Burning Man Redux (Part 1)

September 8, 2010




Many people say you cannot describe Burning Man.  That it’s impossible to know without experiencing it. And it’s true, because each person’s experience is so completely different and somehow magically perfect.  But let me do my best to bring you in…


Burning Man is where a totally barren desert (imagine the flat brown lands where they break the land speed record)…is transformed into a city of 50,000 people:




But before we go into the city, let’s take a step back…


Burning Man is an “experiment in temporary community” where people gather to live in radical self-reliance (all they provide are porta-potties). People live life as art, completely expressing themselves as living performances through music, dance, installations, and experiments.



It’s a Gift Economy.


Aside from ice and coffee, there is no money exchanged. Everything is a gift. And that’s why this journey starts way before you get to the desert…


People spend all year preparing their gifts. This year I saw huge statues, A 90-foot yacht on wheels with a roving dance party, an entire french cafe bistro, a human car wash, several kissing booths, and the “bad idea theater.”   These are a few among thousands.


But the gifts don’t have to be so complex. Some people spend hours spraying a fine mist over the hot desert wanderers. Others give massages or hand out bacon. And it gets more random than that.  My first year I created the NOW watch, a watch with no ability to tell time, but simply had the word NOW with funky colors and a glitter gloss. I love experimenting with my own fascinations… I was blown away that you cannot even buy a watch that cannot tell time but just says NOW.  (There’s a good legal reason for that, which I eventually found out the hard way. It’s a long, sad story).


This year, I became obsessed with another item of contraband…


The Red Pill.


Did you know that it’s pretty much illegal to sell placebos?  There have been studies documenting how powerful an inert pill can be. They can even outperform anti-depressants. But go ahead and try to buy a placebo. You can’t!    But since Burning Man is a gift economy, I could create a placebo to give rather than sell.  And that’s what I did. I created the most powerful placebo I know…




In the Matrix, Neo is offered the choice of the Red Pill or the Blue Pill.  Taking the red pill signifies the desire to see what is truly real. As Morpheus says, “I offer the truth, nothing more.” The blue pill allows Neo to go back to the Matrix, the falsely constructed reality.


So I created my own Red Pill…




I ordered real pharmaceutical bottles, printed up labels, glossed them over with Mod Podge, and filled them with Red Tic Tacs.  Cute? Maybe. But that’s not what happens when you put the full intention on them and take them to Burning Man.


I created an invocation to use them:
“I want to know the true reality.”
“I accept reality.”
“I love reality.”


And it was more powerful than I imagined. But we’ll get to that later.  Let’s get back to the story….


The Preparation.


As I said, all they provide are porta-potties, so you have to bring everything you could possibly need.  At a bare minimum that includes dust masks, goggles, gallons of water, food, shelter, etc.   I had planned to go with my girlfriend in an RV to her previous camp but we broke up two weeks before the event.  That’s another story for another time, but for those who know both of us, I’ll say that I’m a very lucky man to have been with such a radiant goddess for so long.


So I quickly had to find other arrangements.  While it’s possible to simply throw some stuff together and get out there, I don’t recommend it.  It could easily turn into “Harold and Kumar go to Burning Man.”  Luckily my friend, known as Princess Jedi had teamed up with a group of Google people called Suburbia and they welcomed us into their camp. We had a beautiful yard, picket fence, stove, couches and shade.  I consider it vital to have a good home there. Reality is so strange that one can easily feel completely alone.


This year I created an entire spreadsheet, with items, costumes, gifts, and camps to see. Color coding to show what I had, what I needed, and what was in progress.






We all have intentions. But some of us get really conscious about them. It’s easy to slip into the base desires – sex, drugs, adventure, etc. And there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s truly what you want. But often, we want something deeper that we think those things will bring us.


My intention was twofold:


1) Service – On my first trip I realized how fun it is to give. If you’ve got great gifts you can really light up people’s day.


2) Presence – It’s so easy to go into what they call “FOMO” Fear of Missing Out.  There’s so much going on that you often think, “I wonder what’s better than I could be doing?” And you start to worry that you’re missing something amazing.  But I find that when I imagine that where I am is the only place in existence, then time disappears and I feel connected to everyone and everything.




Getting there was relatively easy for me. I flew into Reno. PJ picked me up after she picked up all the food supplies, and we drove for 2 hours east.   We set up camp rather easily, but a storm was brewing.  I somehow had a vision of this before we left.


