Thoughts from Ultra Miami 2019: Hell is Other People


**First thanks to Daniel, who mentioned how there were so many rich international Asians there were at Ultra.**


My high school English teachers essentially had free reign over our curriculum, and one book we read was No Exit, an existentialist play by Sartre. One of its most famous lines is also its most misunderstood.

“All those eyes intent on me. Devouring me. What? Only two of you? I thought there were more; many more. So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales! There’s no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE!”

I don’t know about you, reader, but I, as an angsty teenager going through puberty, thoroughly fell for the superficial message. Hell is other people! The world sucks!

Slowly I realized though, that hell, heaven, and everything in between, is other people. That, as Sartre had to explain:

…“hell is other people” has always been misunderstood. It has been thought that what I meant by that was that our relations with other people are always poisoned, that they are invariably hellish relations. But what I really mean is something totally different. I mean that if relations with someone else are twisted, vitiated, then that other person can only be hell. Why? Because… when we think about ourselves, when we try to know ourselves, … we use the knowledge of us which other people already have. We judge ourselves with the means other people have and have given us for judging ourselves. Into whatever I say about myself someone else’s judgment always enters. Into whatever I feel within myself someone else’s judgment enters… . But that does not at all mean that one cannot have relations with other people. It simply brings out the capital importance of all other people for each one of us. 1

We are only really brought into being through other people. Now how does this relate to Ultra Miami, which is as far from sober, high-minded thought as you can get?

Well, back to rich international Asians, just from a quick observation you could tell that some (not all!) were just not having fun. They were painfully aware of the contradiction between the collective imagination and their lived reality, that everyone at Ultra was supposed to be having fun, but they weren’t. I make this claim because I personally have went through this same conundrum, and I remember the behaviors I exhibited when I was trying to appear, to look like, I was enjoying myself.

The fact that I am 2 meters tall did not help my excruciating self-consciousness at parties. I always worried that I looked lanky and disproportionate, or that my flailing arms would accidentally knock someone out. Yet I didn’t have the demeanor or the cigarette to pull of the cool mysterious stranger standing on the side. So I tried to have a kind of self-aware, constrained, limited fun.

The problem with that kind of behavior is that people can sense you’re not being authentic, that you’re ‘faking’ something. And people don’t like it, because everybody has faced agonizing un-authenticity, the feeling that you’re on a stage performing for everybody but you.

It may seem cliché every-time the DJ thanks the crowd for “gggooOOOOddd vibes,” but I think that’s what we live for, an unadulterated ecstasy, a genuine happiness. I learned to relinquish my self-consciousness, to let myself be subsumed by the beat and the energy, and dance like my ego didn’t matter. People are attracted to people who are enjoying themselves, but paradoxically, to genuinely enjoy yourself you have to transcend other peoples judgment.