On Burning Man

I have had now three archetypically unique experiences at Burning Man. The first was a mostly introspective and alone experience, the second was one that I shared with a special person, and the third, this year, was defined by a small group of friends that all adventured together.

This was also my second year going early and helping set up camps. Last year, I was with *cats and our major endeavor was building the Hammock Forest, a 16' geodesic dome made out of 1.5" emt conduit (A+ → Jim Griffin and Nick Grabenstein) and shaded with a home-made covering (A+ → Christine Yen and Becca Barnes). This year, I helped set up Bao Chicka Wow Wow (art car: Titanic’s End) and my own camp.

With that latitude, this is what the Burn is to me.

Visceral — relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.

It’s first a visceral experience and that nature forces its remembrance. I know going into the week that I will remember it strongly in a way that I can’t guarantee about any other given week.

Look, it’s going to be hard to ever top Sunday morning dawn with great friends in the background and the rising sun casting a golden glow on the temple’s misty sands in the foreground while embracing the girl I truly loved as the dreams of a week in the desert came streaming through us both. That’s a winning memory that will forever remind me of how good great could be.

Yet I also recall finding myself a few years back in a teepee in deep playa. The people there had never met before and still we told each other of personal stories and difficulties because the teepee prompted it. Outside were sculptures of people sitting and holding hands in a circle with places cut out for us to join. We did.

This year, I’ll remember Embrace at sunrise with two close friends, having been lucky enough to journey with them through the night. And I’ll remember the cabinet with The Blue Notebooks in deep playa where we wrote and recited poetry late Friday.

The guarantee of visceral memories is one aspect. Another is the skillshare. So many folks miss this because they use the day to relax for the night.

What do you want to learn?

  • Acroyoga? Center camp any weekday, morning to late afternoon.
  • Fire {spinning, sword, dart, breathing, …}? Pick a fire camp, any fire camp, and they’ll show you the ropes.
  • BDSM? Classes are happening all the time. Shamanistic rituals? Same.
  • How to ride a bike? Miles of open space with plenty of bikes — go do it.
  • Circus acrobatics like silks, juggling, or lira? Plenty of camps to learn from and plenty of open spaces to practice.

When you take away a reliance on time, remove most responsibilities, and let yourself wander around a desert for a week, you become more open to learning something new.

There’s one more phrase I like. And that’s that Burning Man is ten thousand artists meets fifty thousand spectators. The art is phenomenal and on par or better than anything I’ve seen in the default world. This isn’t just the sculptures and the paintings, but also the mutant cars, the music, the fire, the camps, and the man/temple themselves.

Embrace, 2014

Burning Man needs both the spectators and the artists. Without the former, the event would not have nearly as much of an impact. You wouldn’t feel the critical mass at the sound stages and you couldn’t support the diversity of communities that have risen. Without the latter, it’d just be another festival.

But together — together, it’s something special.

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