City of Gods

The act of declaring yourself an artist is a bold one.

You are saying, “I consciously alter my environment. I shape the world. I create.”

This is in direct opposition to our socialization.
We are expected to walk a well-worn path of consuming.   Our role is to passively consume media, products, & ideas.

So many of our societal systems are designed for us to be passive. No ruler or corporation wants to deal with active decision makers.

Unfortunately, artists do not fit well in a society that prefers passivity.
(side note: I would argue that “artists” are not a type of person, but simply the state that EVERY person gets to when they are actively living.)

So is there anywhere where the artist (or state of being an artist) is welcome and at home?

See: Black Rock City.

Things are different in Black Rock City.
By design, Burning Man demands we not be passive.

As the tickets say,

You are expected to be active.
You are expected to choose a conscious path.
You are expected to alter the environment with your laughter, sculpture, or song.

This concept is much bigger than you might think.
It is this that makes us free.
It is this that makes us gods.

Of course, don’t grow a beard and put on a flowy robe right away. There are many types of gods.
Gods of creation.
Gods of mischief.
Gods of wine.
Gods of dancing.
Gods of sex.
Gods of fire.
Gods of destruction.

On the Playa, we all summon our divine nature and steer our world actively in the direction we want it to go.

I want more smiles in the world.
I want more dancing.
I want more inspiring structures.
I want more fist-pounding beats.
I want longer hugs.
I want more brain-blasting art.

Now substitude “I create” for “I want” and you define the path of a Playa god (aka “a participant.”)

Some people/gods/artists want more fire. Some want more chaos. Some want consensual violence.
Fine. Those aren’t on my list, but there is room in Olympus for all the gods’ whims.

As gods, we have an innate need to GIVE. It’s what gods do. They shape worlds and share their gifts.

Some gods share their beauty. Some share their chariots. Some share fresh tuna. Some just dress like gods and goddesses to remind us of who we are. But all shape the world. All create. All impact their environment.
(Even the drunks with bullhorns.)

Black Rock City is the cumulative effect of 50,000 gods shaping our temporary desert world.
And somehow it works.
And somehow it transforms.
And somehow it feeds the gods inside us.

And, eventually….
We realize that we are gods in the default world, too.
Our power may be diminished away from our true home, and we may be jeered by heathens, but we still have the ability to live actively.

We still have the ability to alter our worlds through creation.

And if we can hold on to that lesson,
even a little bit,
then there is hope for each of us…
and the world.

– Halcyon
[words & photos from 2004]

About the author: John "Halcyon" Styn


Halcyon is a 21-year Burning Man participant and co-founder of Pink Heart camp. He is author of "Love more. Fear less." and producer of the Burning Man short film, "The Pink Path." He's won Webby awards for his over-the-top personal site & his "Love On Demand" video podcast Halcyon co-founded the San Diego based "1st Saturdays" homeless outreach program based on Burning Man Principles and coaches people how to be radically self expressed in the default world. You can find his full Playa Tips & Tricks series at

3 Comments on “City of Gods

  • Roja Alexandra says:

    Blessings and thanks for your submissions. I watched your “tips and tricks” videos and sought out more info on this site written by you… and found “City of Gods”. Thank you for these words.
    I am a 46 yr old BM virgin and am wrapping my heart around the essense of the BM experience through posts like yours.

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  • Thank you, Roja! See you at Home!

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  • VorDaKa says:

    YeS BRC is a City of gods …… My first burn, 2002 i was reveled as ~ din tikkun BUT the Next year i had grown into VorDaKa … “The Horned god Of Morning Vodka” wOw once one gets IT, Lives IT & Becomes IT … Life is GOOD !!! ~ V

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