Tag Archives: hippies

Whom do we burn in effigy?

The Man has been burned once more, and peace and quiet returned to the dry bed of Lake Lahontan. I think it’s time to think a little about who the Man is to begin with, and why we burn him. I came across a petition to save him, after all he was doing his job really well this year, they argued. Apparently they didn’t get enough signatures. In the classic graphic novel Drink Water of David Campbell Wilson, his wild firetribe sees the Man as “the Man”, as in “the One in Power”. An artist this year made a brain for him, inscribed with thoughts by burners: according to him, this gesture allowed the Man to become a participant instead of a spectator.

It’s quite obvious how different our attitudes and interpretations are around this yearly ritual. It’s an open source ritual, no EULA to sign, no creed to subscribe to, no god to appease, you just come and burn the Man and think of it what you want, and that’s it! It’s beautiful! However, I do think it can be interesting to share our own interpretations with each other.

The ritual of burning a puppet is probably older than written history. Some of our written history remembers rituals of human sacrifice that were later supplanted by a less violent version. So is the Man a sacrificial offering, or is he the embodiment of something we wish to exorcize, such as the spirit of winter, or the spirit of Guy Fawkes (though I wonder why the brits are so hung up on him, lol, they’d need more of his kind)? It can certainly be seen that way. We burn “the Man” together, spitting at all the posturing, gloating rulers, corporate campuses and houses of Parliament of the world, in a sort of inverse Fifth of November celebration, burning not the rebel but the ruler, not the treason but the establishment.

Then again, for me, that approach feels somewhat unsatisfying. We live together with the Man for a week, some for longer. He is the center of our city, of our tiny alternative universe, watching and carrying all our hopes, dreams, ideas, artistic and crazy exploits. So to me, the Man is not a stand-in for Trump or Putin or Musk or Zuckerberg, he’s a stand-in for ourselves. Each year he bursts into glorious flames, and arises again a year after. He’s a phoenix. In burning him, we burn ourselves, our old habits, our fears, all the things we no longer need or the things that hold us back. We burn ourselves in the desert sun, in the alkaline dust, in the over the top self-expression, the hectic connections, the crazy preparation and hard work, the rangering, the building our our theme camps and art installations, the long walks through deep playa at four in the morning, and finally, we burn ourselves in effigy, bursting into the flame of life and renewal, only to rise stronger and higher.

That, for me, is being a burner.

Many happy burns!

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On humans, clowns and happiness

I’ve been thinking about eccentricity, and how people react to it. Upon meeting up with my mother recently, she just couldn’t let go of the fact that I was carrying a canary yellow, spotted umbrella, and was gently offering to get me a ‘proper’ one instead. I guess for my mom I’ll always be a weird rebellious son she’s slightly worried about, and that’s okay. I think I’ve lived long enough to know about men’s style. I’ve held jobs where I had to wear a suit, and honestly, I was good at it. I still am, if the need surfaces. So I started wondering about is why I’m carrying the spotted umbrella in the first place. I mean while it’s a perfect clown umbrella, I’m not really clowning on the street, now am I… and it hit me that in a way, I actually am.

From interviews with the greatest artists, there seem to be two distinct approaches to the idea of clowning among them. One is focused on the audience, on inspiring laughter, on masterful technique, that is, on Doing… and the other is focused on Being a clown, stating that everything else follows from that. On finding the inner clown, the inner child, and sharing the joy, freedom and emotional openness from that source. An extreme adherent of the second approach is Slava Polunin, whom I consider on of my role models. He is a true rebel artist, who used the wordlessness of pantomime to evade censorship in Soviet times, and an unwavering believer in creative human freedom, both in the theatre troupes he was part of or led, and in our lives in the outside world. Today, he’s turned clowning into a lifestyle through his “Academy of Fools”, in his words, turning the focus of his life onto finding and exploring what makes human beings happy.

