Mamacita

I should have been more nervous.

Mamacita, from what I’d heard, can cause terrifying hallucinations, vomiting, diarrhea. At the very least it promised to be an intense experience.

But I wasn’t afraid. I was too hungry for her teachings.

Remember this particular experience in Utah?:

I was already firmly convinced that the same awareness which observes this human woman, Me, as she struggles through her thoughts about the world, as she negotiates her fears and desires, is the awareness that flows through everything else that is, i.e. God. I already believed myself to be God. In the tradition of the transcendentalists, of Ginsberg and Emerson, of philosophers and poets and scientists aplenty, I thought of myself as, somewhere deep inside of me, at least, all powerful and all knowing. I Am that I Am.

But what is the logical conclusion of this thought? Where do you land when you follow it all the way? I found out, as the acid that night took me deeper and deeper into my own head, into my own understanding of the universe. What good is it to be all powerful if you can’t manifest the things you want? I wondered. How do I take advantage of this power? Where do I go from here?

There were several things I concluded as I searched myself. One: the entire universe folds in on itself constantly. Every line of thought I chased came out again on the other side, saying the opposite of what it started out saying. Every time I thought I found a Truth, I kept going and saw my own tail still trundling after my front half. I did a series of M.C. Escher thought puzzles, and by the end of it, exhausted and certain I’d solved the mysteries of the universe again, to an even greater degree this time, I suddenly felt convinced that I was just a vast and lonely power, putting on an enormous puppet show for itself.

Since then, I’d been in a deep limbo. Not suicidal, just…not really convinced I was still supposed to be alive. Like, “okay, can I die already please?”

It’s not that I can’t come up with something useful to do with myself. It’s more that I have so many ideas of what to do, and I can’t for the life of me figure out which one to pursue. And I’m not sure I can ever release the part of my heart that assigned itself forever to the one who got away, which means I can never go all-in on love again. Loving someone deeply and completely was always my key sustaining factor, so if I can’t do that again…what’s the point? How am I supposed to care?

Still alive, and tired of coasting through with this sense of futility and disengagement bordering on despair, I knew I had to do something drastic.

The thought of Burning Man kept me going. I made it there, and it definitely lifted my spirits. I went on a journey to find my spirit animal, and despite doubts, I found it, and had the discovery confirmed, as I’ve heard many do, by seeing my spirit animal again shortly thereafter in a clear physical form, in this case a painting hanging above a couch at the Bureau of Misinformation.

I was sitting on that couch, not thinking about much, when the thought floated through my head: you should become an ayahuasca shaman.

At the time I didn’t know very much about ayahuasca. I’ve talked to a handful of people who have taken it at some point, and I’ve seen documentaries that talked about it. All in all, it was a pretty random thought, especially since I’ve never put a lot of stock in shamanism.

When I got back from the desert, I mentioned this to a few people. One of them said, “Oh, ___ did that recently.”

I perked up. “In the Bay?”

“Yeah! She went to a shaman here in the Bay Area and did the ceremony. She had a really cool experience. You should talk to her.”

Talk to her I did. We got Ethiopian food and she told me all about her own experience, and then said she would talk to the shaman and have her contact me.

Now here I was, in the small basement quarters of an experienced shaman, placing my intentions on the altar along with a small pouch of stones and crystals and the ring given to me by the one when he proposed in a last-ditch effort to save our relationship.

“My intention for this ceremony is to learn what I need to let go of, and what to hold onto, to best serve light and love.”

I retreated to my cushion as the shaman and the other companion for our journey smiled supportively. Soon after we drank the earthy, bitter liquid and then waited for it to take effect. I must admit I wanted beautiful visions; I wanted to meet Aya, mother vine, as my shaman said I might. I wanted to be overtaken with a pervasive sense of the wonder and connectedness of this world, to be shaken to the core.

Looking back, I realize this was greedy of me. I’ve already had such experiences (short of meeting Aya.) In any case, she came to me not in a mighty wind or terrifying visions, but in the “still, small voice” of my childhood religion. Almost immediately, gentle questions began making themselves present in my mind. She interrogated me about why I look externally so often, instead of internally, for answers, why I rely on drugs instead of listening to my heart.

My friend also talked about being afraid of being alone, which I guess is also my deepest fear…but I didn’t want to acknowledge it…Aya made me face it.

I have to abbreviate my experience because I want to share some of the most exciting parts and I’m running short of time. Mostly I purged that night, had little glimpses of beauty, laughed at myself, but nothing earth-shattering. The next night I set out with the intention: “To open my heart and mind to the dimensions I have not yet experienced, and to meet any spirit guides who are ready to reveal themselves to me.”

My shaman told me she never used to believe in angels, but now she is certain of their existence. They leave her dimes sometimes to announce their presence.

One of my recent experiences on mushrooms, I noticed that the light imprint on my eye was not following my gaze, but leading it…interacting with me…my first clear experience with an unseen presence. Or, not my first, but my clearest.

My second night involved a great deal of purging as well. I saw a spirt guide who may have been the White Buffalo Woman. Aya kept beginning to march out to great fanfare but staying just hidden…I saw the white edges of her…

I think one of my imperatives now is faith. Faith over fear.

I’m going to have to make this a two-parter. I had another experience with Mamacita on Sunday night, after leaving my shaman’s house. But in the meantime I want to note that one of the most elevating experiences was not during the actual ceremony, but during a spirit journey we undertook, a meditation on Saturday afternoon where she used the drum to help us travel to the Hall of Sacred Conference.

When I arrived, I met the one who got away. “Was this supposed to happen?” I asked, “Or did I mess it up?”

I got the distinct impression that he and I have journeyed together through many lifetimes, that we’ve ‘gotten it right,’ so to speak, before, and that this time we decided to be apart in order to learn how to expand our love to others, to have a more universal love.

“But I have an easier time loving others unconditionally when I can anchor my unconditional love in you!” I told him. “Can we make a new agreement? I think we were wrong…”

All the same, when we came back, I felt a new peace. If we have many lifetimes, and he and I have already shared many lifetimes, and my mission in this one is to learn to be separate from him…just that thought alone helps somehow. Which isn’t to say that I don’t still yearn for him, or hope that our meeting in the Hall of Sacred Conference hasn’t reached him on a soul level, and gotten him thinking…

I still want to meet Aya, but I see her point in using the language of my childhood spirituality to commune with me, in pointing out to me how many times I’ve had evidence of the divine in my life and denied or forgotten its significance, and in demanding from me more faith and patience. Nevertheless, my mind continues to be blown on a daily basis ever since.

