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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Living in the Moment

So much to say right now...first of all, I've been extremely sick for the past week and especially for the past two days, and today I started feeling like a human again. And it feels amazing. There's nothing like having a bad cold to make you realize how awesome things like breathing and not sleeping propped up in a full sitting position are. By the way, can we please reallocate some of the resources being used for, say, the war on terror, to finding a cure for the common cold??? Thanks.

Maybe it's the fact that my mind is no longer clouded by three types of cold medicine as it has been for days on end, but I just had the most introspective bus ride EVER and I'm going to share all my philosophical findings with you right here right now. YES. Get ready. It's my 30th post and I'm going all out, getting deep on you. What, you didn't think there was a deep side to me? You thought that all I do is party and then complain about how I don't want to party anymore but then go party again the next night?

Well you're wrong. I also read (chapter books!) from time to time, and I just read A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. Eckhart Tolle is this German New Age writer/philosopher/spiritual guide and he's definitely introduced me to a new way of thinking. I'm not going to write a book review because I recently realized how much I hate writing book reviews, especially for a certain website that has an asshat for an editor. That said, I recommend this book.

The main takeaway from A New Earth in my opinion is learning to be present in the moment you are living in now. Dwelling on the past or longing for the future ensures that you will never be satisfied with your life. Also, learning not to immediately judge a situation as "good" or "bad" and simply taking it in and dealing with whatever comes your way. It's a pretty basic concept really, but it has honestly changed how I live.

For example: on Friday I drove to work, which I usually don't do because I work near the Giant's stadium and there is a game basically every day, meaning the parking garages in the area charge exorbitant prices because they can, and everyone loses. Anyhow, the first garage I attempted to park in recently made the stellar business decision not to accept credit cards, so I couldn't park there and had to drive to another garage. As I was pulling out, I failed to notice the car driving down the alley I was turning into, and panicked. At the last minute I saw the other car and tried to break but instead accelerated, lurching into it.

Here is what the old Jessica would have done, and I know this because I've reacted this way in every other accident I've been involved in: burst into tears. Partially because I was upset, partially to gain sympathy from the other party (I'm subconsciously calculating and I can't help it). But this time was different. I think I said "FUCK!" and then I sat there for a second. I told myself, "yeah, that just happened, it was your fault, and now you need to deal with it". And I did.

Yeah, it sucked, but me being melodramatic would have actually only made it suck more. The same concept applied today when the shady insurance-recommended mechanic informed me that my bumper will cost $1300 to fix because some foam spring something behind the bumper and some type of light were damaged also (I DON'T SPEAK CAR). I'm actually fully aware that I'm probably getting screwed but guess what? I've accepted it. This is what is happening and I can judge the situation as "bad", or I can just see it as something that simply "is".

Focusing on the present moment also changes the way I view what is "real". I feel like I've tried so hard to ensure that people and situations in my life are "real": a "real" man, a "real" job, "real" friends...the exception being my hair color, which as my sister will smugly affirm, I have spent large amounts of time and money to get it as far from "real" as possible. What the fuck is "real" though? If we live by Eckhart Tolle's beliefs, every moment is real, because the present moment is all that matters.

I like to think about this is in regards to romance. How many times have you told yourself that something you thought you had with someone wasn't "real" because it didn't work out the way you wanted it to? Maybe it was real...if you felt it in that moment, it was real in that moment. Even if the other person didn't feel the same as you, if in that moment you believed that they did then maybe it was. In your pathetic, desperate mind only, yes, but still.

The more I write, the more I can see how this line of thinking could easily lead to delusion. All I know is that yes, I want to live in the moment. But I don't want to forget the past. But I don't want to dwell on it either. And I do care about the future. But I don't want to miss out on what is in front of me because I'm so focused on it. WHAT DO I WANT???

I want to be able to capture the moment of my choice and come back to it, just for a second, when I feel like I'm forgetting it. You know those moments that just make you feel an insane amount of happiness and freedom and excitement? How do you hold on to them? There is only one thing that has ever been able to transport me back to a certain moment, and that is music. The thing is, that only works if a specific song was playing in the moment I want to remember.

Sometimes I can't tell if my life is completely awesome or completely pathetic. The last couple days I've been alone on my couch surrounded by a mountain of kleenex, so the consensus was most definitely pathetic. But today I feel better, and I still have a new job that I love, and killer friends, and two more days until the weekend, and I'm leaning towards awesome. I guess it doesn't matter either way, since I'm no longer judging situations. Really though, if you've read to this point I have to both commend and thank you. I have no closing argument, so I'll end with a link to the song that I have been playing obsessively for the past week. It's AWESOME.

