, we have to accept them and not associate clubbing itself with vices like ‘drunkenness, casual sex, drugs, gangsterism, etc. We befriend them and willing to spend time go clubbing with them. And if club with them we don’t sit still and play with our handphone. We must learn to join the dance and drink with them. Start to make friends.

As clubbing is a surreal experience, friendship is easily forged but hardly maintained. And on the other hand, enemies are easily made as well. I’ve experience becoming like brothers with some clubbers, but when we hang out for coffee session in the broad daylight, we hardly can sustain mutually interesting topics. And also I’ve seen more than once people fighting in the clubs.

So Christians who want to “meet clubbers’ needs” have to really be interested in them as persons and not as means to earn heavenly brownies. And of course it requires mutual interest to sustain a friendship, so to befriend a clubber require nothing less.

As long as the Church does not accept the clubbers’ culture, hardly an organized help can be given. At best,only personal evangelism. So it’s good if Church do not condemn clubbing culture for a start.

blogpastor said...

Thanks for your answer. Your observations are weighty.