Burning Man 2014… it ain’t over.
“I’m a virgin no more!” I shouted when welcomed home at the gates of Burning Man 2014. So I can honestly say if you haven’t been to Burning Man yet—go!
And go back again if you already have.
This August I traveled from Austin Texas to join a sub-camp of 8 friends within the Love Potion Collective community, all of us convened by one knowing groovy dude, Jester, a Burning Man veteran. Because of this I enjoyed gracious hospitality and transformative experiences at the familial, tribal and societal levels. Plus some veteran insights and tips that kept me flame on for an entire week. My Burning Man rites of passage unfolded into many experiences beyond metaphor, as advertised, and more. Much more.
I feel compelled to share that before arriving I was dismayed by reading articles criticizing the (de)evolution of Burning Man as being over and even undone, such as The New York Times and The Verge. Yes, it’s not unusual for early adopters to decry the next wave of participants and claim their sovereignty over authentic experience, but these critics had a different angle—Burning Man’s principles are broken because the wealthy have come with their turn key camps. It’s now over for the hipsters… and perhaps the rest of us too. Was I too late to enjoy an authentic experience?
And you won’t be either.
Thankfully self-expressionism and authentic community don’t depend on what the wealthy think and do. And Big Art, even though a wealthy patron is always welcome, is just as likely to soldier on in rich and complex ways through the myriad little kindnesses of the crowd. And so it does at Burning Man. It’s hard to miss the distributed beauty in all dimensions, or confuse that the heartfelt writings and memorials lovingly elevated at the Temple were somehow debased or invalidated by a techno-elitist having fresh sushi flown in to RVs at X o’clock and Esplanade. I doubt that anybody attending Burning Man even thought about these things, though unfortunately many that didn’t go likely did.
Sometimes it’s the small things in life that awaken us, other times it’s the big and monstrous events, but transformative living will always be too rich and complex to be captured by a few columns of words in the NYT, or undone by coddled techno-elites evading raw experience. So don’t let critics dissuade you: Burning Man continues to burn with the raw, elegant certainty of Whitman’s Song of Self, gloriously welcoming all—it “contains multitudes” and then some.
A transformative experience like Burning Man doesn’t have to stay unique to originating participants in order to inspire, it simply has to be a distant journey one intends upon making and then fully participating in. And when you do it will change you in ways you’ll never expect or be able to replicate again. As even original participants come back again to find it new and still ever renewing.
Without a whiff of invalidation from skydiving attendees, $4 caffe lattes at Center Camp or an amazing art car oasis of deep playa, post-white party dawn revelers dancing dusty and naked to the heartbreakingly inspired live set of Ayla Nereo, I experienced continuous and persistent soul nourishment and curious wonder in the spontaneity of accessible events. It’s impossible not to be inspired and transformed by what emerges in that desert, whether by hopping on big art cars with moveable pageants through dawn or stumbling upon the incongruity of amazingly beautiful, little things placed randomly and lovingly in the sand—there is so much and so widespread a reality of inclusion, immediacy of experience and possibility of participation that it’s impossible to outlive any of it in a week—life was burning here continuously for all to share. Just like we can and might sometimes find as peak experiences in our own default worlds.
And that’s exactly what Burning Man magically is and does for us after it welcomes us home—it continuously delivers on a promise of open hospitality born of wonder.
Even now in 2014.