Wonder, wonder, wonder…this world is truly magnificent, and we are coming upon an incredible time…

How We Can Change the Entire World in a Matter of Weeks

We’re at a unique point, the first time in history nearly every human society is in contact with every other. It’s the first time in history it makes sense (and is possible) for us all to agree, collectively, on peace and trust. It’s the first time in history we’re all capable of communicating with each other faster than our governments can stop us. If everyone agrees, across the globe, that we’d prefer world peace to war, what government could convince us we need to attack those infidels in that other country?

Yeah, in the past if you had a peaceful society of humans, you were liable to get stomped on by some more vicious tribe. But now we can all talk to one another and say, “Hey, my people are getting ready to attack your people. How do you feel about this?” and we don’t have to kill each other instead of communicating. If most humans, worldwide, agree to band together, we’d be equipped to deal with any minority revolt against peace, equality, and justice (not to mention vastly better prepared for an alien attack.)

There’s literally not a single reason, outside of the desire to have a bigger piece of cake than anyone else (an antisocial desire), for us NOT to band together. Can’t you feel our learning natures, our collective conscious, sensing that it’s evolutionarily advantageous for us to all make a contract, individual to individual, outside and beyond the reach of our governments, to be good to one another and not do harm? To eliminate money and feed all of our people and heal them? To let people’s love for one another and desire for community and respect fuel our labor, instead of the desire to best one another and have more things than one another?

Who in a civilized country has not felt or denied responsibility for their comfort being built upon the backs of millions of exploited people? How many of us would not prefer to live in a world where such atrocities don’t happen?

Only psychopaths. Only people with a solipsistic worldview in which everyone else’s experience is relevant only insofar as it impacts their own. These are the people exploiting and manipulating the rest of us. Far from suggesting that we tar and feather them, I’d offer that this sort of illness and misdirection of energy deserves compassion and a certain amount of indulgence (which ends where hurting others begins.)

The only kind human behavior we need address at all (for the libertarians out there) is harmful antisocial tendencies. Tendencies like consistently prioritizing personal concerns over communal concerns. Like trying to cheat and rob others rather than contribute to a community. Like manipulating the trustful and exploiting those in need. And it’s to their own benefit to break those habits. Manipulating and coercing others, apart from destroying interpersonal relationships and communities (and therefore eroding the human fabric) cannot possibly lead to peace of mind. Dishonest and imbalanced relationships are destructive of both parties involved.

This change is completely within reach. We’re more alike than our ruling classes would have us believe. The religious right just wants to live in peace and be allowed to exercise and share their beliefs. The far left just wants to live in peace and be allowed to exercise their right to make bad decisions along with good ones. We all just want to live in peace.

Trust it. The people you think you have nothing in common with are humans. They don’t like being hungry, they don’t like being attacked, they don’t like being made to feel small. They like doing what they want to do when they want to do it, they like feeling respected and useful in their communities, they like being allowed to be themselves without attracting contempt, anger, or ridicule. As different as we are, as different as our individual goals are, all of us are seeking, in some way or another, peace of mind.

What could help us attain it faster than peace on earth? You claim to want that? Put your money where your mouth is and join the peaceful revolution.

Judgment and Compassion

My dear readers, I have decided to be more regular with my posting. I’m going to put up a new post every Tuesday and Friday. It won’t always be novel-length, but I’m going to do it. So.

I sat down to write about the big news (duh duh duh DUH) but I’ve just chatted with m and had a few more pleasant memories that I wanted to share. I know I did mention the park noises waking me each morning, but I didn’t mention that his bed is right at the window that looks out past a fire escape to the park, and that it’s ridiculously lovely to sit at the window, smoking a joint and looking at the people down below. Some of my favorite moments entailed sitting at that window with m, and twice with m and a, thinking about how strange it is that your life can be so completely changed by an experience but then you have to go on operating as usual. At Burning Man I thought I could live my life without really caring about money ever again, and now here am I stressed out of my mind about it. Ugh.

One of the moments I was looking forward to most was the night tour of the museum. M has an in with one of the excellent museums in the city, and thus we were able to explore after-hours, a real treat.

It was our last night together and we were both a bit meditative. M was tired from his day of teaching and I was a little disappointed that we weren’t shrooming as we had originally planned (have I written about shrooming yet? hands down my favorite kind of trip) and we were both facing down another goodbye. Somehow we had gotten into yet another discussion about mortality.

I can’t remember exactly how he said it, but m had somehow ventured forth the suggestion that there is no grand meaning or design, and I told him about the night that I had settled, first out of self pity and anger, then out of rationality, to commit suicide, the night I decided that every single grand emotion and sentiment and etc. is just an outcropping of a creature evolved to be capable of reason attempting to justify its own obsession with survival. “I’ve already faced down the very likely possibility that there is no meaning,” I told him. “I came to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter, in practical terms. We’re going to keep creating meaning for ourselves individually anyway.” I focus more now on maintaining a ‘meaning’ that’s responsive to evidence, one which enhances my experience in the world and allows me to be as good as possible to others.

But when I said that, m gave me the most wonderfully sympathetic look, the warmest hug, and it was such a dear moment, I don’t quite know how to describe it or what to do about it. Yes, I too, have faced down meaninglessness.

Okay. And now to the latest.

I think most women, or at least most women who were raised in a very pro-dominant-narrative environment, have this understanding with themselves that, once you cross the line you’ve CROSSED THE LINE.

The line is getting paid money to engage in intimate acts with another.

I’m in training to be a dominatrix.

I saw an ad on craigslist, it sounded like a good way to make reasonable money off a part time job, and I’m sort of fascinated with the BDSM community, and also I can justify almost anything as experience that will help me as a writer.

To be quite honest, I was feeling sort of icky and irreversible for a while after my first day. This was on the drive home, which was long and frustrating, but it gave me lots of time to process these feelings. I considered where the sense of shame was coming from. From the idea that only desperate women, or drug addicts, or women that couldn’t hold any other sort of work, would do this kind of work.

It isn’t entirely untrue. Of the many interesting, lovely women I met, it seemed about fifty/fifty, women who got into the trade because they didn’t really see another option vs. women who had some other reason (they wanted to explore their creativity/sexuality, they wanted to be stronger in certain ways). Truth be told, I’m a little of both. I *could* do many other things, but I chose this. If I stay with it, it certainly won’t be for the money. Ultimately it doesn’t seem to pay more than any other shit job.