And yes, that spotted umbrella makes me happy. I look at it on a rainy day, and think of sunshine and playfulness. And so do the colorful hippie clothing, the five-toed shoes, or any of the other trappings of eccentricity I consciously decide to allow myself. In doing things my body and my inner child wants to do, rather than what my superego would allow me to do. And yes, people do sometimes stare. I’m sure there is a part of them thinking how nice it must be to be so free and childish. And this is, probably, a degree of clowning. Being that reflective, joyful person that many deny in themselves for fear of societal reprisal, or in sacrifice to an arbitrary self-image of prestige, or a desired gender expression, or whatever else.

I honestly believe that performing a little in my everydays, for myself and the world around me, as an eccentric and a free human being, leads to greater happiness, motivation and potentially success in life. I mean, if I want my brain to find reasons for climbing out of bed, why not help it out a little, by making every day worth living?

The TAZ, the Festival and the Burn

Ever since I listened to a presentation about Hakim Bey’s Anarchist philosophy at O.Z.O.R.A. festival, I’ve been quite fascinated by the idea of the Temporary Autonomous Zone. Hakim Bey is a quite controversial philosopher even in hardliner Anarchist circles, due to his preoccupation with the idea of pederasty, and his occasional rants praising illiteracy; even still, in my eyes his writings on the TAZ are fundamental to building livable systems of human cohabitation, at least temporarily free from the total alienation and commodification culture of consumer society.

As the ideator of Nonviolent Communication, Marshal Rosenberg put it, while we’re all raised with the commandment to be “good”, our reward for being “good” is depression. One suppresses one’s own desires and bliss, the very reason one might want to live for, and alienated society simply cannot provide the “good”, self-denying person with any outcomes that are worthy to pursue, and thus one falls into a state of demotivation and depression. This is a truth I have experienced many times over, and the solution I found was to find my bliss in alternative society, a society of hope.

I urge everyone interested to read Hakim Bey’s own writings on the topic; in short, the Temporary Autonomous Zone is a small event, place or social structure that exists outside mainstream society, as a separate culture and set of social norms, hidden and protected through its insignificance to the outside world, and to what Hakim Bey terms The Spectacle. On a sabbatical around freegan communities and open eco-farms, I’ve finally come to see the principle of the TAZ living and working in reality. Even now I’m writing this article sitting among hippies, ‘pirates’ and goatherds, in a location that in my former, urban life believed only exists in stories and films. A location with the sword of Damocles dangling above its head for years now, yet still living on and thriving. And that sword of Damocles is, unfortunately, unavoidable. According to theory, the Temporary Autonomous Zone is necessarily ephemeral. With time it grows, and as the outside world, The Spectacle takes notice, it needs to voluntarily disband before the forces of repression descend upon it in various forms.

What he writes much less about is what comes after. Most festivals start out as a TAZ of sorts, a small group, much like ancient band societies, coming together to celebrate. They cannot, however, stay that way for long. The O.Z.O.R.A. Festival, a psychedelic cultural event in Eastern Europe with more than 50 thousand participants every year, is no Temporary Autonomous Zone, no matter how some may want to make it look like one. Its last claim to the title ended years ago, when police descended on it in a massive raid, and its continued existence could only have been assured through a lucrative contract with the security firm owned by the Minister of Internal Affairs himself. It’s no TAZ, but the mummified corpse of one, dressed for the grave with mugs of chai sold for 5 Euro each, and (faux) Nepalese clothing overpriced 3-5 fold.

Now the question is whether that makes the festival unworthy of attention, or an event of a lower order, and it is my strong opinion that the festival, while heavily commodified, taken over by the Spectacle, and sold as a canned-and-sterilized uprising for the tired office worker, definitely has its place in the world as a learning ground and an embassy for alternative society, for the Web of Temporary Autonomous Zones. It was, for me, the first exposure, and an experience in immediacy, a gateway toward finding my way to communities one can never find or connect with through Facebook Search.

