No Idea Too Silly

Burning Man 2015

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No Idea Too Silly

Do you ever find yourself listening to someone talk, and it’s painfully obvious that they are choosing their words so carefully that they start feeling inauthentic? Have you ever caught yourself being that person?

I have a listener named “Red”  that has an uncanny ability to hear right through my voice when I’m on the radio. He’s incredibly tactless and does not hesitate to call in and call me out on my bullshit, live on the air. This can be a challenging experience, sometimes downright humiliating.  Several months ago, I was going through some  substantial personal challenges. I was feeling really insecure about the quality of my work. Red could hear it in my voice.  He called in, I took his call live on the air:20150831_183513

“You’re really struggling, aren’t you?”

His indictment continued…

“You are holding back. Why don’t you tell us what you really think? You aren’t giving us the whole story Paul. You are measuring your words, and it’s boring.”

His criticism was devastatingly accurate, sending me into a downward spiral of cancerous self-awareness. I had this nagging knowing that I was not fully utilizing my mind and voice in the air. When you are a broadcaster, there are a number of people you have to keep happy:  The FCC,  the station owner, and the listeners. You HAVE to color inside certain lines, so watching one’s words is a necessity. You can’t curse on the air, for instance.  I regularly pushed the envelope of what I could and could not talk about, which means that you have to be very aware of that line in the sand between kosher and unacceptable.  This becomes a slippery slope of self-censorship. One minute I’m trying to avoid saying “shit” on the air, the next moment I find myself failing to say what I really think about Bernie Sanders.

fire breathing medusa head at burning man

Want to go dancing around a giant Medusa Head DJ booth with fire breathing snakes? No problem. We’ve got one of those.

One of my main objectives for Burning Man was to let go of the self imposed barriers to communicating with my full voice.  In the past two years, I’ve come a LONG way in finding my voice, but I knew that some weird kind of glass ceiling still needed to be broken through.

The art at Burning Man has a particular quality to it.  There is a purity to the ideas and execution of those ideas that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  The ideas are bigger, more extreme, more absurd, and have passed through zero filters.

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Wednesday morning I was en route to the porta potties for my morning ritual. I overheard two girls talking. Though they were obviously virgin burners, they had been on the playa long enough to see and experience a few things. They were discussing the art; one girl said:

“You know what it is… No idea is too silly. Nothing is off the table out here.”

Her words have been bouncing around in my soul ever since.  She nailed it.

No idea too silly.

Every idea is fair game.

That’s it. That’s the glass ceiling.

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Burning Man 2015 was a grand epiphany that freed me from feeling compelled to send every idea, word, impulse, though an exhaustive committee in my head, before letting it come out of my head.  I learned to trust that I am a good person. I’m not a dangerous person – and therefore, I can just let it flow. Sure some of it may be weird, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s AWESOME. Let’s get weird. That’s where the gold is.  The pasteurization of weird ideas  causes artist’s block. Every idea is a worthy seed. Not all of them must be acted on – one must carefully choose how to spend time and resources, and that’s okay too. It feels amazing to be able to sit at the drawing board of my mind and just let the ideas flow, as silly as they may be.

Accept that you have a filter.

Make peace with yourself. Understand you are inherently good.

Fire the censorship committee in your head.

Watch your creative life bloom.

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3 Things: The Collected Bucket Lists of Burners at Burning Man 2015

In 2013, I did a project called “3 Things: The Collected Wisdom of Burners at Burning Man 2013“. It proved to be such an awesome experience, both on, and off the Playa, that I decided to do a follow up project in 2015.

I wandered around Black Rock City and met people from all over the world. I asked them

“What are three things you want to do before you die, that you have not done yet?”

Here are their answers.

Recommended listening while you are perusing the images… a gorgeous set by Hernan Cattaneo, performed at the iconic White Ocean 2015 sound camp:

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Writing On The Wall

Porta Potties are an integral part of the Burning Man experience. Obviously.

One must piss and shit.

One must also leave no trace on the desert floor… that’s one of the 10 Principles of Burning Man. Hence, porta potties.  One of the things I adore about Burner culture is the way it embraces both the profane and the profound and lets them co-exist, simultaneously.  I thought the porta potties were a poetic, if not stinky, example of this ethos.  Nearly every porta potty interior is adorned with some kind of graffiti. Here are some of my favorite moments from inner walls of the 2015 Porta Potties:

See more of my Burning Man 2015 experience here.

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A Carnival Of Mirrors

Ladies, Gentlemen, Everyone in between… I’ve been home from Burning Man for a MONTH now and I’m just now getting some words ready to share. I’ve tried to write an account of Burning Man a hundred and seventeen times, and I never feel like I do it any justice. It’s just too big of an idea.  Even if I were to write a perfectly worded treatise, I would still fail to fully communicate to you what Burning Man is. It’s futile – like trying to explain what the color purple is to a blind person.

_DSC8104Burning Man is a magical oasis in the Desert. Beautiful serendipities are inevitable when you bring together 70,000 highly intentional creative beings into a temporary city and empower them with the 10 Principles of Burning Man. Things happen out there that defy description. Every. Single. Day.

I went out there with one basic goal in mind: to have experiences that would help me connect more clearly to my artistic voice.  For the past two years, I have been working in radio at KTALK 630 AM. It has been an amazing opportunity to learn how to produce a show, learn to broadcast, and most importantly, to find my voice. Although I have made a ton of progress, I have felt like somehow I was still holding myself back. I hadn’t quite found my groove.  I wasn’t placing demands on Burning Man to deliver this epiphany to me, but I certainly hoped for it. _DSC7295The art theme for Burning Man 2015 was “Carnival Of Mirrors” – an apropos theme for a guy who’s trying to gain more artistic clarity.  Black Rock City was fashioned into a whimsical carnival midway of sorts.  The inhabitants of this BRC came not just as spectators, but as participants, in a mystical carnival in the desert where the people, places, things, ideas, conversations, and experiences that your soul needs, are reflected back to you.

“If we do not fashion for ourselves a picture of the world, we do not see ourselves either, who are the faithful reflections of that world. Only when mirrored in our picture of the world can we see ourselves in the round. Only in our creative acts do we step forth into the light and see ourselves whole and complete. Never shall we put any face on the world other than our own, and we have to do this precisely in order to find ourselves. For higher than science or art as an end in itself stands man, the creator of his instruments.” –  Carl Jung

Come along as I tell tales of the carnies, gurus, and travellers I met during my week in the desert.

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