Category Archives: Burning Man

Politics, Burning Man & Gifting

Originally printed in Bliss Babe Magazine

As exciting as it may be to live in a democracy, few things can dim one’s spirit like an election cycle. The news is filled with fear, water cooler convo’s regurgitate angry soundbites, and online comments reek of righteous indignation.

It brings out the worst in people. It forces us to pick teams and magnifies our differences. Amidst all the anger and divisiveness, it can feel like the world is beyond repair.

But when I calm down, I remember that my job is not to fix the darkness in the world. My job is to shine my light.

This can feel like a selfish pursuit, but I promise, it is not. Read on.

I had a transformative experiences 18 years ago when I first attended Burning Man. I experienced a Gift Economy where people freely give things to one another — not because they will get something in return, but because it feels good to make someone else happy. (This is different from “barter” where goods and services are still exchanged in same traditional transaction format of our monetary commerce system.) Over the years, Gifting at Burning Man became a deep passion and a profound part of who I am.

But one week of rose-colored glasses isn’t enough to tint your worldview for the entire year. You need to look for opportunities to Gift everywhere.

That is why I started looking for ways to Gift year-round.

Everything changed when I started seeing everyone around me as an opportunity to make myself happier. How? By making *them* happier. Even in tiny ways: Holding a door open, being a good listener, or giving a dollar to the person in front of me at the store who couldn’t afford their second item.

These tiny acts of kindness have rippling events. Not only to they change the way you see yourself in the world, but they transform the worldview of everyone who witnessed it. The person you helped now knows that there are open-hearted people in the world. The other people waiting in line now have an example — a role model saying it is okay to be kind.

And often this is what the world needs. Simply permission to be the kind and giving people we want to be. This is why those “pay-it forward” chains continue for so long at Starbucks. When people pay for coffee for the person behind them. People *want* to be better…but they also don’t want to be suckers. They don’t want to be taken advantage of.

But I would argue that it is impossible to be taken advantage of. Even if your kind act does not set off a chain of ripples, it still confirms that YOU ARE AN AGENT OF LOVE. It is who you are in the world. And when you act in this way, you start to attract kind and loving people into your life. When you start to see yourself as a helper…as one who gifts…you can’t help but act differently in the world. You will do kind acts because it makes you feel better. And as you act selfishly, the ripples of your actions will make the world a better place.

Best of all, when you can see your fellow humans from this perspective, it doesn’t matter what their political views are. There is no “us” and “them.” Just millions of opportunities to make yourself happier.

So as the election season (thankfully) comes to a close, remember that a daily campaign of kindness is the real winning ticket.

I’m John Halcyon Styn and I approve this message.

This article originally appeared in Bliss Babe magazine.
Photos by Eric Schwabel.

TEDx Black Rock City

My TEDx BRC talk is posted, including an additional audio interview I did. (All talks listed here.)

Truth be told, it didn’t go as planned. The event was 45 minutes behind schedule and my talk was last. Performers were all waiting to go on and the final words I heard from the stage manager were, “PLEASE do not talk as long as the last guy.”
So I spoke for 6 minutes, when I originally planned for 15. I think it shows. 🙂 But it was a wonderful learning experience. I actually have not spoken to live audiences much. (Webcams are a different story.) Each situation is different, and I am learning to navigate as I go.

Hugmobile 2.0

Have decided that it is time to start shopping for Hugmobile 2.0.

Dream vehicle: Low milage, 96 or newer, Class A, under 30 foot RV.
Engine=perfect. Interior/exterior banged up since I will remodel & paint. Bathroom, sink & shower are very low priority.

Options: Camper van or truck w/ trailer, but would need to be a “perfect fit.”


The lessons of Grandpa, Gratitude, and Gifting have become a way of life for me. An I am starting to see the affect of these ideas on my life and in the world
‎Pink Heart, my Burning Man camp, is making an appearance at events on boths coasts in the coming months. And next month 1st Saturdays SAN FRANCISCO CHAPTER will host its first event – while we host ours in San Diego.

I am seeing the ripple effects of Love… of “Selfish Service”…and everything I put into the TEDx talk…actually HAPPENING. My eyes are filled with tears and my heart is soaring.
I hope you enjoy.
And if it touches you, please share with a friend, a local reporter, and everyone that could smile more and be more in the world.

“Righteous Prick” Hug Nation Sept 11, 2012

1st Hug post-Burning Man

It is long video, and it is deep…but I came back from Burning Man with a more powerful vision than ever before. We are all Messiahs. Our Heroes Journey is to greet each task at hand by being Present – with Integrity – aligned with Love.

I step into a new chapter of power. I open to a new level of vulnerability.  I Love you.

Includes reflections on:
Grandpa Caleb (, Pupose, Westboro Baptists, Burning Man Sexual Assault, & living our Purpose.

“Be Present. Have Integrity. Align with Love.”

Wedding photos by Ben Indyck and Andy Cooper

Defending What Matters

(posted in Burning Man Blog)

Black Rock City is the greatest city in the world.
But every city has assholes. And thiefs. And rapists.

YES, we should continue to assume that we are dealing with the 99.9% of the city that is AMAZING, but be aware that there are dark spots out there among all the light

You can no longer pretend that there are no bikes stolen at Burning Man – you have to use a lock.
And we can longer pretend that there is no Sexual Assault at Burning Man – you have to use good judgement, look out for one another…AND speak up when somebody crosses the line.

There is an important conversation going on on ePlaya about the challenges and need for Rape Kits & other preparations in Black Rock City.

In this week’s Hug Nation (“Back From Burning Man”) broadcast, I discussed my own camp’s episode this year which involved a camp mate who crossed the line and ended up leaving in cuffs.

What we create within the Walls of BRC is sacred. We need to acknowledge the darkness as it creeps in and banish it with light. Admitting that Burning Man is not a perfect Shangri La is not a failure…it is a necessary step required to defend our borders and create even safer spaces for expression, creation, and Love.

“GAY MOTHERSHIP” (“Ain’t Watcha Think”) Hug Nation 6.5.2012

This is a clip about assumptions, homophobia, Burning Man magic, and pink.
Oh, and and my new role as Commander of the Gay Mothership.
**FULL Broadcast **

I was browsing through the local free gay rag, “RAGE” and saw a picture of ME with the caption, “THE GAY MOTHERSHIP IS CALLING EVERYONE HOME!”

Original Photo is from Burning Man 2007 by Carie Camacho.

The totally unrelated – RAGE article.
Rage cover