The Rainbow Gatherings, a surviving stream of the original hippie movement from the 1960s, choose a different approach. Gatherings are intentionally limited in time, and locations where a periodic gathering has grown too well known, too large, and too damaging to the local systems, are intentionally abandoned forever. Keeping with TAZ theory, the Gathering is temporary in one place, but the chain of Gatherings is unbroken, and the movement, the Rainbow Family of Living Light, has held up and thrived throughout the disillusionment of the 1980s and the capitalistic hurrah of the 1990s and early 2000s. The Gatherings have serious issues however, relating to their Anarchistic way of (non)governance, and a reach too large for optimal functioning as a true band society, something people often complain about, but the only proposal to handling it had been smaller, more remote and less public Gatherings.

What I find quite unique about the Burn is that it has taken a different approach. The controversies about some practices of “BMOrg”, the non-profit behind the original Burning Man gathering in Black Rock Desert notwithstanding, the philosophy of the Burn took a separate, and quite noteworthy path. Most burns start out small, as true Temporary Autonomous Zones; Burning Man itself started out as one; however, their growth and reach necessitates a level of integration with outside society that eventually removes most TAZ characteristics. The really noteworthy thing, compared to the Festival, is the specifics of how this happens.

Contrary to the Festival, the Burn doesn’t invite in the Spectacle and the systems of the outside world. There are no outside security forces checking cars, nor profiteering landlords growing rich on 5 Euro chai and 300 Euro entry tickets. The Burn becomes an alternative society, creating a tribe government capable of maintaining security and order to a level where the outside world is content leaving its hand off the event. Burns tend to have low or no police presence, due to the highly professional volunteer force of Rangers, who have over the years kept injuries, deaths and similar incidents low, and due to the principle of Leaving No Trace, a strict and quite literal approach to leaving the environment in just as clean and untouched a state as we arrived in.

Now this means, of course, that the Burn is no longer Anarchistic. It is governed, it has strict rules, it maintains close ties with the outside world in order to maintain its existence and safety, it even has a “policing” force of its own. Which, in a way, is a logical and necessary result of its size and reach. As the Rainbow Gathering struggles to maintain its standards of ecological and societal awareness due to sizes unsuitable for ancient band society governance based on consensus, the Burn faced the same issue, and moved to the next level of governance, that of the Tribe.

Through the tribal government of the Burn itself, with codified rules and roles, the smaller unit of Burning, the Theme Camp, is capable of maintaining a more informal, consensus-based governance suited to its size, while being part of a Web of similar micro-societies in the overall tribe society of the Burn itself, allowing for some form of a Temporary Autonomous Zone to come into being and exist within the manageable family unit of people living, eating and sleeping together.

The Burn is often derided for its perceived break with Anarchist ideals, and apparent marriage with Silicon Valley culture and money-flinging billionaires. However, while maintaining that all such criticism of Burning Man is, to a level, warranted and important, the Burn itself, as a model of alternative society, has succeeded in something few experiments have reached before. I’m quite excited for the future of the movement, regardless whether Black Rock City and BMOrg continues on this route, or will be forced to compromise on their ideals. The Burn, as a model, has already strewn its seeds across the globe, and is growing and multiplying.

You Can Be a “Real” Energy Worker

In my last post on hypnosis, I primarily addressed show hypnosis, and why I think it’s usually done wrong all over the world. Hypnosis however, can be a wonderful tool for giving. It has certain qualities and components that allow the hypnotist to elicit certain feelings that, for some people, are incredibly rare commodities. Sometimes you’ll find people crying just from being put into trance.

So now I’d like to invite my readers for a virtual workshop. You can imagine attending a burn and sitting at a theme camp workshop before going out to party for the night. I’ll be informal, brief and on to target, and tell you how you can utilize a few of the core components of hypnosis in improving your intimate human connections, and become a “Real Energy Worker” in your own right.

