Transforming dyslexia and depression into Burning man fire art

words and letters are not the only aspects that he was seeing from different angles.

I met Chuck Lotta "The Professor" at the Los Angeles Burning man Decompression event in October, 2017. He was operating an art structure that consisted of a propane system that expelled fire every time you pulled on a string. I was curious if he had visualized this invention in dreams before materializing it. Where would so much imagination come from? This is his story.


His intuition first talked to him when he was a child, it presented itself as a strong curiosity for the element that once helped cavemen to take a step towards evolution: Fire!

"I always had a fascination for fire and monkeying around with explosives…and always wanted to manipulate to see  how I could change it or make it better or incorporate it into something else. I always did it as I kid, I enjoyed throughout my childhood and I wanted to continue to explore it."

We don’t live in a world where most schools and counselors encourage curiosity, seems as if they wanted us to choose a common path instead of creating one. This is one of our biggest enemies when it comes to developing a 6th sense that we probably need for our next step in human evolution: Intuition

"I even talked to a guidance counselor in high school and said that I wanted to work with explosives. The counselor poo-pooped the idea, said it was foolish and there were little chances to getting a career in it. Foolishly I listened and went into other things… I still stayed creative and artistic…I was an actor for many years"


In their article “Sleep Disturbances and Healthy Sleep” Christa and Bub suggest that suffering is a great helper because it affects a higher degree of consciousness and alertness which can lead us to new things. Just like in Debbye’s story, Professor’s intuition yelled louder when his heart was at a vulnerable state, in his case, it was in the middle of a deep depression.

It took me many years to admit it to myself, that I no longer enjoyed or desired to be an actor. And I didn't have to stay being an actor just because at one point in my life I chose to be an actor, it is not a life sentence. So, I gave myself permission for not being an actor…I was in my late 40s early 50s, I went into a deep depression because I did not know what to pursue, or do with my life"

One of the diagnostic criteria for depression given by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a “markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day”. Well, of course! Your heart does not want you doing all those activities anymore, how else are you going to take action if not by losing interest?

I heard about someone from Burning Man coming to LA to teach a class in flame effects for the artists, I immediately signed up for it, took the class and absorbed all the information. Immediately I was like “whoa! I need to do something now with this knowledge”

How did he imagine his first invention?

Professor: It came to me in a dream-like state. Where I'd just kind of sit, relax, quasi meditate, quasi on the verge of a nap but not letting myself go to sleep, just getting into that twilight sleep sense state. It is not exactly meditating but it is a meditative state, letting my mind drift allowing imagery and possibilities to present themselves, and dance around in my head.

Me: Was that something intentional, did you intentionally get into that state of mind or did it happen spontaneously?

Professor: "That was definitely intentional"

I am not sure if he was actually aware that what he intuitively did was a technique that many scientists, esoterics, shamans, and artists use with the purpose of finding inspiration, solving problems, accessing childhood memories, communicating with higher realms, etc. Speaking in brain waves terminology, his dominant brain waves at this state were the theta waves; in their optimal levels, they contribute to creativity and intuition1 . This is the first practice that we can extract from this story. Practice # 1: Get into Theta State <<go to steps and details>>

So far we talked about how he transformed depression into a new path in life; now let’s talk about how he transformed what seemed to be a deficit into a strength. The deficit was Dyslexia and this is how he discovered it:


"I hated school my entire life, I was a horrible student. But at one point, I was dating a girl that was studying to be a special education teacher. She had to give practice exams for special education stuff and she had me do this reading and writing test… She said “I can’t say for sure because I am just a student learning this stuff...but I think you might be dyslexic”…I sort of thought about it and I realized “that has been my problem this entire time! reading sucks for me, and I am getting mixed-up information half the time as I am reading". It was in my reading and writing! I could not spell from anything, and a lot of the time letters were the right letters for the word but in the wrong order. And all of the sudden it just clicked! From that time on I stopped getting C's and B's and started getting A's because I had identified where the stumbling block was. My comprehension of information got better, my retention got better, I ended up graduating in the Dean’s list, but more than anything, it connected the dots together of other puzzling aspects of my life.


I like to create puzzles for myself in life that then I'll need to solve. That is the thing I love to do more than anything. Set something in front of me that is a task that I want to accomplish and I have no idea how.  I  also recognized where my sense of humor comes from, a lot of my humor comes from taking something common and putting a weird spin on it or taking an idea and looking at it from  different angles and see what else could be. I may misinterpret something that is, and then suddenly recognize “oh that is not what I thought it is, but my idea is even better, so now I am going to do what I thought it was, and now I have a great new idea and it does not exist yet, so I get to make it”

A characteristic of dyslexia is omitting, adding, and changing the order of letters in a word. If we put writing and reading aside, when would it be useful to have a brain that enjoys putting things in a different order or see things from different angles? Well, this brain "configuration" comes in handy if you are inventor who finds a generator in the old cranked telephone and uses it to build something else; it also helps if you are comedian and you decide to use the different meanings of word to make it a great punny joke.

Professor's Street Lamp at Burning Man

© Public Wisdom by Alexandra Gómez 12/12/2018