2008 Burning Man was AMAZING for me.
I still have so much to process.
Unfortunately, the decompression is coming TOO fast and furious this year.
The thick cultural smog is more than I can handle.
I spent a week basking in the deepest personal truths singing from inspiring individuals.
Now all I hear are the most sophisticated manufactured phrases spewed from political conventions.
It is WAY too abrupt for me.
“Decompression” is the term Burners give to that abrupt shift from a love-fueled community to the normal interactions of regular life.
And it is always hard.
(My camp mate Nanda was shocked when, on the ride home from his first burn, the Taco Bell cashier would not accept his gift of a beaded bracelet and refused his hug. “But, dude …you brought me *tacos*!!”)
The timing of this year’s presidential election has created an unusually harsh shift for decompression: The dust in the air has been replaced by a heavy political odor.
It would *seem* a more natural transition since the theme of this year’s event was “American Dream.”
But so far, that is not my experience.
What I saw in the art and people of Burning Man was the very BEST of America.: Intense Individualism, a profound value of Liberty, and the exaltation of Freedom.
What I see in the political media landscape feels combative, manipulative, and deceitful. Is it just me?
To be truthful, I was not a fan of the Burning Man theme when it was announced. How could something I find so sacred, dirty itself with the shallow realm of politics?
But I’ve discovered that The American Dream is very different than politics.
In fact, I am starting to see that it is the opposite of politics.
The American Dream is about creating a system that defends my rights, regardless of the opinions, beliefs, and faith I hold dear.
I think the founding fathers would be Burners.
I say that without any intention of humor.
It is easy to compartmentalize Burning Man into a caricature of faux fur, dance parties, and fire.
Perhaps I am guilty of promoting this type of perception.
But being a flamboyant pink superhero was what my dream looked like.
Through my creativity, my mom’s crafting skills, and a community’s support, I was allowed to make a ridiculous dream real. What is amazing is that, in that ridiculous state of freedom, I have been able to get in touch with things far deeper and profound.
Things like love and spirituality. Things like honor and respect.
I’ve always said that the overall attitude at Burning Man is, “You can do whatever you want that doesn’t cause harm to others. I may not choose to join you, but I’ll certainly hold your coat while you do it.”
If you tried to turn that sentiment into legalese, I think you’d get something pretty close to the Bill of Rights.
It seems to me that The American Dream is about protecting Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
NOT defining what any of those things looks like.
America’s Founding Fathers wanted to guarantee us all a canvas and access to paints.
Because life, like art, can only be judged by the one who lives it.
How we live our lives is the most sacred thing we have. And the Founding Fathers knew it. They fought for it. They bled for it.
Thomas Jefferson said that, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” I hope with all the love in my heart that we find a way fuel our dreams with a different type of manure.
Lord knows we have a surplus of shit to burn.
I just hope we have the vision to remember what is sacred, and what needs to be destroyed.
Because, come November, if election fraud and corruption fill the void of our deflating Hope, I’m not sure what will happen next.
Will the status quo continue to allow a place for the fringe?
I don’t care if I’m in control, embraced, or even liked…so long as the right to be free from persecution remains self-evident.
All I want is Life & Liberty. And to be allowed to choose my own path to happiness.
I hope this is the American Dream our candidates fight for.
I hope this is the American Dream we all fight for.
Burner & Patriot,
John Halcyon Styn