That sounds like corny mentalist stage patter, right? When people talk about “energies” in an occult context, what they really mean is “feelings”. Like someone saying “this building has a foreboding energy” really means “I have a foreboding feeling in this building.” Of course then they put all kinds of beliefs and theories behind that, but we’ll generously disregard all that. I’ve been told multiple times after using the following approaches that I must be a high level energy worker. Well I never paid a guru for an initiation, but I cultivate empathy and love, and apparently that is enough to deliver positive “energy” (ie. feelings) to the people I connect with.

First, for what hypnosis is, please read my previous post on the topic, in case you haven’t already. Read it? Good. Because I won’t be teaching you hypnosis. Some of you wouldn’t believe that I could teach you in a single blog post, while some would claim that I couldn’t deliver the necessary way of thinking, including safety & security. The former would be wrong, the latter would be right. So no hypnosis here. I’ll talk about approaches that are just as good for delivering positive feelings to people.

And these will, in my opinion, not only make you a Real Energy Worker, but a better hypnotist as well, should you ever decide to learn that craft.

Step one to Energy Working: Learn how to Hug

This is a truly wonderful discovery I made in the magical world of hippies, and it’s so simple. Becoming a person with a reassuring, emotionally healing hug is really easy, you just need to learn two things not to do in a hug, and only one thing to do.

Here’s the two things you shouldn’t do in a hug: push, or pull.

Here’s the one thing you should do in a hug: be present.

CONSENT CLAUSE: The first step to hugging someone is making sure whether they want to hug. Pushing includes pushing a hug on someone who doesn’t want it. Don’t do it.

So hopefully you’re in a consensual hug with someone, and they are hugging you back. If you are hugging a person who isn’t hugging you back, there’d better be a good reason for that (like their arms are in casts). In a regular situation the lack of reciprocity is a good sign that you should withdraw from the hug, as it’s not welcome.

So first, don’t push. This is especially important with lovers. Unless you’re just coincidentally hugging each other while having sex anyway, do not initiate any kind of erotic activity, do not feel your partner up, do not try to french kiss, etc. You can also get pushy in a non-sexual way, so if the other person’s body language indicates that they would like to leave the hug, gently disengage.

Then, don’t pull. If you’re in a hurry somewhere, don’t offer hugs, or at least prefix them by saying “sorry I’m in a hurry mwah-mwah gotta go kthxbye”. But that’s not a proper hug, just a formality. So don’t pull away from a hug. You decided to give it, stand by your decision. Don’t disengage, or make motions to disengage, before the other person does.

(What happens when both people follow this advice? They will possibly spend a wonderful few minutes to a few hours together. Don’t worry about that for now, you’ll know when it’s time to part as it happens. If you decide to give, then stand by that.)

Some people will loosen their grip, but then pull you in tighter. So don’t try to escape at the first sign of their letting go. Make it a nonverbal conversation: “Time to leave?” “Yes?” “Okay, I still love you.” “Love you, bye.” And definitely not “Leaving? Okay! Imouttahere, kthxbye!”

So not doing these things is already a lot more than what most people will give, and will by themselves elevate you to being a walking source of love and happiness. Now for what you should do: be present.

Keep a stable, safe hold of the other person, let yourself be there and pay attention to their movements and breathing. Don’t let yourself be distracted by what you should be doing, your phone, the traffic, etc. You’re there for the other person. Allow yourself to feel them, and feel your own reactions to being there. If you do this, you’ll notice that your breathing will naturally synchronize, maybe even your heartbeat after a while.

After letting go of the hug, stay with them. Don’t run, keep looking at the other person. Appreciate them and smile.

Sounds simple, right? It’s sad that so few people actually do this. Sure, it’s easy to do with a new lover. It comes naturally to many people in that situation. But how about with your mother or father? When was the last time you gave them your love and attention like this? Or a long-term partner with whom your relationship is strained?