Paper Romance-Groove Armada



Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Burning Man

I can't believe it's been an entire week since I left Burning Man and came back to reality, or "the default world" as I heard it described there. I've been wanting to write this again and again but every time I tried I gave up because there is no way that I could ever put that experience into words, and it's frustrating. Here I am again though, sitting in front of this damn computer, and I'm going to try.

Most people have heard of Burning Man before, but it exists in their mind as an abstract concept; a strange festival in the desert where a bunch of dirty hippies run around naked and burn stuff on drugs. I'm not going to pretend that that doesn't go on, because it totally does, but Burning Man is so much more than that for most people. This was my second year, and my favorite year thus far.

Describing this chronologically would be difficult, because once you arrive at Burning Man time sort of melts into itself and ceases to be important. My friends and I left San Francisco around 9 am last Wednesday morning, endured an extremely long and arduous drive out into the desert, and still didn't manage to set up camp before dark. To make matters worse, the first place we tried to set up camp was "reserved", so we had to put everything back in the car and resume our search for an available campsite. I'm really selling you on this, aren't I...

The next place we stopped to set up camp seemed available, but just to be sure we asked two guys lounging there. They told us that someone named "Pond Scum" had saved the space for some friends, but he would probably be ok with us camping there. That was good enough for us at that point, and we pitched our tent in record time, threw on some weird clothes and headed out to the Playa. I never ended up meeting the infamous Pond Scum, but PS, if you're reading this, thanks for letting me camp on your turf.

Let me backtrack now, since after this point in my story time has no bearing anyway. Burning Man is held annually in Black Rock Desert, which is a huge, dried out lake bed from the fucking Pleistocene era. Now it's a desert of fine, white silt and it's referred to as Playa. This location is literally one of the most beautiful places I have ever been...especially at sunrise and sunset. It's freezing at night and blistering hot during the day, not to mention the dust/sand storms that randomly come without notice. And I love it. And I don't even camp in the real world.

Keep in mind that every year Burning Man, or "Black Rock City" is completely recreated from nothing...nothing is left behind from the year before because the rule is to "leave no trace". 50,000 people come to this desert in the middle of nowhere (and trust me, it is in the middle of nowhere), build a city with art and installations, party their ass off, burn shit, and then take it all with them when they leave. There is no trash disposal there, so you're responsible for anything you brought with you. These rules are actually followed year after year, which is why the party is allowed to keep happening.

My favorite part about Burning Man at night. I prefer to sleep during the day rather than brave the heat, and nighttime is also party time obviously, so most of my experiences there are nocturnal. Once the sun set each night, my friends and I would get dressed (and by dressed I mean piece together the brightest, furriest, sparkliest components of our wardrobes), fill up our Camelbaks (which constantly leak leaving you with a soaking wet back all night, by the way) and head towards the action.

The festival is set up like a clock, with all of the camping areas on the outer edge named for times (ours was 9:30), and with nightclubs and such in the center. As you get closer and closer to the middle you can hear the beat of music coming from all directions, see crazy lazers and LED lights beaming across the desert, and feel the excited energy of everyone around you. There are hundreds of things to do at any given time at Burning Man and it would be impossible to experience all of them in one trip (or even one lifetime), so I'll just name a few of the things I was lucky enough to do:

-Danced my ass off every single night at numerous "nightclubs", my favorite being the "Opulent Temple", where you party with hundreds (thousands?) of other people underneath the stars while fire spews above you in time with the music and lights. Ummmmm yeah, it was sick.
-Climbed lots of huge, amazing art installations. Everything at Burning Man is interactive, so it's essentially an enormous playground for adults.
-Stumbled into a roller disco rink in the middle of the desert and attempted to roller skate.
-Wandered around. Wandering is a big part of Burning Man actually...generally the consensus is walk until you find good music, cool art, or interesting people. You end up stopping a lot.
-Jumped on an enormous art car decorated like a boat with a dj and dance floor that drove us all out miles into the desert so we could barely see the lights of the festival any more but nobody cared and it was awesome.
-Watched in awe with thousands of people as the "man" and the temple burned. Indescribable beauty and power in those moments.
-Met some of the nicest, most generous, beautiful, interesting people existing on this planet. From all corners of the world. Partied with them like it was 1999.
-Grew even closer to my existing friends that were there. Love you guys!

If that seems like a lot, it's nothing. It doesn't even scratch the surface. Because it isn't what you do at Burning Man, it's how you feel when you're there and when you return to the real world. A lot of people actually consider Burning Man to be "home", which is why everyone is greeted upon arrival to the festival with "welcome home" and a hug. Yeah, yeah, it sounds cheesy and maybe it is but it's also real. I can't explain why, and I just tried for about ten minutes and then deleted everything I wrote, so just take my word for it. Or see for yourself.