I thought I was pretty much over the idea that sex is somehow shameful, but I’m not, quite–or at least not the idea that professionalizing sex is shameful (the one thing Republicans DON’T want to privatize, ironically), or that there’s something inherently wrong with ascribing it monetary value. Ultimately, since Burning Man, I now think money is always a perversion of purer human interactions. I think treating sex as some entirely different realm is ridiculous and puritanical.

In an ideal world, all of our exchanges would come from a place of generously and willingly giving to one another, and people would be able to get their sexual fantasies, like all other needs and desires, fulfilled by interacting honestly, fearlessly, and lovingly with those around them.

Even so, it does feel significant that I am no longer able to say I have never accepted cash for sexual favors. I’ve only “sat in” on sessions, but that entails a certain amount of participation. I don’t officially get paid yet, so when I spat in an Asian man’s mouth and laughed at how small his penis was I didn’t get paid for that, and when I let a giant hairy man on a leash lick my feet, that was entirely pro bono, and when I stuck my fingers in “Baby”s ass while he crouched on his hands and knees with his face in the pillow, that was for free too. But I did get tipped by the white-haired man whose nipples I tortured with clothespins, whose ass I flogged inexpertly, whose asshole, again, I played with (this is apparently one of the most frequent things you do as a dom), at the behest of the mistress in charge of that session. So. Line = crossed. No going back.

Which means, what? I can now be written off as a respectable person? As a person of value? I was driving home in terrible bay traffic, feeling sort of self-pitying and, I don’t know, victim-like as I contemplated these things, when I realized that the part of me that fears that judgment (as per usual) is also the part of me making that judgment. Somewhere in my head I was pitying, or mentally ranking myself above, or otherwise comparing myself to the other women I met at the dungeon (for the uninitiated, this is what they call the site of BDSM encounters).

I’m learning to stop turning inwards with feelings of inferiority, to start turning that feeling outwards to see how I can use it to have more compassion for others, to stop judging, to be more whole and healthy. I don’t think I’ll be able to truly love others as I love myself until I rid my heart of all prejudices towards the various choices people make.

People do what they think will help them survive. Period. We’re all driven by survival. We align ourselves with different philosophies and companions with the ultimate goal of existing in the most pleasant and beneficial way we can. Maybe we’re wrong about what we think we need for survival. Maybe we’re wrong about what we think will make us happy. But other than that, there is nothing inherently right or wrong about making one choice over another.

More and more, especially as I venture down paths I never thought I’d tread, I’m convinced that I will never truly love others until I abandon the assumption that I’m better than others for my choice of path. Just as my choice of path is influenced by my experiences and encounters, and the same goes for the people around me. I should no more judge the actions of my fellow humans than I judge water for running downhill, the sun for burning my skin, a hurricane for killing hundreds.

My goal is to continue working towards a world where my own survival and happiness are ensured because everyone’s survival and happiness are considered important and looked after, while shedding more and more of my sense of self-importance for choosing to embrace this worldview, or my sense that others are foolish or evil for not seeing that this is the best way to live.

Out of the Ordinary

I really want to catch up on everything that’s happened while I haven’t been writing this blog, but there’s just no time, and of course life continues to happen in the meantime, so I’ll try and sum it up without selling some really interesting events short.

Back to M, and our time together. I’ve been missing him quite a bit. We haven’t even talked much of late, as my life has been hectic and my internet connection sketchy. We did a whole slew of quite lovely things while I visited: went to Zucker’s bakery, where we had avocado toast and peppermint tea, and date and halva roses. Picnicked in the park, explored tucked away community gardens, ate pastrami, pizza, and bagels. Visited Strand Bookstore, where I first tried to find c Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, which is just an excellent collection, and then I thought I might find a copy of a literary journal with one of my stories. They had some issues of PANK, but not the right one.

Other highlights: A visit to Evolution, a nature/science curiosity shop with the likes of exotic mounted insects, actual and replica skulls and skeletons of humans and other animals, preserved specimens in jars, suspended in amber or some other clear substance. Fossils.

The Dirt Room, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. There’s still a little part of me that wishes I’d done as I deeply wanted to and stepped over the plastic wall into the dirt, left my footprints there to be raked away again the next day.

A wonderfully strange moment with a performance artist in the subway who piloted a baby doll with its head on his middle finger, hands on his pointer and ring finger, and feet on his thumb and pinky, up m’s leg and torso to his forehead, where creepy puppet doll (playing a hypnotic dirge on a harmonic throughout) humped to a dramatic climax, whilst m giggled, turning very red, face squinched in good-natured repulsion.  This was after an excellent tapas dinner in Williamsburg, and would be followed immediately by a bunch of people clearing the aisles in the subway car in order to do some flips and dance moves for us. It was the sort of night you picture people having in New York all the time, though the others assured me this was not the case.

I think I mentioned last post m’s harem–he’s friends with several interesting women. A and m asked me one night what my favorite thing about New York was, and I said “the people I’ve met.” J, who reminds me of a younger version of another j in my life, a poetry professor, wry and wise and brash. I was somewhat intimidated by her at first but we quickly bonded over our opinions about a certain popular teaching program.  D, from Israel, independent, strong-minded, complex, and yet surprisingly vulnerable and subject to the opinions of others. A, who is like an intensely precocious child, pragmatic but prone to indulge in quite whimsical logic, earnest in a way that seems untouched by the harsh realities of adulthood. The Germans: k and m, attractive in a very Teutonic way, incredibly friendly, polyamorous as well.

I had a few conversations with my new friends about the NY obsession with social status, with having the best partner and going to the good parties and having the right friends, how it never stops because there’s always someone just up the ladder from you. I talked to b, who we met before the Makeout Party, about how it all reminded me of the scene from James Herriot where Tristan loves feeding the pigs because they only eat any one thing for a few seconds before looking around to try and see what the others are enjoying so much, jostling to try and get the best.

The Makeout Party was hosted by one of m’s friends who is bringing Kinky Salon from the Bay to the Big Apple. Kinky Salon is a lifestyle party for poly and exhibitionist types which takes place in a sex-positive space.

(Sex-positive means accepting sex as a stimulating, pleasurable experience to be freely shared within reasonable boundaries and without inhibition or arbitrary boundaries. It means refusing to be burdened by all of the negativity and stigma this puritan nation likes to assign anything sensual. It means never “yucking someone else’s yums,” an adorable phrase I learned recently which means just because you don’t like anal beads doesn’t mean you have to act all icked out about someone else’s preferences.)