I challenge you to hug your mom the next time you meet her, and follow my guidelines. Seriously. If you still have a mom, do it. You’ll be really thankful to yourself that you did. If your relationship is less then perfect, she might ask you what made you so affectionate all of a sudden. In that case, just tell her that you realized how much you love her. That’s explanation enough.

Step two to Energy Working: Learn how to Hold someone

In the article about hypnosis, I passingly mentioned regression. Not to be confused with various past life and alien abduction recall stuff (that, I personally, see as questionable and potentially amounting to malpractice), regression is a mental state where one regresses (lit. “returns”) to emotional patterns characteristic of a younger age. This experience, while an important part of healthy human psychology, is rather rare in modern society, and there are few socially normalized places for most adult Westerners to experience it without stigma.

It can be an extremely healing experience, and something that is not all that hard to give. Well-delivered hypnosis can provide this feeling, but it’s really not necessary. What is necessary is giving clear permission to the other person to let go, and ensuring them that we have the capacity to hold them as they do. This is a step up from hugging: it’s not reciprocal, it’s a gift of kindness. Also, it needs a higher level of consent: being put in an unfamiliar situation without prior discussion can make someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe, defeating the whole purpose.

So if you want to give this to someone, make sure that you are in a social relationship where something like this isn’t completely off the wall. Then, ask them if they would appreciate being held. If the answer is affirmative, the key to this is assuming a comfortable position, better sitting than standing, while holding much of their body weight. Calculate for your own fatigue, it’s important that you’re comfortable too. You can assume any position you like, the key is a) to communicate control and support, holding someone in a way you’d hold a child is generally a great approach, and b) to make sure nothing you do has a sexual overtone. Sexuality can be a trigger, and you don’t want to bring it in, even if you do otherwise have sexual tension going with the other person. Generally, if you’d feel inappropriate touching a small child in a certain way, make sure not to touch the other person like that.

So once you have the other person in your lap, or in a spoon, hold them reassuringly, and follow the advice about hugging. Don’t push or pull, and make sure to be present. One thing to note, in order to elicit a deep feeling of regression, you need to be somewhat firmer about your intention to hold and protect. You shouldn’t disengage immediately if the other person moves. Make it a drawn-out nonverbal, and potentially verbal discussion about whether they really want to leave, or just need a calming voice telling them that their Twitter notifications can wait for another ten minutes. WARNING: This does not mean you should hold anyone after consent had been revoked! If you cannot discern fuss from withdrawn consent, I advise you not to try this at all until you can.

Step three to Energy Working: Touch with feeling and intention

There are points on the human body that are more sensitive to touch than others. No, I’m not talking about erogenous zones. Take your right hand in your left, and move your thumb across your palm. You’ll find spots that are particularly sensitive, like the base joints of your fingers, and the soft areas right inbetween them. The human body is full of spots like these.

Explore yourself, and find as many as you can. Find the optimal pressure that is the most intense, without being painful. Gently drawing your finger on your skin, find spots where you are ticklish, and find what kinds of touch feel good, and what kinds of touch feel uncomfortable. Knowing these spots gives you the “where” of touch. It won’t teach you how to heal cancer with accupressure or somesuch (honestly I’m very skeptical of people claiming similar things), but it will definitely teach you how to heal a chronic lack of human touch. WARNING: Note that many of these points are considered highly intimate due to the feelings they elicit, and you should seek consent before touching, even if you are already hugging or holding someone.

As for the “how” of touch, here’s what you shouldn’t do. You don’t poke, and you don’t boop. (A boop is a short touch immediately withdrawn, like how you’d playfully “boop” your child on the nose.) That’s a form of tickling, and can be part of your playful touch repertoire for sexy times, but not for anything hugging, holding, or hypnosis related. You touch slowly, deliberately, with gentle pressure. You can imagine giving time for your finger or palm to transmit your body heat to the other person.

