Real Life

Samantha Morse


I often think we misuse the term ‘real life.’ When someone explains their qualms with having to go back to ‘real life,’ it usually means something they are attaching negativity to. When we leave a vacation, we’re leaving a dreamland. We often attach it to a job we resist, daily routines we feel are mundane, or something similar. However, ‘real life’ to me is something different. It’s what we think isn’t real life.

Electric Forest, held every summer in Rothbury, MI, is a four day music festival. Everyone exclaims how there is ‘something about’ that festival. I do think music festivals have a rowdy reputation, and not in the best way. Electric Forest, or EF as the ‘forest family’ calls it, is a bit different because it is conscious. What I mean by this is: it is not a time to drink our senses away. We instead yearn to heighten our senses. It seems like every person becomes more aware of the energy ensuing—bringing extra camp supplies for your stranger neighbor is always considered; after each show there are announcements about trash pickup and sort; if you see someone scared and lost, you take care of them; you smile and talk to whomever beckons you with the same energy, and respect those who need some time in their inner space. Nothing is forced, everything is fluid. There’s something about the ‘forest air,' but I really think it’s all people engaging in self and interpersonal soul exploration.

That doesn’t mean everyone is high on something--another misconception of music festivals. It just as well means sober, too. I believe everyone at EF is able to suspend what distracts us from our essence.

I believe what we attach the term ‘real life’ to is a distraction. It’s a distraction from our truest selves, the selves that wish for peace and understanding. There’s no time for this simple way of living, apparently. Just see what ensues around the globe in regards to all levels of violence—from the fallouts of friends to political tensions, self-loathing to family feuds. No one is born and grows up thinking about the violence they may enact, or the suffering they will feel. I don’t think this is forgotten at EF--that we're all at this crazy expensive, drug-filled, vacation away from 'real life.' It couldn't be more opposite (as it is not expensive--Electric Forest offers layaway and loyalty rewards to encourage as many walks of life to experience it; there are medical tents with MD's and registered nurses; the grounds are respected as a place of nature and not a victim of human folly--they even switched the festival to be one weekend rather than two to restore the grounds, etc. This is no profit-thirsty ploy.) I think it's a time when we see those distractions, that negativity, for what it really is. And it isn’t the essence of who we are. Positivity is the essence of who we are. This is how differences are realized as unimportant. This is how we let go of needing to be right in our opinions. Hate dissipates like dew as the sun rises. At EF, we all see each other as extrapolations of this essence. We regard the energy in each other so that the collective energy is fluid. And in turn, we are all responsive to each other. Even the surroundings seem responsive—that ‘forest air.’

It seems sad that this is ‘special.’ It is incredibly special in realizing the truth of it, but it shouldn’t be special in regards to time or experience. What we think as ‘real life’ is really the distractions that make positivity elusive. But what I see as ‘real’ is what IS real, and that is that essence, free to be and uncovered by any cloud of suffering.

My photo collection is of my friends and the landscape of EF. It is easy to let negativity bleed into our life experience, only because we feel not in control, tired, and upset as our experience transpires in a way unplanned, in a way we resist. Of course, not every day is like that of a day at EF. But I believe that experiencing this essence at EF is what helps me transform my interpretation of my life experience and the world around me. It helps me regard others’ energies, the environment’s energy, the world’s energy. I know that we aren’t born to thrive on negativity. I take ‘real life’ from EF and try to place that light into everything. Talking to friends who I only see once a year remind me of this essence. How relationships can become so strong over one single experience—that’s real life. That's the essence everlasting. Looking at these photos helps me remember in case I become too distracted.

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  • Matthew and John met at EF, and have been best friends ever since.

  • Saddie receives some energetic healing in the morning, as she felt quite sick, she was able to pick up for the rest of that day and night.

  • Aubrie lies in the lush grass of the campground.

  • Ragen and Saddie look upon themselves before leaving a colorful dress tent.

  • Johnny and Matt display an uprise in energy.

  • We randomly ran into my brother--it seems as though we cross paths with the people we love multiple times on random occasion in the forest.

  • Matthew ensconced in the Giving Tree--a giant tree where people leave their special belongings for someone else to have.

  • Saddie looking out under the very tall trees of Electric Forest.

  • Large sources of light create dancing similar to those who do the same among them.

  • Johnny is taking it all in.

  • Saddie and Johnny walking through the forest as it got a little chillier.

  • Hand dancing with Ragen and capturing the multiple expressions in this photo.

  • The hands create a heart of flowers, greeting us.

  • A quiet yet resounding moment at Bonobo's set.

  • Capturing Johnny's moment of self nurture as he soaks in the whole experience.

  • A look of Joy.