H and I had a tiff about the party, because first of all I told him about trying some cocaine and he got upset that I forgot we were going to try it for the first time together; second, the promise not to make out with m was going to be rather awkward to uphold at something called a make out party. I got very flustered because everyone was waiting for me and it was clear the conversation with h wasn’t going well; I ended up telling him “I won’t make out with m unless it would be making a scene not to,” and we hung up on uncertain terms.

The party was at this dimly lit bar with this recessed area you have to climb a ladder to get to. I wanted to spend the entire time in the little box room, and I could have, I suppose. I was there with m, a, the Germans, a rather famous makeup artist (who told me that Rosario Dawson is a burner, she’s been going for the last seven years apparently. I don’t see why not. I would certainly keep going if I were a celebrity, and I’m still fairly certain I saw Susan Sarandon the day of the temple burn.) And b, this super friendly chap from England, and some others. And we were playing spin the bottle, and people weren’t really drinking, and they weren’t really kissing, except b and I. m said he was going to do some molly with a, did I want some.

Next thing I knew, I was crawling past the Germans out of the box and down the ladder, trying to outrun the bile, and then I was crouching over the toilet, mildly paranoid that I might die in a New York club doing drugs with people I don’t know very well, and this was so close to this image I always had growing up of the kind of rock-bottom moment that finally gets the hardened sinners to repent that in my drug-loosened mind I entertained the possibility that Mormons are right. I mean I was still holding it at a distance but I was allowing for the possibility that it might be the Truth somehow, which entailed temporarily rearranging my entire way of looking at the world. I did this for long enough that I started to think I might fall down the rabbit hole again. I’m sure that writing that post about religion triggered it; I had to remember what it really felt like to believe in order to talk about it. In any case, it was scary as fuck. I’ve always tried to picture just what could get me so worked up on drugs that I can’t talk myself down (I’ve watched my face melt, I’ve seen the devil in Jerry Garcia’s eyes, I just don’t get scared when I’m tripping because…well…I’m tripping) and now I know: the fear that the Mormons might be right.

It can be extremely disorienting to think back on what I wanted then, what I thought I was then, compared with what I want and who I am now. There are fewer and fewer references points, it seems. Once upon a time, my beliefs were my identity, and now I’m something else. I remember that fear: if I change my views, what remains of myself? What integrity do I have?

To venture beyond your comfort zone or your beliefs is always to open Pandora’s box. I remember the moment I realized that to decide alcohol is okay to drink, I’m opening myself to the possibility I might someday become an alcoholic or marry an alcoholic. Bad things happen to good people, but there are specific kinds of bad things that mainly happen to people who operate outside of the law, and there are specific kinds of bad things that you can be pretty sure will never happen to you if you never take certain risks, like dying of a drug overdose, or, you know, having your chute not open.

When does the departure from rigid order become the descent into chaos? At one point I would have seen so many markers of my life now as signs of depravity, of signs that my values are askew, my integrity and my dignity left behind in the name of adventure and pleasure.

I suppose it is now my soft lines in the sand that I’m crossing (well, obviously, because the hard lines are the ones I still think I’ll never cross). But evermore I’m realizing that true empathy for another requires truly walking in their shoes. The less I fear “evil,” the wider my circle of compassion becomes. More on this later.

In any case: New York. I don’t think I could have asked for a better visit. It was filled with memorable moments and general pleasantness. Just to adventure with m for a bit longer was such a treat. He’s a complex man, and his approach to the world resonates with me on so many levels.

I got chills when he told me a story about something which happened to him as a boy, and has continued to happen since; or rather, something he did as a boy, though it’s accidental at times. He says there are certain lines of thought that send him there and he avoids them when he doesn’t want it to happen. It’s frightening, he says.

The way he tells it is much better, and I’ve asked him to transcribe it for me so I can share it with you, but in the meantime: It’s a sort of mental journey beyond ego, beyond a sense of self. When he goes there, he says, he does not remember being m, or being a person. He’s just an awareness amazed at its own existence. Sometimes it’s hard to come back from it. Once, it was a great, exhausting struggle to return to himself.

I asked him if these experiences make him less afraid of death, or reassure him that we exist beyond this form. He said no. What he experiences “outside” of himself is still manufactured by the chemicals inside of his brain.

It’s this sort of conundrum that draws me to him. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up, the way he paints the world for me sometimes, the way he shows me how many mysteries remain, how deep this universe really is, how complex and interrelated; but he has less confidence, it seems, about the way he fits into all of it, about how meaningful or lasting or important his part in it could be.

I’d be more convinced that he see himself as just a jaded little ant crawling on an ultimately insignificant tiny rock for a meaningless tiny moment, if he wasn’t so enthralled by magic.

We did meet at Costco, after all.

On Platonic Bedfellows

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my journey to New York. I couldn’t think of many contexts similar to this: my trip certainly wasn’t about a city and it wasn’t exactly a vacation. The man flying me out for a visit wasn’t romantically involved with me, and though I certainly considered him a dear friend, we hadn’t known each other that long. I wasn’t sure how my Burning Man Boyfriend and I would interact off-Playa, post-platonic friendship.

In addition, he was sponsoring the entire trip. Not only could I not afford to buy the ticket myself (going as I am through a career upheaval of sorts), I had only emergency cash, loaned to me by h, which I hoped not to spend.

So there I was trying not to feel weird about this man I only met a few months ago buying me a plane ticket to come visit him for a week, and it was going fine, until c was driving me to the train which would take me to the airport and I said something that made me blush and stumble over the next few sentences, made her pause long enough that I knew I’d have to address it eventually. She was making jokes about hiding in my suitcase, and I was joking about talking to m about how lovely she is, somehow getting her to New York as well, and I said, “I’ll just have to get a boob job or something next time.” It was one of those things that just slips out and glibly reveals everything you’re trying to repress.

It was enough to make me stop and ask myself again, on the train on the way to the airport–is my subconscious trying to tell me something? Am I sure I’m not using him?

Luckily, it wasn’t hard to come to the same answer I’d been coming to again and again: I would rather not go to New York at all than feel even remotely, or have m feel even remotely, that I’m using him. This isn’t about a vacation, this is about m.

At one point m had expressed concern that h not perceive him as some creepy older man trying to use some fancy trip to get in my pants (the thought seemed ludicrous to me–he’s a little over ten years my senior but never once has our age difference seemed very noticeable or meaningful to me, other than a certain world-weariness m sometimes adopts). So I wasn’t not the only one highly aware that the only framework our culture has for a visit of this nature is a sexual/materialistic exchange.

Time for new frameworks!

