Letter from
the Founder

Organic Collection

Personality is a creation, reality is a hallucination and separation is an illusion. 

I just returned from my sixth Burning Man and no, this is not the LSD talking; I didn’t take any. It really does take actually going out to Burning Man and seeing it for yourself to realize you don’t need psychedelics as Burning Man is itself a week-long psychedelic. It was on this, the sixth one, that it hit me what a wildly different plane of reality it truly is. This was the longest I’d ever been out there and it’s taken me the longest to acclimate back to what Burners refer to as the Default World.

We have many members of our Collective and extended network who have ties to the Burning Man community but Justified Hype is not a Burning Man thing. In fact, only a couple of the co-founders are actually even Burners (for now) and that is absolutely by design. A common thing that happens with many second and third year Burners is that we become obsessed with getting as many people to go as we can. It takes a while before we finally make peace with the fact that the world is not populated by crazy people who look forward to spending their hard earned vacation hours in an environment which gave an eviction notice to pretty much every other living thing. One of the many observations that inspired the creation of Justified Hype was that I wanted to have a place where we could implement some of the wonderful lessons we were learning from Burning Man in other Default World communities.

I can’t quite explain what I’m seeing when I look in to many of your eyes… The best I can come up with is that there are different layers of consciousness that connect many of us. I saw it when I was in Berlin in my early 20s and was, at that point in my art career, predominantly navigating the hip hop world. After being given wrong directions to a bar for the fourth time (I’m fairly certain that giving tourists wrong directions is some inside joke among Berliners) we stumbled on a little open air hip hop festival in some abandoned factory grounds. It was among a group of German rappers in a cypher that I suddenly felt like I was back at home with my crew in Los Angeles, leaning against familiar graffiti walls and observing a swagger that was not an imitation but a continuation of the same culture that grew out of New York. Hip hop is not just a music genre or fashion style, it is a layer of consciousness. 

This same analysis arises when discussing Burners. Many veterans will be the first to tell you one needn’t attend Burning Man in order to be a Burner. I know that’s a bit of a contradiction from what I was saying earlier but many Burners I know have often pondered if being a Burner is a cultural identity or are we using it as a catch-all word for something deeper. Perhaps another layer of consciousness? It’s the main question that inspired the launch of Burner Podcast

Burning Man is not just an event; Being a Burner
doesn’t just mean you’re a regular

But there is another layer, that overlaps with this layer. This new layer which I’ve been seeing, that inspired Justified Hype, consists of Burners, entrepreneurs, hip hop artists and taste-makers from various other layers within other established communities. As our First Incubator’s most outspoken member, Leah, would say, “I can’t prove it but I know it’s true.” 

And Leah is a scientist. So there. 

The theme of Burning Man 2019 was Metamorphosis. I’m mildly annoyed at how accurate a theme that was. My burn this year was incredibly emotional, deeply expansive and probably the most transformative it’s been since my very first one. That’s what I get for having fixated on having a really fun Burning Man this year. Like psychedelics, you don’t always get the experience you want but you’ll definitely get the one you need. It’s not to say I didn’t have fun, by the way. I had powerful, extremely high experiences. I swam in joy and danced till dawn and felt the euphoric elation of deep new energetic connections. Those experiences were balanced with even deeper spiritual expansion, the releasing of decades-held tears and a powerful shamanic ego-death ceremony at sunset by the temple. 

It was one hell of a year. The dark parts made me wonder why I keep doing this. But then the sun rises and illuminates the next steps of my human journey and I remember. 

Also the techno was really, really good. 

Justified Hype is not a Burning Man thing but we’d never dream of hiding what an important part of its creation it has been. And its influence has been truly organic. The roots that became our creative collective’s trees grew out of barren deserts: the soulless corporate hierarchy, the elitist arts industry and yes, the playa itself. These are the seeds we are pulling together in order to give physical form to whatever new layer of consciousness it is with which we’re playing.

Revelations & Affirmations from
Burning Man 2019

With that, I wanted to share just some of the many revelations that came to me this year. Some are new, some are affirmations and others are confirmations of ones I’d already been exploring. Maybe one day you’ll attend. Or not. No matter. I find they apply wherever I may be. Here they are, in no particular order. 

  • Intuition, like emotions and the shared universal experience, is simplicity at it’s finest. We silly humans keep adding the layers of stories. 
  • I am a professional storyteller but I can tell stories without becoming a character in my own stories. I can share stories of my traumas for art or the healing of others without reliving them. 
  • I re-resolved to be impeccable with my commitments. To give clear yeses and nos because the yeses don’t mean jack without confident nos. Feeling like you’re being weighed as an option freaking sucks and I never want to be the source of that to anyone else. 
  • I’ll never get tired of saying it: No one gets left behind. There is space for everyone who wants to be a part of the launch sequence. Regardless of it’s your turn to sit in the captain’s seat or not, every single one of you is valuable and has the right to have a spot in our future. 
  • Patience. In Farsi we say “shab deraze” which kind of translates to “the night is young.” So is life. We’re all (arguably) here for a while. Just because something didn’t work out this week, month or year, it doesn’t mean that particular subplot is over. The supporting character thought dead might still pop back up just in time during the third act to save the day. 
  • Make all decisions from a place of love and confidence. If and when in fear mode, walk away from the table. The real good stuff is rarely grown from tainted soil.  
  • I’ll continue to choose my own words wisely and be even more forgiving of how others choose theirs. Everyone is doing their best to express themselves the best they can and picking at what is or is not said can make us lose sight of others’ intentions (which are, in my humble opinion, most often good). 
  • My other favorite Leahism: Never say no to water. It’s a habit I’ve been practicing for the past couple of years and this Burn I definitely felt how much easier it made my life.
  • Practicing Forgiveness before Generosity can really help clear some cobwebs. I realized that I’d been skipping that first bit a lot. My autopilot is “people mean well,” which I learned is Generosity. This year I noticed that I still wanted to punch some people no matter how much I told myself that. So I was introduced to the idea of choosing to forgive said individuals first and that really made the difference. 
  • Chase inspiration rather than motivation. When we are coming from a place of inspiration, a 10-hour action can be condensed to one. 
  • I resolve to be fully present and here for all of you. I count my blessings on the daily that the most addictive drug I’ve ever tried is facilitating the success of people around me. I can’t even take credit for being a good human being on this; it just literally gives me a rush. 
  • I’ve named the crying, screaming little child inside of me Lil A. It can mean Little Arash but it mostly means Lil Asshole. Dear one… I see you, I hear you, I’m sorry you didn’t get the love and support you deserved. No, you may not drive. 
  • On that note… I am seen. I am here. I will not be forgotten. How liberating it is to no longer feel that old vibration. To no longer fear not being seen. I can best compare to the first few shots of a photography gig. At first I’m nervous I might not be able to pull this assignment off. Then I get my one really good shot and I can relax because now that I have my paycheck covered, the rest of my time here is for play. 
  • I am a burner. This is it. This is the annual pilgrimage. 

I resolve to be fully present and here for as many of you as my human body’s bandwidth allows. I count my blessings on the daily that the most addictive drug I’ve ever tried is facilitating the success of people around me and I can’t even take credit for being a good human being on this; it just literally gives me a rush. So much so that I wanted to start a business where I could do this full time. 

I hope to see you in the dust next year. But if it’s not your thing, no worries at all. I’ll bring some back for ya.


Arash Afshar
Founder, Justified Hype