A Perfect Playa Performance

I am no Larry disciple.
I have not studied his writings or made stained glass of his image.
My reflections are mostly my own projections.
But the role he played in my life is profound. His legacy has influenced me more than Jesus.
We met half a dozen times over the last 20 years.
It was only our last encounter, over a meal at Esalen in 2016 that he indicated he knew who I was.
Before that, I always felt that I was a bit of a nuisance. Just another fan eager for a selfie and an “I met Larry” story.
But it didn’t bother me. Larry didn’t ask to be the mascot of Burning Man. He was always gracious and I was grateful for the brief moments of his time. My gratitude required no reciprocity.

I was especially happy that I was able to give him a patented “Dirty Vibrating Hug” in 2002. (It involves pounding on the recipient’s back with huge, fur-covered foam wrist cuffs while pressing against the person’s crotch with a vibrating jock strap.) I was soaring with pride when he grinned and said, ‘Now that was something!” when I released him from the hug.

My favorite Larry story was the previous year when I was asked to be in a photo shoot with him for the image above. While waiting for the photographer, Julian Cash, to set up, a woman stormed in the camp holding the “Who? What? Where?” Guidebook. She was looking for Larry Harvey and looked pissed. She explained that she had hiked all the way across the city to visit a camp that publicized a pancake breakfast. Only to discover that when she arrived at the destination, that their camp was empty.
Larry took a drag from his cigarette.
“You walked allllll the way across the playa?”
And when you got there, there wasn’t anybody even there?
Larry took another drag. “You didn’t see anything good along the way?”


He was inspiring not because he rallied the community to follow him. But instead role-modeled a fierce personal authenticity in the face of cultural expectations. He was a reluctant leader who always seemed a little surprised that people were listening to him. Maybe he even had a trace of disdain for followers of any kind, even those who followed him. He was like the Zen master who sends away the student who comes looking for a guru. He would share his thoughts, but not take responsibility for Burning Man. He was fierce and humble and didn’t take any of it too seriously.

I’ve seen several people post this week, “RIP Larry. Burning Man will never be the same.”

I think that statement would have made Larry snarl. It’s totally off-base. Yes, Larry started the fire & penned the Principles. With many passionate people, he helped create the container. But this blaze rages independently of any person or group.

As Burners, we don’t follow through on the vision of Larry. We step into the established space and then all make Burning Man what it is. This model of leadership and community is one of the most powerful things I’ve learned from Burning Man. Black Rock City doesn’t look a certain way. It invites Radical Self Expression and trusts that, when balanced with Civic Responsibility and the other Principles, everything will work out.
For me and so many others, it has worked out in ways that have drastically shaped my entire life – not shaped from any external script…but allowed my inner truth to take shape authentically.


Each year, we burn the Man.
Each year we celebrate the transitory nature of all things.
Each year we remind ourselves of how impermanent and precious everything is.
Your life was art, Larry. A perfect Playa performance.
Your physical form may become ashes, but the ripples of your art have changed the world forever.

I have no doubt you saw plenty of good stuff along the way.




photo from “The People of Burning Man” by Julian Cash.

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 HugNation.com. 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 www.PlayaPrinciples.com

13 Comments on “A Perfect Playa Performance

  • roissy says:

    Good post Halcyon, I think you caught the essence.
    (and in this case better than a video)

    Larry will be missed, it will be interesting to what happens to Burning Man in the future. Even though Larry stepped away with the non-profit changeover a few years ago, I am seeing cultural changes a lot like I have seen when a tech company loses their dynamic leader… Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don’t…

    Report comment

  • Interesting observation. Thanks, roissy.

    Report comment

  • Magic Marty w says:

    Larry and the folks,tthat surrounded him, Crimson, Harley, Marian, Michael, Roger have,given us all a grreat gift. Hiz 10 Principles are sheer genius. I first encountered the playa in 2007 at age 75. It changed my life. I learned to be. I am now 86 and still a Burner. I am eternally grateful for the transformative and fun fillled days and nights I had in BRC. The friends I’ve made remain with me today. Thank you , Larry for your wisdom, humility, vision and sense of humor you live on

    Magic Marty

    Report comment

    • Right on, Marty!!!! Burn on!!!

      Report comment

    • Lee (Glimmer) Myerhoff says:

      I too was led to BRC in 2006 at age 74- led there by our children. I found kindred spirits and a validation of my being in the fun, joy, art music and friends I met there. My world opened up within me, and I still hold the 10 principles close to heart. I too am now 86 and look forward to returning with my grandchildren in 2019. I met Larry several times around our camp, and he was always warm, gracious and interested in everything. Still part of the lesson I learned at BRC. Deep loss.

      Report comment

  • Dr. K says:

    You are right John. The caldron of creativity that evolved to become BM will continue to boil. We all have to keep bringing it to the playa and to our lives. Lampposts light the way but are only relevant if people are willing to walk down the path.

    Report comment

  • Heather R Kritzer says:

    I was going to ‘take a year off’ but with my dad passing 2/28/28 RIP DAD, EDDIE, and now RIP LARRY, how can you skip it? BM will march along in spite of, despite of, and because of us and Larry, and the kernel of creation which blossomed over the years and will continue its
    eternal evolution forever

    Report comment

    • SVE says:

      I was considering a break this year too, until my dad passed 1/28/2018. I’ll be back at BM this year to send Pop off on his last trip to the desert. Guess you can’t take a break from home and family.

      Report comment

  • Hooty / Ranger Papercut says:

    It is the work of Hakim Bey (aka Peter Lamborn Wilson) about the Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) that brought me by chance to Burning Man. I am incredibly grateful to Larry Harvey for having sparked and sustained the creation of this very special space/zone that BM is. He will be dearly missed, but I am also very confident our community will provide continued good stewardship.

    Report comment

  • Ty says:

    Well done. Personally, I feared writing something about the passing of our friend Larry Harvey, because I did not want to use his passing and a few kind words to acquire visibility for myself. Your ideas nicely tread that line, and I appreciate your effort and perspective. Thanks for stepping out in front, and doing a tasteful job of it. As one of those who has “seen 20 years of good stuff along the way”, I acknowledge it will be more difficult going forward, BUT I also know that we have been well trained. It is only fair that we step forward and shoulder more of the load. Happy Trails Larry. I will miss you, and promise to act like you are still here. Because in many, many, many ways…..you still are.

    Report comment

  • website says:

    This is so useful way when we want to have the chrome online.

    Report comment

  • Comments are closed.