Rising From Our Ashes

Article by: Chip Conley|@ChipConley

Fri September 28, 2012 | 00:00 AM

Twenty-five years ago, in my mid-twenties, I created a rock ‘n roll hotel out of a notorious, inner city, pay-by-the-hour motel. I chose to call it The Phoenix because San Francisco’s official city bird was the mythological phoenix because of how this metropolis rose from its ashes after the earthquake and fire of 1906. Of course, I was hoping that this choice of name would also foreshadow the renaissance of this formerly hostile hostel.

Why do we become so transfixed staring at a candle or a campfire? Multiply that by tens of thousands of people and flames shooting hundreds of feet in the air and you can only imagine the sense of awe that hangs over this scene as the man is ablaze and then, after struggling to stay solid, tumbles to the ground like a proud prize fighter who should have hung up his gloves long ago.


Burning Man founder Larry Harvey chose to burn his own image on a San Francisco beach as his moment of reconciliation and rebirth after a tragic romantic break-up. Many of us go to this festival annually as a pilgrimage to torch that which needs to be shed in our lives in order for fertile shoots to sprout. I find great solace in this communal experience and it gives me great hope that we, as a society, can burn and bury our baggage – that which is no longer serving us – and allow fresh ideas, ways of living, and new heroes to emerge that don’t resemble our past.