Also, you don’t grab. This is important as heck. Not by the pussy or balls, not by the ass, not by the waist, not by anything. Grabbing is possessive, even if it’s not expressly sexual (though, usually it is). So no grabbing. Touching with your palm should be done with an open palm, slightly relaxed and spread fingers. All pressure should be on your palm, and none on your fingers. Holding hands is okay and encouraged, but let the person you’re holding initiate it first. Gently placing a palm on their hands is nice though.

And well, I decided to tell you all these guidelines because I’ve seen otherwise really nice people being completely illiterate about human touch, but don’t follow it to the letter. Follow it to the spirit. You need the right intention, which is to comfort and hold, and never to possess or dominate. And the most important part, again is being present, and mirroring the other person. If you pay attention, you’ll be able to see their reactions, their small signals telling you what they would like, what they enjoy and what makes them uncomfortable.

Step four to Energy Working: Be prepared for abreactions

As I said, some people will burst out crying just from being put in a trance. These feelings are so rare that for some people, a regular hug will be something they last had when they were four years old. They might have had sex, but it was about power and control and possession, they might have hugged their children, but weren’t present to give and receive, and here comes a random hippie and gives them a hug, and suddenly they are reminded of all their feelings they convinced themselves of not having.

So while the reaction of most people will be positive, you’ll potentially encounter negative emotions. The easiest of which is having a crying person. As you’re not their therapist, don’t try to analyze them, or give them guidance. Make sure that they know you’re not inconvenienced by their emotional outburst. Ask them what would feel best for them, do they want you to stay with them, do they want to talk. Stay with them, unless they ask for time alone. (Hearing someone out is not the same as providing therapy or coaching! Hear them out without judgement, and refrain from giving advice.)

It’s possible that you get strange and hard to interpret reactions like shaking, jolts of movement, moans, sighs, strange vocalizations, tears or drool, etc. Hitchhiker’s Guide rules apply, don’t panic. Also don’t try to solve or fix anything. Make sure that they are okay. There are two questions you should ask. “Are you okay?”, and regardless to the answer to that one, “Would you like me to keep holding you?” If the answer is affirmative, keep holding them. If they told you they aren’t okay, also ask them if they need anything. Applying pressure with your palm over the chest, or the head can be comforting in case they are “not okay”.

A worse situation is an outburst of anger or other negative feelings. This can result in an immediate withdrawal of consent. You’re not their therapist, so it’s not up to you to fix them, and you didn’t do anything to them that you need to feel guilty about, so in such a case simply withdraw, be polite and respectful, and remember not to push.

It’s not strictly an abreaction, but a potentially unexpected occurrence, that they go into a deep trance all by themselves. This can result in becoming nonverbal, in infantile body language (snuggling, taking up a fetal pose, changes to facial expression) or body catalepsy (becoming immobile). This is a good thing. It means you gave them something wonderful, and they trust you enough to let go. In such a case, there are two things you must never do: get scared, or attempt giving hypnotic suggestions.

You don’t get scared, because in this state, your fright will be a traumatic experience for the person you are holding. And you don’t attempt giving suggestions because you didn’t receive consent for it, and you’re probably not trained how to do that well anyway. Don’t try to shake them awake, that’s just evil. You can ask the person if they are okay (you’ll likely get the slightest of nods along with a sigh or a hum), but don’t ask open questions. Asking a nonverbal person to talk is… well… not very nice. Let them be nonverbal. And tell them it’s okay, and that you’ve got them. Handling a regressed person follows exactly the same guidelines as holding a baby, only that they are a lot bigger and heavier.

