Saturday, September 18, 2010

Burning Man

12 days after having left Black Rock City, I feel that I can finally put some of my experience into words. Burning man was an event unlike any other, and is therefore very difficult to compare or describe based on the day-to-day experiences of normal people. The final conclusions that I have come to about it are these:

1. It falls into the category of things that have expanded my notion of what is possible in this life. Every once in a while, I hear or see or experience something that makes me say, "whoa, I didn't know people could do that!" Burning Man fits that bill nicely. The last time I remember feeling this notion was when my friend Japhy rode his bike from Los Angeles to the tip of Argentina. It expanded my realm of possibility.

2. Unadulterated freedom does not translate into pure chaos. Yes, there were lots of naked people and crazy costumes and giant mutant vehicles roaming around the desert. Yes there were people dancing and partying and drinking and doing drugs and riding bikes covered in fur and neon lights and making themselves available for all kinds of behavior that would not be accepted along the streets of any other city...but it was not at all out of hand. I did not see any fights, no one vomiting, no one being harassed or insulted or belittled. It was incredibly refreshing to see that enormous variety of lifestyle choices being celebrated and supported and interacted with by anyone who passed by. And it was organized. People stayed on the roads (all riding bikes) for the most part, property was respected as well as personal space. There was a program and a schedule that was adhered to for the most part, activities were planned and the Port-a-potties were cleaned every day. Not only that, but the potties were lined with cheeky, original poems about not throwing trash in them and getting a "pee funnel" (which was being given out for free by a camp dedicated to just that purpose) to make it easier for ladies to use the urinals. For the amount of people and STUFF that was packed into that 2 mile diameter beacon of craziness in the desert, it was all quite put-together and pleasant.

3. It feels good to get it all out! I spent at least one full day wearing just a speedo, a red cape with gold stars, and a blue trucker hat with the words "dork" printed on the front, and no one batted an eye. In fact, on that day, I was enthusiastically beckoned into several camps where people immediately offered me drinks, and then I just chilled out with a bunch of strangers and chatted for several hours. At the beginning of Burning Man, there is so much going on that it is shocking. It took me several days to get used to, but by the end, the pure freedom and acceptance was wonderful and normal and I found myself wondering why more of life isn't like that. I danced for hours in front of a car that had been converted into a very modern version of a Rhino equipped with an enormous sound system, set-up in the middle of the desert. I climbed a crazy metal tower, a human ant farm, a temporary 5 story building made entirely out of scaffolding, an art tree with metal cables for branches, a huge wooden honeycomb, and a stack of speakers 20 feet tall. I took a foam bath naked in a trailer with 30 other people, all of whom treated each other with respect and helpfulness. I played on a 50 foot long slip-and-slide for 2 hours wearing only a skirt. I learned how to do a back-flip on a trampoline. And through it all, I met wonderful, interesting, enthusiastic, energetic people with whom I connected and talked for hours and made friendships that have already been maintained outside of Black Rock City.

A fantastic experience. I may yet return.

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