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“I have an American Dream…” – John Styn

2008 Burning Man was AMAZING for me.
I still have so much to process.
Unfortunately, the decompression is coming TOO fast and furious this year.
The thick cultural smog is more than I can handle.
I spent a week basking in the deepest personal truths singing from inspiring individuals.
Now all I hear are the most sophisticated manufactured phrases spewed from political conventions.
It is WAY too abrupt for me.
“Decompression” is the term Burners give to that abrupt shift from a love-fueled community to the normal interactions of regular life.
And it is always hard.
(My camp mate Nanda was shocked when, on the ride home from his first burn, the Taco Bell cashier would not accept his gift of a beaded bracelet and refused his hug. “But, dude …you brought me *tacos*!!”)
The timing of this year’s presidential election has created an unusually harsh shift for decompression: The dust in the air has been replaced by a heavy political odor.
It would *seem* a more natural transition since the theme of this year’s event was “American Dream.”
But so far, that is not my experience.
What I saw in the art and people of Burning Man was the very BEST of America.: Intense Individualism, a profound value of Liberty, and the exaltation of Freedom.
What I see in the political media landscape feels combative, manipulative, and deceitful. Is it just me?
To be truthful, I was not a fan of the Burning Man theme when it was announced. How could something I find so sacred, dirty itself with the shallow realm of politics?
But I’ve discovered that The American Dream is very different than politics.
In fact, I am starting to see that it is the opposite of politics.
The American Dream is about creating a system that defends my rights, regardless of the opinions, beliefs, and faith I hold dear.
I think the founding fathers would be Burners.
I say that without any intention of humor.
It is easy to compartmentalize Burning Man into a caricature of faux fur, dance parties, and fire.
Perhaps I am guilty of promoting this type of perception.
But being a flamboyant pink superhero was what my dream looked like.
Through my creativity, my mom’s crafting skills, and a community’s support, I was allowed to make a ridiculous dream real. What is amazing is that, in that ridiculous state of freedom, I have been able to get in touch with things far deeper and profound.
Things like love and spirituality. Things like honor and respect.
I’ve always said that the overall attitude at Burning Man is, “You can do whatever you want that doesn’t cause harm to others. I may not choose to join you, but I’ll certainly hold your coat while you do it.”
If you tried to turn that sentiment into legalese, I think you’d get something pretty close to the Bill of Rights.
It seems to me that The American Dream is about protecting Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
NOT defining what any of those things looks like.
America’s Founding Fathers wanted to guarantee us all a canvas and access to paints.
Because life, like art, can only be judged by the one who lives it.
How we live our lives is the most sacred thing we have. And the Founding Fathers knew it. They fought for it. They bled for it.
Thomas Jefferson said that, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” I hope with all the love in my heart that we find a way fuel our dreams with a different type of manure.
Lord knows we have a surplus of shit to burn.
I just hope we have the vision to remember what is sacred, and what needs to be destroyed.
Because, come November, if election fraud and corruption fill the void of our deflating Hope, I’m not sure what will happen next.
Will the status quo continue to allow a place for the fringe?
I don’t care if I’m in control, embraced, or even liked…so long as the right to be free from persecution remains self-evident.
All I want is Life & Liberty. And to be allowed to choose my own path to happiness.
I hope this is the American Dream our candidates fight for.
I hope this is the American Dream we all fight for.
Burner & Patriot,
John Halcyon Styn

  • Bikka

    I found u when i was 19 (now i’m 25).
    Thank you for being an inspiring individual yourself.


  • raven

    i have been reading you for about 6 years now … this was one of the most beautiful things i’ve read. my wish for you is continued utter happiness and love .. and for your continued expression of self.

  • georgette

    thank you for so much intense love and effort…..you blow my mind and inspire me to higher levels all of the time!

    so much love in such a beautiful package! I love you Halcyon!

  • Kat

    So much has gone negative in the last year or so. Some of which is caused by this economy. I know you have said nothing is really good or bad but its been hard to look at America in that fashion. Before I knew I couldnt go to BM, I thought the theme was a real kick to the jaw by Larry (or whoever came up with it). Sure I knew that I (and probably others) would do a satirical spin on it but it still seemed like bad timing for that theme to come about…especially after our theme before that was Green Man.

    I will say that what you went through after coming back from playa is very close to the intensity that I felt. Yours did not have the relationship undertones that mine did (you and Ashley are doing pretty good) or the failing health of a boyfriend within less than 72 hours of your return, but still I think that seeing this world after that lovely week is enough to make anyone lose it. Its a slap to the face and I dont think many burners escape that feeling, whether it is as intense or a small diminished strike to the face.

