How the hell are you happy?

Twice in the last two days I’ve been asked how it is that I’m so happy. My response was a little bit simplistic but basically true for me, I said that I’m happy because I “moved out of DC, use ecstasy, ignore the state, and get laid”. I’m not recommending those steps for anyone else to be happy but the basic concept has worked well for me.

Moved out of DC: When I lived in Washington DC I was unhappy. I didn’t like the city at all. I had some good friends there but the weather, culture, and environment was awful. Washington DC is a city where dreams go to die and good intentions get infected with an incurable strain of syphilis that spreads throughout a community causing insanity and eventually death. It is a place whose culture is filled with power-hungry, narcissistic, future asshats who care only about what you can do for them. Also, the humidity and heat during the summer makes the crowded, sweaty, stinky metro rides feel more like a form of torture than a modern form of transportation. Basically, my happiness is do in part to taking steps to get out of an environment I hate and move to a place where I feel more comfortable.

Use ecstasy: While I am very open about my use of MDMA as a medicine, a relationship aid, and just for fun that is not really what this is about. Part of my happiness comes from having hobbies and interests that take my mind of the negative shit in the world. Riding my bicycle along the beach, reading books, going to raves, writing, and just diving into “Firefly” on Netflix are all ways to escape for a while, which we all need. Mental escape is necessary and healthy to remain sane in a world that the media, religion, and the government says are going to hell.

Ignore the state: Yes, the government sucks. It is a tyrannical leech that pretends to be for the “will of the people” but is really for “the profit of those in power and their friends”. The federal government continues to oppress minorities through the War on Drugs, bomb the shit out of people just because they live in another country, and spy on all citizens because we are all potential terrorists in their eyes. Governments have always done that… it is what they do, their existence is based on the use of violence against innocent people and they don’t know how to do anything else. In addition, there really isn’t a lot any of us can do about it as individuals. You can certainly protest when needed, donate to non-profits, share stories, and raise hell but I believe the best thing we can all do is mostly ignore the state and try to be happy. If there is a victimless crime that you disagree with and infringing on your rights, just fucking ignore it smartly. And remember, we live in an amazing time. We have the most powerful companies working to cure death. We have satellites, telescopes, and space probes finding out new crazy awesome things about our galaxy daily. New research is finding cures for a number of diseases. It is seriously the best time to be alive but you wouldn’t know that if you only pay attention to government.

Get laid: Sex is awesome and I’m happy when I get some (I wish this piercing would heal already so that I could get some more often…), but this is really about relationships and community. Find people who are happy and be around them. I have a community of Burners here who share the Burning Man principles and take care of each other. Communities can be based around religion, sports, hobbies, exercise, etc. but they are necessary in my mind to be happy. I wouldn’t base it around politics much anymore, though I met some fucking awesome people through the libertarian movement, but to each their own. And I find it valuable to do things with a community that moves beyond how you originally met. Do you do yoga and enjoy the people there? Then invite them to go camping and share your love of the outdoors. People working together, loving together, and sharing experiences is a source of great happiness for me. In fact, now that I think about it, this may be the most important step.

So, as we drift into another beautiful weekend I hope you all have a happy time. I know I plan on filling my few days off of work with the beauty of southern California, ecstasy, anarchy, and banging.

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The Rise of “Festivals”

My recent return to Burning Man last week, this article about Taco Bell attempting to reach out to “burners”, and a few conversations about the apparent increase in festival attendance really has me thinking. If there is an increase in participation at “festivals” why is that? As is the case with all my blog posts I basically have no facts, just my own experiences and hypotheses that I think out when I should be working. It should be noted that for simplicity sake I use the word “festival” very broadly and include Burning Man (definitely not a festival in most ways), Lucidity style events that involve multiple days off site and includes a spiritual aspect, and EDC-style events that are more musically focused.

I think the biggest factor is the seemingly unique environment that people in their 20’s and 30’s operate in today. It is no secret that marriage is often being postponed, kids are birthed later in life, and college graduates are enjoying social freedom that is usually reserved for retirees. Many of them, including me, cohabitate with a partner or friends which allows for a lot of disposable income. Festivals can be expensive but if you have two people with college degrees and professional jobs sharing an apartment with no kids it is financially possible to participate often in multiday parties.

These celebrations can often involve intimacy and sex (the Orgy Dome at Burning Man is pretty awesome) but the focus is rarely on hook-ups or “one night stands”. In fact, festivals are very often attended by people in long-term committed relationships. I went with my partner, my best friend has gone with his fiance, our camp at Burning Man has had at least one married couple each year, and two of my dearest friends often go to EDC and similar events together. I also went to two weddings at Burning Man this year, one of which was a couple who got engaged at Lucidity.