Later I texted c in appreciation that she hadn’t called me on it. I’m not using m for a trip any more than he likes me for my tits, but clearly those tropes are present in my mind. She said she knew that, it had caught her by surprise but she trusted that I would address it for myself (and for her) at some point.

As the city spread out beneath the plane, pins of light clustered tightly together, so many of them against the vast black of the land mass and the vast black of the sea, I got that Burning Man feeling again, that feeling of pride at humankind, like I built that city, like I own it just as much as any New Yorker, that they built that for me to enjoy, lucky me. Like, humans are awesome, lookatuslookhowawesomewearewebuiltthatshit!

As I thought about m waiting for me at the baggage claim, with or without the sign proclaiming “JOYCEBIRD” that he had joked about bringing, I was filled with warm affection. We had Skyped a few times, most recently a few days ago, and each time reaffirmed the pleasant nature of our relationship, our delight at each other’s insights and turns of phrase, our quiet way of teasing one another or self-deprecating.

He did not have a sign but of course I spotted him right away, dressed all in black, black skinny jeans, a black leather jacket, his dark bangs falling over his eyes giving him a slight air of adolescence, his smile a fleeting, smallish, but very important part of his face, waiting almost always just out of sight, waiting for me to give it an excuse to appear. I ran up to hug him and the smile lingered for several minutes, as we stared at each other a bit disbelievingly.

“So you are real,” he said.

He explained to me that he was a bit tired as he always is after a day of lectures, but we could go out if I liked. “We’re going to have to take a taxi,” he added apologetically.

I had a difficult time watching the scenery as we talked animatedly about plans for the week, about helpless students, about his favorite lectures to give, about his own history with the city.

We arrived at his building, situated directly across from a lovely park, and I took my first ride on one of the most terrifyingly decrepit elevators I’ve ever encountered. It was all very much what I might have pictured if I had taken the time; old buildings, sketchy lifts, taxis and small rooms. I deposited my things in the living room beside the futon, where they would stay for the duration, variously heaped, and looked around. On bookshelves: a mountain lion skull, a stack of top hats adorned with a pair of steampunk goggles. On the wall: a photo of a lonely farmhouse, skeletal branches of trees, special exposure to make it look aged and greenish and frankly quite creepy.

It could so easily, I thought to myself, be the apartment of a magician.

We didn’t stop for long, but set off for a cozy bar a few blocks away, with the same posh, low-lit vibe found in nearly every bar we went to throughout my stay. It had sort of a southern, or a western, or a south-western thing going on, with a very fancy cocktail menu from which I selected something made with rye whiskey and husk cherry syrup. It only occurred to me after this concoction was gone to order a Manhattan, a perennial favorite of mine and rather appropriate for the occasion.

I spent much of that first evening expounding on some of the difficulties between h and I of late, the way he would become frequently hurt over small imagined slights, how each missed cue became proof that I didn’t care about his feelings, how the things I did do went unnoticed or unappreciated. Over the last couple of weeks it had been increasingly hard for me to remember just what magic had drawn h and I together in the first place, and though we’d made up (and made up, and made up), one of our last interactions before I left was a huge fight.

I’d mentioned that my ex used to cover the Elvis song playing in the restaurant. He’d said, as he did every time I made the mistake of mentioning any of my exes in any context, “You sure talk about your exes a lot,” at which I’d just about lost my shit, seeing as earlier that week I’d gladly entertained and fed one of his exes when she came to him crying over her recent breakup. Seeing as another of his exes had, not very long ago, explicitly invited him to have sex with her (fully aware that he was in a monogamous relationship, so to speak, with two women she knew, and without asking either of us) and I had been fairly calm and magnanimous about the whole thing. “And you think it’s okay to fault me for mentioning mine?” I’d yelled. “Your exes are all around us!”

“I just don’t know why you talk about them so much,” he’d answered, maddeningly. It didn’t help that this happened to be a sentiment that c sometimes echoed. Poor girl was there that night, keeping a bit of distance, trying to support us without getting too involved; I hated that she was so often caught in the crossfire. Things had been getting easier and better for c and I, our only conflicts having to do with her inability to communicate her feelings for me as enthusiastically as she experienced them.

The real problem, of course, had nothing to do with exes and everything to do with h and I losing our trust in one another, in one another’s concern for our respective feelings.

In any case as I discussed this drunkenly with m, I wondered if I was communicating something I didn’t mean to, and then I wondered if I did mean it. It felt like things were drawing to a close with h. We were at each other’s throats way too often, especially for so early in our relationship. What if c and I just moved to New York? Would she come with me? Could we do such a thing to h?

It was a decision that I certainly wouldn’t make on this trip. I may have been wearying of our fights but I wasn’t done, not yet. Even so, for the rest of my visit I entertained vivid imaginings of myself walking these streets every day, joining the citywide love/hate affair with the unique and storied place. And during certain moments with m, I momentarily pictured again, as I had on the Playa, what it might be like to join him here, what our life together might be.

As we completed our respective nighttime routines, I spared us the awkward conversation of where I would sleep (on the Playa we’d spent two nights in his tent and one in Eagle’s Nest, side by side) by climbing into his bed. He said “all right then,” and thus continued our tradition of platonic bedfellowship.

I had told h that in the interest of his comfort, we wouldn’t kiss. Without discussing it further, m and I didn’t spoon or cuddle, either. If h and I had been getting along famously, if we’d agreed to polyamory, if m had never been a point of conflict or insecurity for h, I’m sure we would have slept together. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been a problem. I was aware of, and one night complicit in, m’s sexual relationships with at least two other women of his acquaintance (I met many of his female friends, all of whom impressed and delighted me in one way or another); we’re reasonably self-aware adults here, it would have been fine and likely quite enjoyable.

But ultimately, in polyamory as in more conventional relationships, the partner’s needs must come first. Though I would accidentally hurt h’s feelings at least twice more on this trip, there was never a thought in my head of sleeping with m while I was there. I’ve never cheated on a partner and I’m not about to start, regardless of my objective views on possessiveness vs. love, regardless of my ambivalence regarding the relative graveness of adultery.

In the morning, the sounds of the park across the street woke me: a mournful saxophone played by a street musician, the cries, chatter, and laughter of children and the creaking of swings and seesaws, dogs barking and taxis honking. It was the medley that would greet me each New York morning, and I never grew tired of it, though m promised that one holiday season hearing a daily sax rendition of Jingle Bells would make it all seem a great deal less romantic.