    You hit the nail on the head about the attitude of “You can do whatever you want that doesn’t cause harm to others. I may not choose to join you, but I’ll certainly hold your coat while you do it.” being prevalent on the playa (and in many cases, people try and take this attitude with them for the rest of the year). Makes that slap to the face all the more stark when we come back to this.

    I agree with Georgette on this one. I keep using you as an example. Sure, I only see the happy and I know that life is about balance but I do try and use your optimism, your integrity, and your attitude to influence me back to full emotional health. You may be a human (and thus prone to error — which means no need to be hard on yourself when you dont meet up to any perceived expectations) but you have a gift of helping others heal through any healing that you might be doing.

    With love and respect,
    Kat (the Leopardess)/Catwoman69y2k

  • @IndigoThirdEye

    I completely agree. I too was unhappy with the theme. I got to the point during the burn that I really felt as if the idea of the American Dream was conceptualized by our capitalistic system. A home, a wife, 2.3 kids, a new car, etc…

    I then realized, like yourself, that the American Dream was the active pursuit of those unalienable rights declared in our Declaration of Independence. Embracing and exploring your freedoms, liberties, and that which makes you happy. But, does that necessarily make that idea an American one, if it were unalienable rights granted by our Creator? That is why on the Census I wrote this and said that this is not my American Dream, it is my Human Dream.

    The question is, how do we get the greed and power out of our government system. How do we go about electing benevolent and compassionate leaders instead of corporate puppets and politicians? How do we ensure that those who have the power do not abuse it, and only use it to protect our rights as Americans and ultimately… Humans?


  • glittergirl

    id hold ur coat any day john…..

    and i agree….

    the founding fathers would have been burners for sure….

    keep fightin the good fight….

    with love light and pink…..

    ill be right there with ya….



  • Halcyon

    Thank YOU! It is an honor to skip along these same crazy paths of thoughts with you. 🙂

  • Halcyon

    Thank you, Raven. I feel like my heart is very close to the surface right now. It feels exhilarating…and slightly scary. 🙂

  • Halcyon

    I love YOU, Georgette! So wonderful to get Georgette and Shone hugs under the Playa sun. Ahhhhhhhhhh

  • Halcyon

    Thanks, Kat. And thank you for the understanding for my tumbles, too. ((HUG)) Good luck with your transitions.

  • Halcyon

    Indigo, you make a great (and sobering) point.
    But for the week, it was good to focus on the ideal, I think. At least it helps us see the contrasts…so we can recognize the shit when it comes. (HUG)

  • Halcyon

    massive pink hugs to you, GlitterGirl!!!

  • Kat

    You are welcome. Honestly, Ashley and I have been conversating off and on through GoogleTalk. She too has a positive effect on me. Like I said, long story of how I got here but I do feel like you are someone worth telling it to. Great things have been taken away from the falls and tribulations. Every so often I find myself wanting to berrate myself with “why cant you do this right?” or “Dont be a dummy. That looks like crap.”

    Given the latter statement, you can tell that occasionally I am berrating myself during a creative project. Thats the inner censor at work for sure. If you havent already seen it, there is a book called the Artists’ Way. While its kind of a misnomer (since the author is not promoting a “true way”) its often helpful for me. Every small occasion where my censor starts to berrate me about something, I pull an Angry Hal routine and pick up my censor by the throat and tell it to go away. If it helps, I sometimes draw soething to symbolize my censor and cross it out. I may even try writing “NO” or “LEAVE ME ALONE. YOU CANT STOP ME FROM CREATING” and then burn it (I have a fireplace). It sounds aggressive and non huggy but I find that its the only way to handle an equally vindictive force such as the censor.

    I wonder how you deal with it when your censor rears its ugly head.


    To answer your question…um I really cant. It sounds bad but I have never voted in the presidential election. Why? Becuase I felt like I was picking the best of the evils. Its like going into a store to find something. While you are not expecting an ideal of any kind, none of the choices available sound good. Do you take the resources and choose the best there is or do you not waste your money on any of these items since none of them are really any good?

    Obama seems like the best. Again, that is the best of the evils. Im not trying to instill a debate here in saying that. But still….Im really unsure how we can prevail. These politicians have a tendancy to go back on promises once money starts hitting the pockets. 🙁

  • Boux

    Halcyon, you are the personification of my most heartfelt emotions.

  • lost in amgongst voices

    truly it is as you say. I could not understand why it was that many burners found the theme so detestable. I think they latched onto the word “american” and forgot the meaning of the phrase. The american dream is the idea that anyone can achieve success or failure, it is not confined to select groups of people. The american dream is the idea that your success is a measure of your will to power, independent of preexisting social stature. It is the idea that YOU direct your life, that your dreams can be visions of the future if you so will it. It is a glorious concept the american dream, even if our system corrupts it. Only in america though, is the flame for such a thing brightest

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