After Burning Man, re-entry into the real world may require multiple decompression parties, cause frequent headaches over generalized world weariness, produce nagging eye soreness from observing the “default world’s” mindless consumption-- as well as jerk involuntary tears from observing the rabid, overflowing trash cans and gutters. It could also cause acute separation anxiety from one’s true creative self.
What is Burning Man you ask? It is a question I have been asking myself now that I am no longer a virgin. Yes, I have finally kissed the desert playa and I have come back to say, the real world sucks.
Burning Man will do that to you.
Imagine spending a week in a glorious city of 50, 000 of some of the sexiest open-minded people on the planet, erected in the middle of nowhere, destined to be torn down, where these are the guiding principles:
- Radical Inclusion: Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.
- Gifting: Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.
- Decommodification: In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.
- Radical Self-reliance: Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
- Radical Self-expression: Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.
- Communal Effort: Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.
- Civic Responsibility: We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.
- Leaving No Trace: Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.
- Participation: Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.
- Immediacy: Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.
*Compliments of Burningman.com
Can you imagine living in a city like this? It is disorientating at first: You mean everything is free?
Yes. Free, free, free.
You mean I have to confront the barriers that I have constructed in the real world?
Yes. Be free, free, free.
I can be totally free as long as I do not interfere with others’ freedom?
Yes. Free, free, free.
What you choose to do with that freedom is up to you.
If you want to participate in subversive, hedonistic fun or embark on a mystical learning experience, there is something for everyone. There is even a kid camp.
The real world hardly feels like the utopian society described by the principles listed above, especially if you live in New York City where the pursuit of money has apparently trumped most forms of self-expression or creativity. Sterile, commoditized environments are what we have been left with after the club kings have been deported, the cabaret licenses revoked, and the real estate prices made so high that any large-scale playgrounds for adults to frolic in are quickly becoming a relic of the past.
To experience a place like Burning Man? Well, it’s life changing—and for me to admit this is big after my initial pessimism over any hippy dippy ideas of Burning Man being a spiritual experience, a shedding of the skin, a transformative process. I have come to the conclusion that spending a week without a cell phone, money, credit cards, or a landscape full of trash, where all you are being asked to do is participate fully in an experimental experience with 50, 000 other people and leave no trace of your waste, will change you.
This year marked the 25th anniversary since the first burning of the man occurred with 20 people on a small beach in San Francisco. Now located on a dusty ancient lakebed in northern Nevada, 51,000 tickets sold out before the event. This had never happened before.
No more last minute arrivals. No wishy-washy flakes allowed.
Those of you who have participated in this event know how much motivation goes into just getting to Burning Man. Those of you who are dedicated Burners have turned this motivation into a triumphant fountainhead of artistic expression. From deciding to commit to going months in advance, purchasing that ticket that gets more pricey the longer you wait—mine cost $320—to booking plane tickets, car or RV rentals, and packing up your vehicle with absolutely every drop of water, crumb of food, and all of the protective camping gear that you will need for the week, Burning Man is to be taken seriously. Once you are there, the only items that are for sale are ice and coffee. Nothing could have prepared me for what lay behind those gates.
Burning Man can be whatever the individual wants it to be but it is definitely not just a raving mad party to go and lose yourself at (though that is definitely an option for those who are so inclined). It is a test in survival, an experiment in community, and I must say, the best party I have ever been to. (Like a week-long Mermaid Parade on a beach 50 times the size of Coney Island, a Mad Max movie with fire throwers and dusty, leather-clad bodies riding lit up bicycles and mutant vehicles across a vast desert, it is a circus with a kick ass soundtrack.) But it is also a sacred space and a place of transformation. So out of time, so out of place that it felt more real than this real world that I live in. There was a brochure full of activities and workshops available, of which I did not end up making it to any! But at the end of the week, there were grandstand burnings that we did not miss. We burned the horse, then the man. We burned the temple and then we went home.
The real world sucks in comparison.
Burn, baby burn, and if the end of the world really comes, Burning Man participants will have an edge on how to survive in a dried-out post-apocalyptic world and still look fucking great. That’s got to count for something. See you next year, I hope.