I just got a phone call from Rachel telling me she saw online that dan died yesterday.
I don’t really know what to say.
dAN was one of the people I got closest to of anyone in this world.
He was one of the most special people I’ve ever been lucky enough to meet. Playing life like an awesome game; a worldchanger; he was, as I told him, the pot of the gold at the end of the adventure rainbow.
dan wasn’t a brother to me (though he often spoke in those terms). The only word we ever found that felt right to describe our relationship is ‘Lover’.
dan and I were lovers, though we never consummated it physically—we consummated our love with something much more personal: we shared camera memory cards.
And we collaborated on one another.
We were open-source people. When Bianca and Mattan and Eric hung out with us, they were bewildered. “You’re just constantly revising yourselves and each other while interacting!”
It was glorious.
Like me, a few years ago dan began totally and drastically changing his life, creating a new him. And so Daniel Gordon-Levitt became BURNING dAN, a burst of energy, enthusiasm, positivity, and bravery.
I am on a rooftop in Miami. We’re here for Art Basel, and dan and I have snuck onto the under-construction rooftop of The Shore Club, and dan has stepped out onto the ledge, with nothing between him and the sky.
“In the past, I’ve been afraid of heights,” I say. He looks at me.
One way we’ve reprogrammed our Selves is to take any limiting statement about self and be sure to word it in the past tense. So “I’m bad at exercising” becomes “In the past, I’ve been bad at exercising”. You’re describing the past, who knows the future? It’s in your hands.
He smiles, and holds out his hand.
I am safe. dan has me.
Flashbackwards to black rock city, in the desert, at burning man, my first night.
dan bought me a ticket to make sure I come. Eric and I drove across the country and just arrived and now I’m hanging upside-down two stories high falling slowly through a net so tight it’s pulling my clothes off.
I close my eyes.
“In the past, I’ve been claustrophobic and uncomfortable being naked around other people.”
I open my eyes. Standing there are dan, teafaerie, and eric lodwick.
They are looking at me with love. They love me. They trust me. I am safe here. They are smiling.
They believe in me.
I wiggle through, leaving my pants behind in the net.
I land with a thud, naked on the wood floor below the net. They all burst out in applause, and yell “Happy Birthday!!”
teafaerie and burningdan, at burningman2k9
Back to Miami. I step out over the barrier and onto the ledge.
We sit on the ledge looking over the city and we talk. We are videoing one another, of course, collaborating on the work of open-source art that is one anothers’ lives.
I put my feet over the edge.
dan looks like a giant mediating over his kingdom.
He stands, ready for Action. The city and the horizon spread before him like a picnic blanket, and he’s done napping and ready to play.
dAN is an Actioner.
I met dan through hitrecord, the site he built with his brother. I met dan because the things we’d created led us, through amazing people, to one another.
Flashback and he’s telling me he wants to buy me a laptop. We’re on our way to the airport. I stayed in LA for a week to shoot him and his Flowtemple Party, and now I’m going back to NY to work with Lyle. And dan’s trying to buy me a laptop.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“It’s not Altruism! You know that I’m doing it selfishly. I think you’re going to make amazing things with this laptop, and it’s going to help you become who you’re becoming, and then whenever you look back you’ll remember that I got it for you! I’ll get to be a key figure in an important part of your biography! I am totally doing this selfishly!”
I thank him, but decline. We stand at the airport doors. He opens his arms for a hug, then stops.
“What would it take for you to miss your flight?” he asks, that sneaky twinkle in his eye.
Later, much later, back that same Miami night, we are in the Jacuzzi at the Standard Hotel (another one we don’t belong at; we smiled to the clerk as we passed by) wet, steam coming off our bodies in the cold air as the sun rose.
I tell dan about my mission.
I also tell dan a story, a story I knew from when I was an orthodox jew.
About the burning bush.
“The point of the burning bush,” I said over the roar of the fake waterfall, “is that lots of people saw it. Everyone passed by and only saw it for a moment, but didn’t realize there was anything special to it. Because they couldn’t see its trajectory, only where it was at that one moment. Moses stopped and saw that though the bush was burning, the flames didn’t consume it. It was possible to live life ablaze.
And in that flame he saw god.
This is about the human spirit. It’s about whether a man can really be ablaze with awesome, and spread that awesome. When I see your name-sigil, the identity you gave yourself, that’s what it means to me. You’re my burning bush.”
I’m skipping the stuff that he said to me, but then we stood there staring in each other’s eyes with specks of water from the fake waterfall bouncing off our bodies mixing with tears running down our faces for an hour as the sun rose.
dan was a light in a dark world.
We marveled then at the elaborate actions and miracles of circumstance that led these two Adventurers, through all the world, to find each other.
When I got to introduce dan to my friends, they would say things like “there’s someone from the same planet you come from!”
But truly, dan and I came from different places. Our goals, and often our means, were what we had in common.
dan and I also had a few disagreements.
One was about the afterlife.
“What do you think happens when you die?” he once asked, on a visit to NY and a few minutes after I had misheard teafaerie saying “forever and ever and ever” and we coined “Forever and ever endeavor.”
“When you die,” I said, “you don’t exist anymore.”
“Oh, man!” he said, “No, I think there’s way better stuff than that!”
A passion of mine—one which dan held in common—is man’s ego and identity. The conscious mind that exists within the body’s hardware, that can rewrite itself, think rationally, CREATE. The Self. I am convinced that Men are not one species but two; a demi-god, if you will; “Man” as the combination of a god (rational creator consciousness) and the “animal” whose flesh manifests that code.
The ‘god’ doesn’t reproduce by means of flesh, it reproduces by sharing ideas.
The flesh can pass on its traits via DNA to a genetic offspring, but if one can manifest one’s Self as a being of ideas, then that idea can reproduce its traits only into the minds of others, as a very idea.
Our goal was to manifest ourselves as icons, as creators, as beings, as superheroes, as idea-beings, as gods of the modern world. And to help others do the same.
dan lit a fire in the heart of everyone he met, lighting up their world with what’s possible, with love and joy and the only kind of magic I know to exist. He widened the boundaries of the possible and did so shamelessly and in glory.
If you’ve ever been touched by burnindan’s magic, or even if this is the first time you’ve heard his name— know this: now it’s up to us. Now WE have to be the superheroes, the burningdans of the world.
Yesterday Daniel Gordon-Levitt died.
In My Heart, Mind, and Actions, and those of everyone I will touch, burningdan lives on!
“Awesometegrity is when your Actions are in line with your Philosophy, and your philosophy is Awesome.” —dAN and me, mixed.
VIDEO: BURNING dAN FireSpinning at The Temple at Dawn
Forever And Ever Endeavor!