Zealotry and Motivation

I love cracked.com:

5 Popular Beliefs That Are Holding Humanity Back

“The logical part of the human brain has turned out to be a horrible motivator. The gut-level awe part of the brain is a fantastic motivator. It’s just the way we’re built. Those zealots are high on dopamine,which is the brain chemical that motivates us to act.”

What a fantastic article. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

And good timing, because I’ve been starting to feel like a bit of a zealot again. Which is scary territory. I’m still a few years away from being non-Mormon for longer than I was Mormon and let me tell you, it is an effective psychological trap. If you’ve never been part of a religion or believed in God or any of that, I’m sure it’s super confusing why it appeals to so many people, why it’s so hard to see the hypocrisies, why people don’t notice the Fence of Illogic that protects their beliefs from being invaded by such enemies as facts and reason.

A religion is sort of like an Idea Illness. It teaches the White Blood Cells of Reason to attack each other instead of obvious enemies like Circular Reasoning Viruses and Tautology Infections and Clear Contradiction Bacteria and Plagues of Blind Emotion.

This is how it takes hold of its victims:

Step One: INFECTION

The virus is spread verbally. One host, deep in the fever of the Idea Illness, shares the structure of the Illness with others. If they have not encountered an Idea Illness before and have no immunity built up, or if they have been weakened by circumstance and they can’t be reached in time with the antidote of Logic and Evidence, they may catch the virus, an early symptom of which is a warm, fuzzy feeling spreading through the body.

Most people have opened their door, at some point, to a squeaky-clean young man or woman saying something to the effect of “Have you heard the good news?”

Well, there are a lot of people out there desperate to hear good news. There are a lot of people pretty scared of death, scared of this chaotic world we share, looking for some kind of reassurance that everything is going to be okay. And that’s exactly what the virus offers: A promise that everything is going to be okay, and the same sort of warm fuzzy feeling you get when you know that Dad’s got everything under control, and if a bad guy comes Dad’ll just shoot him, that’s what.

Step Two: ADVANCEMENT

The warm fuzzies convince the host to accept the virus. The host begins operating in the service of the virus, denying and repressing his own needs and desires, depending on how strong the virus is and how vulnerable the host is to infection. In this stage, the host typically goes from being a carrier to a transmitter.

Self denial is a common feature of most religions. People like to feel that they have a purpose, that they’re doing something tangible in service of their beliefs. Telling people to fight against natural desires like sexual attraction and hunger serves the dual function of giving them a tangible (albeit theoretical) way to serve a higher power, and teaching them to obey even the most arbitrary seeming commands, much in the same way a dog is satisfied that it’s doing some kind of important job by walking the way you’d like it to or sitting on command.

The greater the denial, sacrifice, or self-subsumation, the more useful and good the adherent feels and the more positive reinforcement s/he receives from the others in the faith. Having found a community, “usefulness,” and a consistent source of affirmation, the adherent wishes to share this wealth with others, and starts believing that everyone in the world desires and deserves the same thing.

Step Three: SUSTENANCE

The hosts form elaborate systems designed to feed and sustain the virus. Certain hosts assume leadership and direct the others in reinforcing and refining the structure of the virus and, often, finding ways to spread it more effectively and quickly. The maintenance and service of the virus become central to the lives of the hosts.

Ironically, a large part of the reason why the Church of Latter Day Saints is so effective in spreading and maintaining its membership is likely the length and frequency of membership meetings. Three hours minimum of church meetings on Sunday (leadership, choirs, special committees, etc. carry on longer), one set of youth meetings once a month and another once a week, individual visits from “home teachers” and “visiting teachers,” and even pre-schoolday “seminary” for high school grades ensure that every member of the church is constantly reaffirming his/her “testimony,” or strong sense of certainty that the Church is completely true, every other belief system flawed, and that the best (/only) way to be a good person is to do what the church leaders say.

I’m not kidding when I say that the maintenance and service of the church becomes central to the lives of participants. Although the LDS church teaches that families are pretty much the most important thing on earth, many members ultimately prioritize their faith over their families, cutting off their association with family members who threaten their beliefs, whether by being gay, by believing something else, whatever.

I’m lucky enough to have parents who see the flaw in this logic and still choose to associate with their heathen daughters.

Step Four: ASSIMILATION

The host, subject to routine conditioning and positive affirmation, not only serves the virus completely but sees the world in the same way the virus does. The uninfected are seen as potential hosts, first and foremost. The host’s internal systems for discerning good and evil are overwritten; anything that builds and sustains the virus becomes “good” and anything that opposes it, “evil.”

When I was a kid, I was super eager to test my missionary skills on a non-Mormon, but I grew up in Provo, where non-Mormons were rather hard to come by. The first time I met someone who was a little new to Utah and had never heard of Mormons, I was soon reciting the entire “Articles of Faith” which outline the beliefs of the LDS church.

Anyone who showed outward signs of being non-Mormon, anything from smoking to wearing a bikini (good Mormons cover their legs to their knees and the tops of their shoulders and never show their midriffs), a tattoo or even long hair and a beard instantly became labeled as a lost soul, a mostly bad person that I should either avoid or try and rescue.

Step Five: EXTERNAL DEFENSE

Anything that opposes, contradicts, or otherwise seeks to defeat the virus and heal the host is seen as an enemy. The virus has convinced the host to trust it above all, above reason, above tangible evidence; now it convinces the host that anything which opposes it is a manifestation of a malicious antivirus. When confronted with pure and irrefutable proof that s/he is sick, the host will assume that some trickery on the part of the malicious antivirus has occurred and enter fight/flight mode. 

I once asked my parents point blank: “If there were absolute proof that your church is not true, irrefutable evidence, would you want to hear it?”

The LDS church, being a relatively recent religion, has a well-documented history, and of course there *is* absolute proof that Joseph Smith was a lying liar. He claimed he could translate hieroglyphics through the spirit of God, which is how he supposedly translated the Book of Mormon from the gold plates (conveniently taken back up into the sky). When a traveling exhibit came through with a page of actual hieroglyphics, church members got so excited about it that he indulged them and translated it, publishing it in a book called the Pearl of Great Price. His “translation” doesn’t even come close to the actual translation.

In any case, they hemmed and hawed. They said “we’ll get back to you.” They never did. Don’t they care about the truth? Sure–as long as it doesn’t challenge the Truth they’ve embraced as the most important, precious, rewarding thing in their lives. Something that would challenge their Truth can’t possibly be true anyway.

You can’t really blame them, I guess.

