The Burning Man idea sparked me right away. Mutant vehicles and massive, beautiful art installations. Burning a big wooden man in the desert. The images met my brain in an explosion of interest and curiosity. Burning man was definitely one for the bucket list. Now a few years later, I’m on my way to my first burn.
I now realize I won’t be able to cross Burning Man off my bucket list. It’s not that kind of thing. I’m invested in something ongoing. As a traveler, I’m invested in deepening my understanding of the world, its cultures and myself. The essence of being a traveler is that I can’t cross it off a list and move on. It’s a part of me and an entire subculture of global nomads, of which I am a part.
After getting a ticket I got serious about understanding Burning Man philosophy and history. I checked out as many articles, stories, documentaries and photos as possible. The extravagant festival of expression I first thought Burning Man was, turned out to be the surface of something more profound. Now I know Burning Man is something deeper. It’s within the individual, across individuals. It’s a spirit, an essence of life, a testament of being more human and less of a repressed consumer. I’ve come to realize the burner is, in essence, akin to the traveler. I’ll fit right in.
Before I go to my cherry burn (first time burners are called virgins), I’ll describe what I think I know now. This is the documentary of the evolution of my relationship with Burning Man.
What is Burning Man? (My virgin perspective)
Burning Man is A community. An idea. A catalyst. A rite of passage. A collection of moments of awe. A city of chaos that works because everyone plays their part. A place of possibility.
It’s an evolving social experiment born out of people’s hunger for authentic freedom. The reverse of the manufactured, pre-structured sense of freedom offered by consumer culture. It’s the manifestation of people’s need to connect with each other in a more intimate and collective way than society allows. A place to give and receive goodwill as opposed to making transactions. A place to let go, to renunciate.
It’s a place everyone can be themselves without regard to social norms, without the pressure to conform. Well, conforming to non-conformity, for all intents and purposes. It’s a place where you don’t need to try to be something else. You are good enough. You have gifts to give. People want to give you gifts.
It’s a scene rich with with creativity and expression. Multiple layers of expression – self and collaborative expression. Art and performance. The world’s largest open air art gallery where you can climb on the art before they burn it down. A place where everything is loud and bright and alive. But it’s not about entertainment. It’s about radical participation and expression. That can be entertaining, so trying to entertain and be entertained is moot. Participation as your truest self is all there is. Two weeks from now my vision of what Burning Man is will be different. It likely won’t be an instance in which I can say, “Here’s the profound thing about Burning Man.” I’ll have to say, “Here’s a list of profound things about Burning Man and that’s just part of it.” Or maybe it is not about Burning Man at all. Maybe it is about life. Under it all is the allure of authentic freedom. And so it seems, we free ourselves and come to the wild west. We’ll see how my virgin perspective changes
Wild west, I come for your dust.