Just as we had our tents up it started to pour.  And then something ridiculous happened…


A double rainbow:




People all over jumped out and said, “Oh my God! Double rainbow, what does it mean???” If you don’t get the reference, you must watch this video, as well as this parody.


Into the Unknown.


My first time I regretted that I had never gone deep into the desert, so this time it was the first thing I did.  And I found something amazing… It’s called the Starfuckers Oasis (a pun on Starbucks) and it’s a coffee shop oasis in the middle of nowhere, where they served us frozen lattes:



I had incredible conversations there for hours.


When I went to bed that night, I decided to take the red pill for myself.  I had to know it before I could give it to anyone else. When I woke up the next day, reality hit me very quickly…


All of the sudden I knew the real reason I was at Burning Man.


(to be continued in Part 2)

Why we don’t like commitment

August 10, 2010


“He can’t handle commitment.”
“I’m not ready to commit.”
“She’s commitment-phobic.”


Ever heard any of these?


Think about this for a moment… Perhaps there’s not a problem with the person. Perhaps there’s a problem with the word…


Have you ever said to yourself, “I am so depressed.”?
This statement literally says you equals depressed. They are one and the same. It’s as if your identity is the depression. It would be much more accurate to say “I feel so depressed.”  It would be even more accurate to say, “I feel what I am labeling depression.”


The word “depression” has a tremendous amount of baggage to it, from social taboo, to a clinical state of incapacitation.  And yet we use it so liberally!


A friend of mine once heard me say I was depressed and asked me to consider a different word. He said, “Try saying, ‘I’m in a dark night right now.'”  I said it and immediately my view shifted as I could see the state as temporary (since night always passes into day) and I could find the art and poetry of being in the shadows, where perhaps I could find something hidden and interesting about myself.  It was a total turnaround.


So back to the idea of commitment…


What if we replaced that word with devotion?


I was struck by this word when my former girlfriend told me how she thought Thievery Corporations’ Radio Retaliation is a very devotional album. I thought, Wow – it’s such a beautiful word.  So I looked it up. Here’s the definition:




  • profound dedication; consecration. 
  • earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
  • an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.
  •    religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.

Now look at that in contrast to a few definitions from this word:



  • a pledge or promise; obligation: We have made a commitment to pay our bills on time.
  • perpetration or commission, as of a crime.
  • consignment, as to prison.
  • confinement to a mental institution or hospital: The psychiatrist recommended commitment.
  • an order, as by a court or judge, confining a person to a mental institution or hospital.


“Devotion” is a deeply motivated choice. “Commitment” is an obligation or a prison. 

Is it any wonder so many of us shy away from “commitment”? 

The Divine Insanity of Noble Minds

March 3, 2010



The divine insanity of noble minds,

that never falters nor abates,

but labors, endures, and waits,

till all that it foresees it finds,

or what it cannot find, creates.



I promise myself…

January 30, 2010


To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.


To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person I meet.


To make all my friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.


To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true.


To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.


To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am about my own.


To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.


To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature I meet.


To give so much time to improving myself that I have no time to criticize others.


To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.


To think well of myself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds.


To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side, so long as I am true to the best that is in me.


-Christian D. Larson, 1912

How to fall in love, then stay in love

January 2, 2010


I was stuck at SFO for a four hour window when I found this magazine.




The cover article blew me away because it’s an easy concise sum-up of several of the techniques we used at the Deida event.  Rather than simple psychology on intellectual ideas, it’s filled with actual techniques that create love on a physiological level.  Great for generating it, or for keeping it.


It’s on magazine stands now, or download it here.

$10 to feed a family for a week

December 31, 2009


I was touched by Keith Ferrazi’s Facebook post about his trip to Guatemala:

The staple of their diet is a tortilla with a little salt to give it taste. one woman shred a story of christmas this year where she told her kids that tonight they would eat tortillas but because they had none she pretended and boiled rocks and sat next …to the fire all night until the kids gave out from exhaustion and went to sleep. She at least wanted the kids to go to sleep thinking that they would have food.


Here is where you can give $10 to feed a family for two weeks.


Tonight is a great night to do it.  It’s what I call the “sacrifice to the party gods.”  Just before the weekend or a party starts, I like to give to a charity to remember that while I get to go out and have a good time, there are others who cannot even eat.