Whenever we argue about theological or political topics, it’s very clear when we cross the Barrier of Illogic. My parents are intelligent, rational people on a number of topics, but when reason starts to invade their beliefs (in the form of the secular view making more sense than their faith-based approach) they either become angry, hurt, or they completely shut down.

Step Six: INTERNAL DEFENSE

The virus cannot kill all white blood cells of reason, as some of them are needed for pure survival in the world. Once in a while, the white blood cells of reason will rally for an attack on the virus; but there are effective measures in place should this happen. The virus has taught the host that an excessive number of white blood cells is a sign that the host is not properly or adequately serving the virus. Even as the host tries to defend him/herself against the virus, s/he is invested in losing.

I was miserable for years and years without once thinking of abandoning my faith and trying something else on for size. My point of conflict (like Stephen Dedalus of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” hence my Playa name) was sexuality and faith. Early experiments with my best girlfriend growing up were transcendent, delicious, beautiful–until I confessed to my mother, who cried, and my bishop, who gravely laid out steps to repentance.

At the time I was a willing servant to any and all authority around me, and I never dared pit my internal voice (‘sex is good! beautiful! fun! harmless!’) against that of the establishment into which I was born, the ontology to which everyone around me subscribed.

The common wisdom is that you only question your beliefs if you secretly want to sin more than you want to obey God. So whenever I did think, rebelliously, “why should I have this terribly irresistible natural urge that i’m not supposed to give in to? why would this thing that feels so great and doesn’t hurt anyone be bad? what kind of sick ridiculous joke is this?” I would instantly feel ashamed for letting my sensual, sinful nature overcome my higher, holier devotion to God, guilty for questioning in the first place, and newly resolved to rid myself of doubt and just obey.

Step Seven: INTERNAL DEPENDENCY

If the host resists the internal defenses and continues fighting the virus, the symptoms will begin to subside. The absence of warm fuzzies alone will often convince the host that fighting the virus is foolish and self-destructive.

The more doubt I felt, the less often I felt those nice warm fuzzies. In my early questioning, this was often enough to stop me. The bad scary feelings that come along with doubt were enough to convince me that I was venturing into the territory of the devil and God was leaving me all alone.

Luckily, my abandonment of faith happened soon after I left home for the first time and right before I started my undergraduate education, so I had plenty of new, inspiring ideas to buoy me up as the other positive feelings ebbed.

To leave my faith and gain nothing new would have been monumentally hard.

Step Eight: EXTERNAL REINFORCEMENT

Other carriers still operating in the service of the virus will often converge upon a fellow host who is recovering, and direct their efforts towards making the host more vulnerable and receptive to the virus.

In the Mormon church this is called “fellowshipping,” and if faithful church members are doing their job correctly, it is both innocuous and relentless. If someone’s faith is faltering, they will be showered with baked goods and friendly visits, warmly encouraged to join in both religious and more secular activities, promised that they will be welcomed back with open arms. Faithful members are reminded often that if they ever leave, they will be welcomed back with open arms.

The point is, it’s not hard to fall into, and it’s really, really hard to leave once you invest in it, regardless of its negative effect on your life (so just imagine if you mainly see positive effects!) Kind of like a co-dependent relationship. So really we should cut people some slack. Yeah, it sounds ridiculous and insane when some Republican senator says that God’s all about rape babies and we should force the victims to give birth to them. But he’s not stupid or evil, he’s just in the clutches of an Idea Illness. The virus hath spoken: cell cluster, zygote, fetus, whatever: inviolable. End of story. Because I said so.

There are strategies in place at every step of the process to herd non-believers back into the fold. Your own doubt and confusion and dissatisfaction are played against you, leveraged into a renewed desire for security and certainty. It’s really, really hard to escape from if you still believe even a little bit.

Religion, y’all. *sigh*

H isn’t super pleased with my newfound passion. He’s weirded out by it, and worse, he feels left out. C has been hearing about Burning Man for years and has a reverence for it that makes me adore her even more–it’s already a holy place for her, she’s a pilgrim who dreams of Mecca, and I feel guilty that I got to experience it first, when it really was more of a whim for me, initially.

I can’t, can’t wait for both of them to see it.

Well, so anyway. I’m a Burning Man Zealot. Am I sick? Am I infected? Burning Man is giving me hella warm fuzzies and yeah, I want to tell everyone about it, I want everyone to experience the awesomeness of it.

But…it doesn’t ask any self-denial or repression. In fact, I’m encouraged to follow my passions and explore my desires, to design and pursue my bliss as I see fit. Sounds good to me.

It has elaborate structures built up around it and many, many people devoted to maintaining it, and for many people, Black Rock City is Home. A lot of people change their lives entirely after they’ve once experienced Burning Man. Sounds real cult-y, right?

But far from turning its infected against the uninfected, it encourages an open mind and accepting attitude towards everyone. It reminds us that deep down, we’re all the same, that all of these trappings of status and political party and class and race and etc. are ultimately hugely inconsequential in the face of our shared humanity, our shared love of beauty and energy and creativity and community. It helps us to see past the all of the barriers to other people’s bright inner core.

I’m going to write a post on my feelings about guilt (it’s useless and impedes personal progress), but guilt and shame, which in religions play a huge part in keeping people in line, are completely absent from Burning Man. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, whatever you want (or dont want) is just fine. There’s no attempt to guilt or herd or force anyone to believe in the Ten Principles of Burning Man–if they work for you, awesome. If not, cool.

And last, when Burners are nice to you, they are nice without agenda. It’s part of the Gifting principle. Social interactions are not about getting something you want–they’re about connecting and giving unconditionally. They’re not actively trying to recruit or retain you. They’re just operating on the Principles.

I can be as zealous as I want. Zealotry in itself is not a bad thing. What’s that Bible scripture? “By their fruits shall ye know them”? You know religions are illnesses because they spread at least as much discord as harmony, because they cause people to kill, oppress, and restrict each other. Because they teach people to eliminate or assimilate the opposition. Because they discourage people from intelligently integrating observations, ration, and reflection into their worldview. Because they consistently and routinely hinder humanity’s social and scientific progress.

Burning Man, as far as I’ve seen it, does the opposite of all of those things. I think it’s an evolutionary mutation. I think it will continue to gain momentum. Everyone who visits BRC sees the kind of world we could live in if we followed the Ten Principles. We all observe its success and I think this makes an imprint on our very DNA. We are designed to teach and learn from each other–that’s why religions take hold so quickly. Let’s see how much more quickly a non-manipulative, highly functional and harmony-inducing system, with no middleman and no bullshit between the words and the actions, can spread throughout our broken world. Let’s see if it can help us evolve fast enough to save ourselves from extinction.

