A few weeks ago I was reading “The Jackrabbit Speaks,” which is the Burning Man E -newsletter. This is something I only do as the event approaches, being too lazy or unfocused to do so much more in advance. I suddenly saw the following:
“Halcyon is leading his annual PINK RIDE on Thursday at noon.
Meet @ noon at Pink Heart (9:30 & Esplanade).
Wear pink; bring your bike and an open heart.
Details, video & pics from previous rides:
PINK? WOW. I love pink! It would be so pretty…WOW, a PINK line of bicycles on the Playa, everyone in PINK. A visual gift to Black Rock City! And I already have a PINK costume!
I looked at a few of the photos from the previous ride, but I really didn’t investigate, not wanting to preview details of the 2011 Burning Man festival. (I deliberately didn’t look at the art projects online, for example, and was only accidentally told about the Trojan horse by a friend.)
The Burning Man Illuminated at Night (© Thelma Lee Gross)
What is Burning Man? It is an annual, weeklong event united by a sense of community, self reliance, gifting, and personal involvement in the human canvas that is Black Rock City. The City is composed of curved, concentric streets that partially encompass the central Playa, where most of the art installations, as well as the Man, are found. Participation is through performance as well as radical self expression via costumes or absence thereof. Events, objects, food and drink, music and other performances, classes, clothing: all are gifted unconditionally from the wildly eclectic camps that serve as mini-communities throughout Black Rock City. The city, which this year contained over 53 thousand people, disappears without a trace within two or three weeks, fulfilling another of the central principles: “leave no trace.” Many structures are burned, including the temple, the Man, and other wooden art installations. Immediacy is critical; nowhere else on earth (except perhaps India) have I felt so much “in the moment.” For me, Burning Man is an opportunity to be in a continuous brightly colored, interactive dream while being allowed to remain awake. It is literally one of the most exotic places on the planet.
The Burning Man (©Michael Holden for Burning Man 2011)
On the day of the ride Pink Heart Camp did not disappoint. There it was, right on the esplanade along the Playa, looking so very pink! So pretty, pink and furry!
I took photos of the other pink people and then lounged on a fluffy pink couch waiting for something to happen. Suddenly there was a slender man, dressed in black with pink hair and sitting before us, the obvious leader. He announced that we were going to wait while a large group joined us. Waiting….I looked at my watch thinking, “We are leaving late.” My anxiety over scheduling seemed out of harmony in the desert but personality is a hard thing to shake. He started to talk and I thought “Okay, he’s just stalling while we wait, okay, just let it go. Let him talk; it’s his camp and his ride. Just relax and soon you will be on your pretty pink ride, creating a pink stripe on the desert.”
He started to talk about his grandfather Caleb, a Baptist minister with endless buoyancy and love for people, who died in 2007 at age 95, and their special and loving relationship. Suddenly I realized I was in the presence of a gifted storyteller and preacher, blessed by a perception and analysis of life that was untainted by truisms, platitudes, or an obsession with God. (He does not believe in heaven.) He began to speak about optimism and joy in life, inspired by his grandpa’s example, and the choice we all have to live in deep appreciation of each moment, one by one. He talked about the balance life offers between the “ice cream cone in your hand and the crap on your shoes” and how dwelling on the shoes is like Shakespeare’s coward’s “a thousand deaths,” which he sees as a useless suffering over obstacles and possible outcomes, and the obsessive focus on “what ifs” instead of a commitment to the task at hand. And he spoke of spreading joy and love to other human beings, which he does both actually and emblematically through Hug Nation, a movement he co-founded with his grandfather.
John Halcyon Styn (© Mike Hedge)
John Halcyon Styn is forty years old. His personal mantra is “love more, fear less; float more, steer less.” John has worked in online publishing and E-commerce as well as in public media. He has had a varied and intense lifestyle. Burning Man is the core of his spiritual life. From his website [pronouns changed]:
“He does not consider himself a Christian, but does consider Jesus to be one of his valued teachers. He considers Buddha, Gandhi, Eckart Tolle, Mr. Rogers and many others to be valuable teachers, too. He believes that a spiritual path is deeply personal. And whatever works for you is perfect. He distrusts anyone who knows ‘the true way’.”
John does a weekly “Belief Buffet” broadcast before Hug Nation each week where he shares “ways that work for him”. Over the past four years he has spoken about gender labeling (“pink toenails” or see Bright Nepenthe's post here); relationships; the meaning of death; the significance of money and abundance; the importance of living in the moment; and the problem of terrorism and war, among other diverse topics. His opinions and perceptions are balanced, good natured, self-effacing, and just plain smart. How do I know? Because I have been watching his on line video blog since I returned from the Playa, and consider him a source of focused and positive energy that has been lacking in my life for longer than I care to admit.
Hugs (© Thelma Lee Gross)
I came for the color and I stayed for the message.