Another important factor in festival attendance is technology, particularly the internet. Even relatively small events can spread the word quickly via Facebook to like-minded people across the globe. This is true for big events as well like Burning Man, which has been around for over 25 years, saw themselves face ticket scarcity for the first time thanks to burners sharing their pictures and videos over social media in the last couple years. Musicians who don’t have major labels can also use the internet to attract a fan base and advertise their presence at musical festivals. There is also greater specialization that is possible when people can communicate freely, it is now possible to attract participants to very unique and focused events where in the past smaller cliques would need to participate in big festivals and hope their classes would be attractive enough to get attention.

Lastly, I feel like there is a feeling of lost direction among many people due to the fracturing of society around us. Politicians continue to prove that party doesn’t matter and that they are basically all the same. Traditional religions are fracturing and failing at providing even the bare minimum support for individuals as their beliefs are unwilling to change to accept new scientific evidence. Modern media works tirelessly to tell us all how doomed the world is, despite evidence to the contrary. The social institutions that provide support, love, and comfort in the past have been found lacking so people are looking elsewhere to connect and find family. Festivals, particularly Burning Man and similar events, help fill that gap. At least that is why I go, because I reject violence, consumerism, religious zealotry, and the idea that I need to work in an office for most my life before I can have fun and celebrate life. Festivals give me community, love, support, and acceptance, and I think it does that for many others as well.

Light Up

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Last night I lit up my fire staff for the first time and did a brief performance in front of friends, colleagues, and strangers. It was the culmination of the last six weeks or so of staff training that I have undergone at Fire Groove in Los Angeles. To be honest, it was an incredible experience. Not just the fire and performance, but the feeling of accomplishment and support that came from all around. My performance had plenty of flaws and it was obvious (to me anyway) that I have a lot of work ahead of me to still master the basics but I am certainly looking forward to the more advanced classes starting soon. I love fire dancing and am hooked.

It is more than the dancing and fire that I love though, it is really the community. Since leaving DC I have really been searching for a community. Much of my bike ride and my trip to Burning Man 2012 was part of the longing for a community that I have not felt recently. I have many friends but here in LA, and I love them each dearly, but it still felt like a bit was missing. I hope that my training and work with fire dancing will open doors to alleviate that.

The fire dancers I have met so far are a very open and caring group of people (they are also very beautiful people, I wonder why that is?).  They welcome all who come in peace and they encourage the sharing of knowledge about their art. There is no desire to restrict knowledge or prohibit competition, instead collaboration is encouraged and sought after. Artists of all stripes are part of the community in one way or another, whether it is designing custom outfits, performance art, or traditional art, it is all welcome and those who support the community are loved. In fact, I hope to start designing some glow staffs in my spare time, I don’t know if my model or design can really compete with the others out there but it should be fun.

As much as I love the community I feel like I haven’t taken full advantage of it. I approached it with extreme caution and my introverted side kicked in a lot, but I think that will change. I don’t quite know what I have to offer yet but I hope to contribute more than just taking classes. This is a group of people who won’t judge my polyamory, open relationship, anarchist views. Even if it doesn’t work out that I become a greater part of this group it has opened doors for me, given me greater confidence, provided me with a skill to gift to Burning Man next year, and has been a hell of a good time.

If anyone is interested in taking a classes with Fire Groove, there will be a free intro class on January 5th and 6th. You should definitely come by and check it out.

Fire Dancing and a Sense of Community

Yesterday was my first real class with Fire Groove where I am learning to do fire dancing with a staff. The class was excellent and I left feeling like I learned something and got a small little work out (my shoulders are still sore). While the skills I am developing there are certainly going to increase my confidence and chance of getting laid it is the sense of open community that really struck me.

From the beginning we were encouraged to share what we know, look for new moves and ask questions, and be open about what we have learned. There was no push for secrecy or an “us vs them” mentality that can often form, instead the instructors wanted a strong community open to everyone. It was really burner-esque in a lot of ways and it isn’t surprising that many of the students and instructors had attended Burning Man before.

Given my move from DC (where EVERYTHING is “us vs them”) it has been a welcome relief to find that doesn’t seem to be how most of society works. In fact, politics and religion seem to be one of the few places where communities attempt to keep secrets and close themselves off from other people. With technology it will be interesting to see how this all changes in the future. Instead of defining ourselves as the antithesis of some other group I think more and more people are rejecting that and embracing all seekers of knowledge and love.