Temporal relativism takes a while to end

Reality certainly doesn’t feel as such.

I knew returning from the heightened state of Hyperborea would be a process, so I’m exercising self-love and compassion. I’m intentionally not putting myself under any pressure to accomplish a single thing today. Today does not exist for exercise, caloric concerns or expended energy. It’s about turtling up and rediscovering my space in the world’s heartbeat. If it happens, spectacular. I shot for the Earth and ended up in the stars. Time and I aren’t on equal footing right now. I feel temporally displaced. The world will go at its own pace as I struggle to find mine.

It’s a little surreal. While logically it makes sense for me to be in the office plugging away at my desk, emotionally it’s hard to determine why I can’t feel fresh air on my face. Why is anybody here? Why did we all agree to this Brutalist social structure devoid of individuality? Where are the bursts of creative expression? What of the sights, colours and sounds of mirth? It’s simultaneously noisy and deafeningly quiet.

Everything seems strange and alien right now. Last night I went on Facebook and saw people aggressively arguing about some ephemeral minutiae. It felt so bizarre and unnecessary. This morning I stood in darkness at the precipice of my door. I felt a surge of emotion and barely managed to hold back tears. I looked out into the world and the sky was somber. Today as I rode on the TTC it was nothing but downcast faces and avoidant behaviour. Money doesn’t make sense. I’ve been leaning hard into music to grasp at any modicum of belonging I can. It’s an adjustment for sure, but presently it’s hard to imagine holding a place in this existence.

After days of living in immediacy, clocks have reared their ghastly faces. Calendars and schedules just seem so unforgiving. If you’re present where you are, the concept of “missing” anything is little more than absurd. Why care about things outside of your control? Why care so much about controlling everything? It’s all chaos, just hold on tight to what you love and find your place in the maelstrom.

Problems are for another day. For now there’s only acceptance.

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I guess normalised nudity is in my rear-view too

All good things come to an end. I mean, shit things do too, but that’s beside the point. We’re on the road, leaving an unforgettable weekend behind. Taking nothing but the memories and excessive quantities of snacks we brought. So long, and thanks for all the MOOP.

It’s hard to succinctly summarise such an expansive, weekend of endless experiences. I don’t have the wherewithal to explain the complicated feelings of sadness over leaving it all behind, while craving so much the touch of my partner and the four walls in which we’ve made our lives. Can someone make me a German compound word for it? I think there’s beauty in the transitory nature of such a vibrant ecosystem. I woke up this morning and looked across the vast fields of tents and structures. In eight hours it’d all be gone, the Leave No Trace team doing their damnedest to preserve the land that’d given us so much.

Hyperborea was like altered reality. An extended weekend with no egregious interactions. Everyone greeted me with a smile or a hug. Their generousity was bountiful, encouraging sincere reciprocation. Any time I could help a stranger or do a favour felt like a gift. Like called to like and I loved being able to give of myself. There was nothing but greenlighting. The principle of radical self-expression wholly invited offers of creativity without judgement. If someone was to strip naked and dance around the fire, cheers would erupt. If one was to start singing, others would join. A vibrant celebration of individuality and reminder that none of us are truly alone. An overabundance of affection and faith in the human spirit. How do I not embrace total strangers with a consensual hug and a peck on the cheek?

I don’t know how I’m supposed to sit in a cubicle tomorrow. What does it feel like to not live communally? To hold in thoughts and not speak your mind liberally? To be so bound by social conventions and polite niceties? To have to wear clothes at all times? To hide your individuality behind the shell of who people want you to be? Who am I when I’m not being me? Or is the real question, how do I be the most me I can be while playing inside the structures of others? I was wrestling with identity while staring into the burning effigy. Now I’m contemplating what parts of me were sparked by the events of Hyperborea. What path will this take me down? Are there lessons to take away in order to enrich my life?

The trip isn’t far enough in my rear-view for me to see how I’ve changed, but I know for sure that I have. As we watched the temple burn last night I looked around the circle. The air was still and quiet. I traced the faces of all assembled, diving back into endless transient memories. Conversations and meals shared. Dance and massage partners. Experiences both ephemeral and lasting. As I gave of myself, so too did they leave part of themselves with me. Much as this all sounds like nonsense, I did preface it by saying it was hard to explain. If this is my self-expression, I don’t want it to be anything less than radical.

‘Cause Hyperborea surely wasn’t.

Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.

So it begins with a blank canvas

So far camping could be better.

Call it a lack of prep, but I feel pretty unprepared. It’s very cold and windy. Right now I’m wrapped in a duvet inside a sleeping bag. I’m also wearing a onesie with a T shirt and sweatshirt underneath. It’s fine for being inside my tent (which provides no real warmth, on account of all its walls being glorified open air. I’m sure I’d be lauding that fact in the deepest summer), but that wind is a motherfucker. Speaking of my tent, it spent the night collapsed in a heap. We set out from Toronto far later than I’d expected, which meant we were setting up tents in the dark. I’ve tried a couple of times to set it back up, but the wind keeps bending its poles. I’m sitting up to write this and the roof is sitting on my head. I’ve used it before without issue, but this time the tent is pulling rank and having none of it. The bright side, I guess, is that after I push the poles back into place I can see how spacious it all is, until it collapses in on itself again a minute later anyway. Small mercy.