You’d better not have anyplace to go in the following hour or so. If you, for some reason, do, or after an hour the other person is still in a trance, you can gently ask them to slowly come back, as you’ll need to leave soon. Don’t shake them awake!!! That’s extremely rude! Have you ever heard the phrase “a rude awakening”? So no shaking! They will come back soon enough. If they don’t, just repeat it gently several times, until they do. Don’t raise your voice. Be patient, and they will come back. Anything else, and you’d be breaking your implicit social contract formed by you offering to hold them, and can result in a break in interpersonal trust. Even if it’s the tiniest of cracks, it’s still a crack, You want to avoid that.

Step five to Energy Working: Hold your own boundaries

Just because you’re starting out in control of the situation, doesn’t mean that you need to disregard your own boundaries. Have a good grasp of what forms of touch you want to accept from the other person. It’s quite possible to hold someone while not allowing them to proactively touch you at all, but make sure to communicate this beforehand. Even if you’re okay with being touched, the gesture you provide can be misinterpreted as sexual, so it’s a good idea to lay down the groundwork before the first touch.

As you are in the situation with the other person, and they attempt to overstep your boundaries (like touching you on an erogenous zone, or starting to talk dirty, or similar), firmly but gently stop them. Remember that the other person is in a very vulnerable place, so being gentle at first is important. Like, take the offending hand, firmly return it to fetal position, hold it there, saying, for example “don’t. your hand remains here, okay?” Now if the other person doesn’t listen, and keeps pushing against your well-stated boundaries, then extract yourself, and tell them that they made you uncomfortable, and you don’t want to touch anymore.

Protect yourself, because if you don’t, you cannot protect anyone else either.

There are a few things to note. First, you should be able to discern a childish thirst for touch, that is pretty natural in a regressed state, from sexual attempts. Be equally firm in all cases that make you uncomfortable, but if the other person is in the mindset of a child, handle them as you would handle a real child. It’s easy to cause severe emotional damage to someone in this sort of altered state. As for opportunistic feel-ups and harrassment, as I said first be firm but gentle (unless you expressly discussed boundaries beforehand, and the other person wilfully disregarded it), and the second time is a great time to call “three strikes out”. Also, if you are holding a male bodied person, erections are not an indication of either sexual intent or desire, so don’t treat them (or lack of them) as anything other than an involuntary physiological phenomenon.

So that’s it for today. Go out and be nice to others.

Exploring wonder

In art and self-expression, my primary motivation is to inspire wonder. There’s of course also the deep psychological aspect of art, where half-conscious material from the mind can be sublimated into something… sublime… however when it comes to my motivation, the reason I want to explore, to learn and to get better at art, it always comes back to wonder. So taking a closer look at wonder might be a good idea.

There are multiple definitions of wonder from various scholars of art, but it might be easier to define it for ourselves by finding instances when we experienced it, rather than by finding a general description. I know that my personal understanding of wonder has to do with a sense of momentary incredulity. A sense of “does this really exist, or am I dreaming?” Of suddenly finding myself in a storybook.

I vividly remember a profound moment of wonder that was connected to a rather mundane experience. As a teenager I was at a music festival, and I went exploring in the park areas of the festival grounds. It was a dark forested area with trails lit by colorful paper lanterns. The colors of a light painting installation were cast in broken shards across the foliage, and a taste of incense and chill music was on the air. Along with the unique people around me, at that moment I felt like I was in a magical maze in a storybook, where adventure and beauty lives all around me.

If I break it down, the festival was a rather mainstream, commercial event; the park was unkempt and average; the lights were pretty simple, just a ready-bought festive lantern chain from a Chinese store; the light painting was aimed somewhere else; ultimately, there was no artistic genius or true natural magnificence behind my sense of wonder, and yet it was real and complete.

Thinking back at an exhibition by contemporary painter Attila Szűcs, I can recall a very similar sensation. His art is visually realistic, often based on photographs, but with a dream-like quality added to them. There’s a level of mystery to his work, a sense of not being quite sure what one is truly looking at. A middle-aged man in shirt and tie, standing knee-deep in water in a nothingness of whites and greys. A teenage boy in amidst lantern-lit trees, himself decorated with lanterns like a human Christmas tree. A fighter airplane, or the ghost of one, resting erotically on a freshly made bed.

