and then there was Starwood...

Posted on: Wed, 07/20/2011 - 21:09 By: Tom Swiss

Slowly settling back in the "real" world now, more than a week after returning from the Starwood Festival. (And the tail end of X Day.)

As I joked several times before and during Starwood, it was nice to go to an event where I was not responsible for anything, in stark contrast to this year's FSG. And I was in this space of self-exploration, taking some time to reflect on life, the universe, and everything, the message I kept finding was, "Time to step up"; that it's time to accept a more prominent role in the communities of which I am a part.

This was, if I've counted on my fingers and toes right, my twelfth Starwood, and my ninth as a presenter. Each year that I've been a presenter, I've done two or three workshops, and maybe ten people on average show up for each one. (Sometimes it's twenty or thirty, and sometimes it's one!) So over the years, on the order of two hundred people have taken classes from me there...meaning, that I'm becoming a familiar face. Ok, fine, but I've always seen myself as sort of "filler" around the "big name" presenters. Not that anyone had ever made me feel "second rate" or anything by the way they treated me, just my own self-assessment.

But this year, I was connecting with the "big names" as an equal. I walked by the ACE tent, the camp of the festival organizers, and was greeted by Ian Corrigan by name. I went to Brad Warner's workshop on "Sex, Sin, and Zen", and had good one-on-one conversations with him afterward. And Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, one of the founders of the modern Pagan movement, came to my workshop on ritual magic. This is sort of like having Jimi Hendrix show up to your playing-for-tips bar gig, but he was quite gracious and expressed interest in what I had to say, and we spent some time talking later in the festival. (I'm hoping to eventually exploit these connections for FSA's benefit, and maybe get some publishing connections, because I am just that manipulative and relentless in my self-promotion and promotion of FSA.)

I think that many of us go around unconsciously assuming that there's a small set of people who know what's going on and get stuff done, and then there's the rest of us that tag along and maybe help out. But more and more, I'm coming back to the truth that we're all in this together. There is no such group of "insiders". So sometimes all of us are standing around waiting for someone else to take the lead.

And as I try to step up and take that lead more often, it's not because I feel more confident in my own abilities, but because I'm realizing that everybody else is just as lost as I am.

That is both scary and empowering at the same time.

So that's my big Starwood revelation this year, for all of us: there are no "leaders" to look to. So please stop hanging back, show us all your beauty and strength.