I’m tired. I had less than the prescribed fourty winks. Probably closer to eight. Aside from my tent imploding, the air mattress gave out almost immediately. I’ve been sleeping on a glorified lump of plastic and a couple of pillows my friend lent me. Yet again, sleeping is a strong word. I’m equal amounts of tired and grumpy this morning, which isn’t helped by the dull but persistent headache that’s hanging around. Like I said, so far, camping could be better.

The camp itself however is very cool. People went all out in decorating. So many tents are festooned with colourful light displays. It makes sense. Being far away from the city, at night the only light found is the light people bring. Also, I mean, they’re burners. It kind of comes with the territory. It’s still very early in the festival and it’s half full. There’s still a lot more to come. That being said, there’s already a lot here. In this chill, I’ve been looking enviously at the purpose built sauna that’s been brought. It looks like a large wooden cabin, but promises hot, sweaty warmth. Speaking of hot, I got to try the fiery lawn darts last night. They’ve arranged a wall of balloons filled with propane. When it’s your turn they dip the tip of a dart in kerosene and light it up. The goal is not to hit the balloon itself, because that’d just pop with little payoff. Instead you want to hit just below so the flame from the dart ignites the balloon and it explodes. I had a go last night and demolished a cute lil’ balloon dog. It caught a chain reaction and set of a bunch of other balloons, lighting up a huge swath of the wall. Just call me Dartanian.

Ugh. It’s 7.30am. Let’s see if I can get any sleep this morning.

Any May showers I have will be solar showers. It’s campin’ time!

I was meant to be sleeping right now, but here we are.

To put a ribbon on last night, I did not get any corn dogs. I checked back in hours later, LSV was drafting an insane deck in an 11 year old set, oddly sweaty. A room full of Magic the Gathering hall of famers were blissfully drunk singing along to Chat’s song requests. Respected MtG theorist Patrick Chapin was rapping and author Brandon Sanderson donated $3500 to their St Jude charity drive. It was quite the night. Catch up here if you want.

I intended to finish packing for Hyperborea last night. It seems every time I walk into a room I remember something else I’d forgotten. At 7am, it was TUMS. I made an alarmingly spicy chilli (for those paying attention, I’ve finally decided one the “Double L” spelling) to share and I don’t want to give everyone stomach ulcers. For someone who comes from a country with a sometimes sub 20 minute burn time (thanks, hole in the Ozone layer), it took a strangely long time for me to think about bringing a hat. I chose one of my girlfriend’s big floppy garden hats. It’s yellow and sports a handy wire frame in case I want to pose extravagantly. I’m camping, isn’t that what camping’s all about?

Really though, I just need ice. I think. I say “I think” because clearly after I write I’m gonna walk into another room and remember something else I’d forgotten. It’s gonna be a rollercoaster couple of days. I’ll try to update daily (the cyberpunk camp is offering free wifi), but I may end up posting all my entries after I return. I’m making a big effort to be present while I’m there. I don’t want to have internet access. I’m intending to forget about the outside world for a few days and take in everything I can. I’ve low key half wanted to go to Burning Man for a while but always felt intimidated. This Toronto burn seems like an ideal litmus test to figure out whether that curiosity could coalesce into something greater. So yes, I’m gonna try out blacksmithing. I’ll probably get an eight person massage at Octomassage. Maybe I’ll figure out a story to tell at the Shameful Storytelling room. If I’m gonna be there, why not be there entirely?

I’m not sure what the weekend will hold and that brings more comfort than anything. I’ve felt static for so long that I need something to pull me out of this rut. It might be ambitious to expect more than a weekend of partying, but really I’d love to emerge at the end with renewed perspective. When I returned from Austin earlier this year, everything seemed so clear. Impositions around me seemed like mild inconveniences rather than aggressive boundaries. I felt lifted, not constricted and I’d love to recapture that sensation. It’s because of this that I want to dive into all things new. Perhaps one or more of those will bring a sense of purpose with them. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find out that blacksmithing was my calling all along. Or helping people in Sanctuary will ignite a need to help others. I could even find whatever niche it is that I fill and run headlong towards a future in pursuance of it.

Really though, I’d be surprised and charmed if I didn’t merely bring back a body full of bug bites.

Chilli out, bud

Right now I’m. I dunno.

If that isn’t the least inspiring beginning to an entry in some time…

Wait, I already don’t like how this has started. It feels so disconnected and loose, so I guess that’s what we’re going with. I’m borderline stressed at the moment, I think. I’m going away to the burn on Thursday, which is awesome. I’m gonna have an otherworldly festival, challenging myself and trying to be as present as possible. Radsome To The Max, right? I’m also the right amount of antsy for an upcoming unfamiliar experience. I think that tracks.