According to an interview, he often paints in a meditative state, and at least for me, it seems his work invites the viewer to experience a mirror to that state, to mentally step into the frame, and get lost in this strangely detached dreamworld, foreboding and beautiful. And somehow it feels like that this component of mystery, or openness, really contributes to true wonder. The sense of there being “more than you can encompass with your senses”. The sense of being invited to imagine an entire universe through a single, surreal glimpse.

So one wonders (sry for the pun) what exactly links the sensation of getting lost at a music festival, and seeing surreal and magical paintings. I might be jumping the gun here, but there is a sense of reality opening up, a sense of discovery, of new horizons. And that’s where I think true wonder and simple amazement diverge.

Consider for a moment magic tricks; if they are executed properly, they are obviously amazing. Where did the coin go? Where did it come from? Wow! Amazing! However, it takes a master performer to make them wondrous. To hold your attention. It’s sad, but most of circus can get somewhat boring, even though it’s a group of arts all about amazement. Reading this book on clowning (Clowns by Ezra Lebank & David Bridel), it was interesting to read that many of the greatest masters in the art of clowning today say that they weren’t really into circus as kids. Thinking about it, it’s no big surprise, as a kid I was also often bored at circus.

Amazement can be overloaded. Also, in and of itself it’s not all that interesting. Watching the olympics is only interesting at length if one is invested in national pride connected to it, or as a fellow athlete, can truly relate to the level of refinement exhibited at world class level. Otherwise, it’s just hairless monkeys running in circles. You can see that on the playground. Sure, the don’t run as fast, but who cares, at least the kids are being cute while doing it.

I see the success of Cirque du Soleil in no other thing than the fact that they put wonder back in circus. It’s no longer just amazing feats of skill following each other, it’s a story, a whole world told through the language of amazing feats of skill. I think there really may be something to my idea of “opening up reality”.

I started writing this post mainly as a way to rehash my opinions to myself as well as my readers, and I do think I may have grasped something that I was only vaguely feeling before. And there’s some really good news in here for everyone who’s a burner. It’s a lot easier to create wonder at a burn than it is in a circus. The burn is open. It’s participatory. It’s an experiment in how to create, in how to be artists and humans. It carries its own level of wonder, that we can piggyback on.

So let’s go out, create and burn. :)

Five years gone

It’s been five years since my last post, nearly, and now I decided I need a place to blog again. So why not here. I left the blog online, as I think there’s some important information here for the DIY tDCS crowd, and didn’t want to take that away. Too much stupid was (and sometimes is) going on in the biohacking scene, and a sane voice is always a good thing.

It’s been a long and busy 5 years for me. Things changed. I hopped countries again. Probably will do it again soon. I went through a major crisis, came out, and found new callings. I’m still a hacker, and now I’m a burner, too. The Burning Man movement and subculture has shown me that life can be worth living, and pulled out some deeply buried childhood dreams. Like that of being a clown.

I don’t feel talented at clowning, only motivated. I’ve never been very good at theater arts. That said, the very mild neuroatypia I grew up with may have the benefit that I can see humans one step removed, and I do think I have the right heart for this. So now I’m applying the stuff I blogged about in How to Be Someone Else years ago. Learning to see the world through the lens of poetic comedy, learning flow arts, and hanging out with burners and amateur circus people. And somehow I have the feeling that if I can learn to be a clown, I’ll at the same time learn to be a good human being.

As for tDCS, I started getting headaches after stimulation, so I don’t use it frequently anymore. I do want to experiment with tACS still, I just need time and energy to design and build a device I can trust. I was, and am keeping myself busy with a number of things at all times, and this kinda slid to the bottom of the product backlog of my life.

I’ll probably be blogging about more psychological, philosophical and artistic topics going forward, with some hacking thrown in.