Burning Man Revelations 1:1

There is SO MUCH to learn from Burning Man. I’ve got at least three more posts on the back burner about why I think the Ten Principles are the ideal foundation for a wholesale re-imagining of societal structures.

Principle #2: Gifting
Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

This is probably the first principle of Burning Man that you will notice and appreciate upon attending. I was inspired to write this post when I saw some pictures of Robot Heart on Facebook. I was thinking about those DJs, and what made dancing at Burning Man so much more special than clubbing at home, and looking at the DJs’ faces, I had my answer: the enjoyment is multiplied exponentially when the giver is giving without expectation of return other than the receiver’s joy.

Not a single person is driven by money alone. The desire for money, like any other misdirected longing, has at its roots the desire for validation  and admiration of the community. When you remove money from the equation, this becomes suddenly crystal clear. Far from money being the only motivating factor–money is the unnecessary middleman keeping a great deal of our energy from working towards our true desire: to be useful to and valued by those around us.

Every good and service provided by others suddenly becomes more precious and valued. Instead of trying to see how cheap you can get something for (i.e. how little it is worth to you), you appreciate it for what it is, a gift, something someone else did so you wouldn’t have to do it, and you both get to feel the joy of being part of a community that gives and receives open-heartedly and generously.

If people are out there giving and giving, and nobody’s keeping tally about who is doing work, who’s to stop people from just taking and taking?

I saw several individuals (and camps!) manifesting this fear in some form or another, usually an angry indictment of people who think it’s okay to take without giving back, to consume instead of participating. The worst I saw was a sign that said “If you drink here, stay here–we deserve a chance to try and sleep with you.”

The “give an inch, and they’ll take a mile” attitude is such a pervasive part of our dominant narrative that even devoted Burners often overlook a vital part of the second principle: gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value. They express disdain and exclusion towards those they perceive as lazy, entitled, or ignorant–a violation of the first principle of radical inclusion.

Yes, there are people who take advantage of the gifting culture. There’s even a nickname for them: sparkleponies. They ignored the principle of Radical Self Reliance and didn’t bring all of the gear they needed. They don’t pull their weight around camp. Maybe they came with one of these “Plug and Play” camps and instead of helping, they pay caterers and workers. Who is going to punish them if we don’t leave them out in the cold? How will they ever learn?

If you read many personal accounts about Burning Man, you’ll soon discover a common theme: most people do not set out to be sparkleponies. In fact, many of them desire, more than anything else, to avoid being labeled as such. But most virgin burners do end up being sparkleponies at some point. There’s just no way to fully prepare for your first Burn.

I was definitely determined, once I started researching Burning Man, NOT to be a sparklepony, and yet time and time again I found myself out in the desert helplessly asking a stranger for some water. They call this phenomenon “going down the rabbit hole”…things just happen. And since anything’s possible and you don’t have anywhere to be, you go along with it. And you lose your headlamp and your friend g’s goggles, and you lose the beautiful belt that h gave you. But you know everything will be okay in the end. Your missing items will help someone else (as the fur vest I found on an art car saved me for the time I borrowed it) and others will help you. You might even experience some true Playa magic, as I did, in the form of missing items finding you again.

So your virgin burn, with any luck, you learn gratitude (for all the people who helped your annoying ass), humility (as the owner of said annoying ass), and you gain a desire to be of service to those around you, instead of just taking. And you discover the special kind of magic that occurs within a community of people who are dedicated to the welfare of all, of strangers, not just kin, not just friends, not just those who can benefit them. Those who experience the gifting spirit at Burning Man seldom feel the need or desire to take as much as they can get away with. See, the whole “without expectation of return” part of the giving culture means it’s redundant to try and get away with anything. You can relax. No one (living the Ten Principles correctly) is keeping score of how much you give vs. how much you take. If you want to be Lazy Asshole Person, you can.

When most people around you are making a studious effort not to judge you, you start to notice something amazing…there is one single person ruling over all of those judgments you imagined coming at you from every direction. One person is orchestrating them into a chorus of paranoia and self doubt. And that’s you. Even if no one else is judging you for being Lazy Asshole Person..especially when no one else is judging you…you will not want to be that person for very long. Trust me.

It’s one of those things you learn by living. Come to Burning Man and see. I think this is the primary reason the festival is so addictive, so generative, so inspiring:

The whole world, when you think about it, is just a bunch of people looking out for each other, trying to protect and love one another, making and doing cool shit to show one another, to make each other’s lives better, to be of service to the community, to improve the planet we share. The world is just like Burning Man, only there’s a bunch of antiquated, barbaric, and unnecessary shit mixed in, like money, like class systems, like abysmally huge imbalances in the way we value labor, like war.

Why does Burning Man give people hope for humanity?

Because…we’re so close, guys. Really. Come and see. We’re so, so close.

 

Spark

I just finished watching “Spark: A Burning Man Story” and it reaffirmed for me all of the things I experienced, and reignited the fire inside of me to do whatever I can to help spread this phenomenon. People play down the power of Burning Man and what the community stands for and what it means for humanity: It’s a fun social experiment. It’s a unique vacation. It’s inspiring. It gives one hope.

I think it’s way, way more than that.

First I learned about Whiteness Theory, and I was like “Eureka!” and then I read “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” and said, “Here is my hypocrisy-proof ethical model, done and done.” And then I go to Burning Man and …holy shit. I think the empathetic, trust-first, ask-questions-later, sharing economy type models are spreading so fast because humanity is hungry for an upgrade. We’ve got a lightning-fast, intelligent and empathetic globalized society still run by antiquated, barbaric and error-riddled systems of government. Everything in this world has been rapidly evolving but the social order. It’s time for a change. In Egypt, in Iran, in China, in Chicago, in Detroit, in Mexico, everyone is looking around and saying: Jesus H. Christ, can’t we do better than THIS shitshow?

This is what Burning Man means to me: I think it’s the Great Blueprint. I think it’s the common ground. I think it’s the idea that could unite the world. It’s our model for rethinking the way society works. I don’t believe in a static utopia, only the constantly evolving attempt, but I swear to goddess, Burning Man is the closest mankind has gotten to a moral code that could sustain a working utopia.

More on that later.

In any case, I was very impressed with “Spark.” As you can probably tell, I am very passionate about Burning Man and the heart and soul of what it represents, and I thought it was a well made documentary that captured the spirit of Burning Man, including its very multifaceted nature and the range of participation levels, excellently.