At the moment I’ve got this vague but pervasive sense that I’ll get it all wrong. A big part of the festival is being self-reliant and self-sufficient. I’m stressed that my preparations will be insufficient and I’ll be forced to rely on others too much, which will put a strain on the time they’re having. I feel like I’m not gonna have enough water or food and that I’ll have to source this from friends. Alternatively I’m worried about bringing too much stuff and filling our transportation with unnecessary baggage (literally, the metaphorical baggage doesn’t take much physical space). I made a big batch of vegan chili to share with camp mates, but after I packaged it all up last night I discovered there were only ten portions. I’m probably gonna need four or so myself. Is this a matter of over-promising and under-delivering? That’d make me feel shitty, especially because they’re already being so generous with their time, expertise and emotional energy. I don’t want to lean on everyone, and the thought of doing so is filling me with nerves. Also I have no real idea if it’s spelled “chili” or “chilli” and by this point I’m almost afraid to google it.

To be clear, deep down I’m sure it’ll all be fine and everything will work out. Even if I do end up leaning on friends, I’ll no doubt provide support when they need it in return. That’s what a community is. Aside from that…

Will I pack everything I need? Or will I get there and think oh shit, I can’t go commando this whole time? What if I get too drunk and pass out? My body being ravaged by insects and burned to a crisp through exposure? What if I get injured and it ruins my festival? What if I play with fire and suffer the consequences? What if I fuck up my volunteer work at Sanctuary and someone in an impaired state fails to get the help they need? What if my radical self-expression just ends up pissing everyone off? What if I take generosity for granted or do something with ramifications that extend beyond the festival?

Once again, I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’m a big boy and I’ve faced much bigger challenges than a regional burn. It’s not my first camping festival either. The scale just seems a lot larger. I’m certain I’ll have an astoundingly good time and deepen a lot of my friendships. I’m sure I’ll make new ones. I’m sure that all of this anxiety is the mental equivalent of dusting. Shaking things up in the hopes that whatever settles is less laden than it was before. In holding my stress points up to the light, perhaps I can see how unfounded most of them are.

If we’re being entirely honest, the hardest part will probably be coming back to reality once it’s all over.

I guess I’ll swim

I feel like I was ready to have a good day, then I read about Scott Hutchison losing his battle with depression.

I do and I don’t know why it hit me so hard. Some dude at a party once told me I’d like Frightened Rabbit and he was alarmingly correct. I’ve listened to their album Midnight Organ Fight countless times. It’s this beautiful combination of gallows humour and earnest emotion. The rest of their oeuvre I’ve been appreciative of, but haven’t absorbed it as fully. I can sincerely say I’m a fan without the baggage of excessive fandom. Hutchison was an immensely talented lyricist who hung his heart on every line and a performer who brought everything of himself to the mic. He’s someone whose creativity and honesty I was in love with. A few days ago a news report surfaced saying he’d gone missing. I feared the worst and hoped for the best, but those hopes fell away this morning. It’s heartbreaking and no amount of platitudes make it any less so.

Naturally, we’re all gonna witness events like this and turn inwards. We think about ourselves and how we relate. This becomes an important part of how we in retrospect view the outcome. I’ve been known to have my ups and downs, often between months. There are times in which I start to question all the structures around me and fail to find purchase. If you’re reading this, please don’t worry. Emotionally I’m in a downturn, but not with tangible lingering effects. I’m trying to figure things out, which is a world away from doing something stupid. Still, part of working through this kind of stuff is getting the negative ephemera out there to see it for what it is. With that precursor out there:

I’m having a hard time right now, as I have been for a while. I feel like my up and downswings have had me lingering at the bottom for a lot longer than I’ve been climbing. It’s rough. At the moment I’m having trouble finding purpose. I look at my day to day, week to week, year to year and see nothing in the matter of cumulative gain. I don’t feel like I’m further ahead at 31 than I was in 28. Of course it’s symptomatic of these kind of moods not to check your blind spot for the light you’re missing. Still, when I look ahead to the next six months, I don’t see the point. I don’t know what I’m doing here. I’m doing things, but none of them mean anything. I don’t know why I continue to sit in an office five days a week, not to be gaining traction. I feel like I’m living for escapism, but nothing concrete. I exist to consume, but I’m not consuming for any kind of existence.

I look at someone like Scott Hutchison, someone who made so much for so many, and I wonder what I’ve done. Once again, what am I doing? What am I doing for others? What am I doing for myself? If all I’m doing is going through the motions, that’s not enough for me. That’s not sustainable for the next 50 years. That’s a long time and I need a pretty good reason to hang around for another five decades. That’s not to say I’m looking for a way out. I’m looking for a way forward.

It sucks all the more because I feel like two months ago I had momentum. I felt indomitable, full of steam and drive, not knowing where I was going but not stopping to worry. Months later with nothing to show for it, the idea of picking myself up by the bootstraps seems a worthless endeavour. It’s hard to press on when the path seems to lead nowhere. I have no doubt I’ll turn this around in a matter of time, but right now that’s hardly enough for me.

Guess I’ll just wait.