Monday, September 12, 2011

The Pink Ride (Guest Post by Thelma Lee)

Intro by Marzie

This blog is run by an atheist. Yeah, that's right, I'm an avowed atheist. And yet I follow the Dalai Lama on Twitter. Why? I like the guy and some of what he espouses. The fact that he's espousing compassion from a religious vantage point doesn't bother me. I believe in compassion. I believe, if not in karma, that what goes around often comes around and that it's better to be good-hearted and honest and compassionate. Because, like HHDL says, it makes me feel better and live in a better world by being part of making it better. And thus, I am willing to risk drawing further ire by not being afraid to say I'm an atheist who likes John Halcyon Styn. He may seem all new-agey with a Christian tinge and over the top, but I like what he says about love and hugs. And I love what he has to say about fear and self-loathing and what a waste it is. I like the fact that he wants to make people feel good and that he rejects hate, rigid gender identity and seemingly a lot of stuff that when you come right down to it, seems always to go back to a position of fear. Fear of the different, fear of the other, fear, fear, fear. To those fears, the fearless man with pink hair offers hugs. And thus, this atheist blogger gives you Thelma Lee's adventures in the desert, with the pink-haired grandson of a Baptist minister (who called himself near the end of his life a "Baptist Buddhist" and said that current religious definitions no longer defined him). John Halcyon Styn has taken it all one step further than that and colored it all pink to boot. He is the author of a book titled Love More, Fear Less. I haven't read the book, but it seems like a great motto to try to live by.

This is a great post to follow the lingering sadness, anger and loss from 9/11. Our world needs more John Halcyon Styns and fewer Osamas and his ilk.

Pink Heart Camp at Burning Man 2011 (© Thelma Lee Gross)

The Pink Ride

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!

Pink Heart Location at Burning Man 2011
(© Hug Nation)

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.” 

 Which is all I wanted, wasn’t it?

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)

After his talk at the camp, he hugged every single attendee with warmth, for he lives by his word. We then rode across the desert, but the aesthetics of the pink line seemed unimportant now.  Instead we were spreading compliments and smiles with other Burners as we rode.  We ended up in a huge, hand-linked, pink spiral in the middle of Central Camp where we then hugged in rampant, pink, extroverted joy.  And cosmically, if such a thing exists, suddenly there was my husband hugging me too, somehow having showed up at the moment of this supremely happy and yes, pink moment.

I came for the color and I stayed for the message. 

Text and selected images (as noted) copyright, Thelma Lee Gross.

All other content is © Bright Nepenthe, 2011 unless otherwise noted.

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