Freak Flag Activism


When I started going to Burning Man, almost 20 years ago, its place in culture was different.

It was underground. It was secret. It was taboo.

Now it is a part of cultural mainstream with frequent TV mentions and Buzzfeed lists of “Top Celebs at this year’s Burn”

20 years ago you could read everything publicly written about it in an hour and still have no idea what it was.

Now there are over 5 million Burning Man videos on YouTube.  (Of course, you could watch them all and still have no idea what it is.)

20 years ago digital photography was brand new and nobody had cell phones.  You could walk around naked and be confident nobody would see it in the default world.  

Now people post to Instagram all week long. Your corndog fellatio escapade could be a viral sensation before Burn Night.  Privacy is *not* one of the ten principles.

20 years ago, admitting to going to Burning Man was career suicide.

Now, so many respectable people have gone to (and praised) the event, that participating can be a badge of honor – if not a hiring requirement.

20 years later Burning Man plays a much different role in our culture. And I believe it has never been more important.

Radical Self Expression is no longer a decadence.  It is now critical activism.

We are the seed banks of culture – preserving diverse thinking and creativity.

As a cultural ice age takes its grip – we must persevere.  We must keep the fires going.

We must maintain our humanity by expressing our creativity.  It is our creative expression that makes us more than greedy, over-groomed monkeys.

I’m talking about true creative expression. Authentic expression.

That which may not be appreciated by the mainstream.

Because it is in these fringe nether regions where the transformational ideas take root. Outside-the-box thinking will only thrive when people are supported when they stray outside the status quo.  

And we may be entering an era when radical thought is ridiculed and persecuted.

But a bloodline and a culture both need to avoid inbreeding to stay healthy.  “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” said Albert Einstein.  So, without a healthy culture of non-traditional thought, we are doomed to stagnate in our woes.

Making art has never been so important. Living artistically has never been more courageous.

Now is when we step into our warrior roles.  

Fighting is more than throwing rocks and carrying signs.  It is staying weird, open-hearted and deviant – while the status quo is trying to crush you.  
Buckle-up Burners.  

Intro email to a coaching client

“Just to put it out there:  Personally, I often get the instinct to want to impress people, especially ones who impress me. But I want you to know that I love you profoundly, already. Your truth is perfect. Nothing you have ever done is a failure to me. No quirk is a weakness. Whatever you you are called to share is welcome.  If it is honest, it is impressive.
And I will work on remembering that for myself, as well.”

Authenticity. Create. Focus. Own. Honor.

(click to hear me tell this story out loud)

On New Year’s Day, I was soaking in a heated pool with friends.
Sharon suggested a game. “What single word would you choose to be your mantra for 2017?”

David said, “Authenticity.”
I couldn’t help but smile. I met him a year ago and have watched as his life has transformed. Witnessed his courage as he made tough life choices in the pursuit of his truth. Now in the middle of divorce and uncertainty, he has a childlike glow about him. “I feel like I just woke up from a 15 year coma,” he said with wide eyes. “I’m having the best life of my life,” he told me all night long.

Edward ’s word was, “Create.”
Earlier, Edward had shared with me his feelings going into 2017. He had a fire and excitement that was contagious. The landscape is ripe he told me. “There has never been a better time for courageous creative expression!” he stated fiercely. His sentiment was echoed by a number of people throughout the night. It was such a good perspective for me to hear. So much energy had been spent lamenting 2016 that it was hard to avoid an element of dread as we begin the new year. But there is great fertility in chaos. Rather than walk into 2017 timidly, we should charge boldly make our voices heard.

Sharon shared, “Focus.”
“With so much inspiration and so many ideas pulling my attention, I find myself struggling to finish projects,” she explained. Everyone in our circle smiled and nodded. She also shared insights from a recent TED talk about how social media can affect brain receptors in the same way that drugs do. The world of 2017 is bursting with bright shiny things, dark prickly things, and a billion avenues of wonder. Without restraint, discipline, and focus we can never develop our skills, projects, and ideas to their potential.

Madison said “Own.”
“I am taking on a lot in 2017, and I need to own it. When I get to a place of doubt, I will remember that I can do it. I am enough.” Among so many friends, it is easy to remember. But on the dark and lonely nights our selves can feel much smaller. It can be easy to question our paths. I have an ego voice that taunts me at times with, “Who are YOU to write that book? Who are YOU to think you have something worthy to share?” I have to remind myself that I am the best me there has ever been. If I am trying to be a pro bowler, then “who are you?!” is a valid question. But if I pursue my truth, it is impossible to fail. I am the perfect person. I am the only person who can. I am enough.

When the game was introduced, the word “Surrender” immediately popped in my head. It has been my “go to” mantra for some time. When in doubt, surrender. Trust the flow. Trust my heart. Trust the universe. “Float more, fear less.”
But as each person shared, I was inspired deeper. Was there a word that would better serve me for 2017, specifically?

All of their words resonated deeply with me. Authenticity. Create. Focus. Own.
Pursue my truth.
Express from that truth.
Be committed to that expression.
Know that I am the perfect vehicle for that expression.

After sitting with these words, I have changed my word for 2017. (Oh, “Surrender” is still my primary. My life partner and rock. But we have an open relationship. I am poly-syllabic.)

My word for 2017 is “Honor.”

I will honor myself. I will honor my talents. I will honor the gift of this life.
I will honor my potential enough to be disciplined.
I will honor the divine enough to fully express my truth.
I will honor the opportunities of my privilege for the greater good.
I will honor my body temple enough to embrace healthy practices.
I will honor the gifts of my open heart, kind eyes, thriving body, and truthful words to do what I am meant to do: Spread Love.


What is your word for 2017?