I have been to burning man. for those that know me, I can see the quizzical expression on your face. you see a bald-headed guy that looks more like a federal agent than a typical burner and you don’t get the same impression of what you see in the photos of what I used to call the worlds “5- 10,000 ring circus.” that is how long ago it was when I went to test some ideas and technology. I had no idea what burning man was, but I found it to be the most creative spot on the planet with an idea that really was amazing. you make a city in a week – no logos – no corporate influence – and simply people coming to experience things that I didn’t even know where possible in public spaces.
but yes, I was a nerd that went to bed early and woke up at dawn. I did shows for a living at the time and I really wasn’t into the entire vibe of the event. call me square, boring, whatever…I would be in the canteen getting coffee with what were a few others…and have some amazing conversations while the masses slept. ironically, I never had to wait for a toilet or anything during my time there. I also don’t actually remember ever seeing the man burn. once the fashion show was done…I was packed up and out of there to avoid what I can only imagine was a mess of traffic the following day.
as with anything, the burning man event became a product of its own success. it got too large for me, but that led a group of folks to come in and make it the size it is today. and the Silicon Valley wealth that was just starting in the 90’s has given way to what simply is a class system of sorts with the VIP lounge experiences and the Sherpa's humping stuff for the well-heeled. in the NY magazine. I was shocked to see people spending a fortune to have costumes made for them for the week, as if they were going on a modern Victorian day where you have to “look” like something to fit in and feel cool. I wonder why are these people going to the event?
my first people I remember meeting was this 80-year-old president of some nudist group. try to imagine driving for two days to get equipment to the playa, crashing to sleep, then and waking up, leaning over a small fire to make coffee, only to look up and see an old penis with a few prince Albert in the can piercing staring at you and a kind elerly voice saying, “hello there young man, can I have some coffee?”
I think the second i met outside of the camp wasa guy named “ray” who would sit in a playpen all week, decked out in diapers with a giant binkie in his mouth and a rattle in his playpen.
these are not uncommon things you see at burningman.
you say it is weird? sure it was…but It had a very different vibe than what I am sensing of seeing with the current day manifestation. that is the beauty of the event and the dynamics of growth and success. I tend to like the new and start up areas of ideas. when that stage is done, you get a lot of folks coming in because they need to look or feel the part of being something? I really never got or understood this behavior. give me the raw and honest version of something versus the pretty and polished one where participants pay to play.
but yeah, I can’t say I was the type to fit into the event with my personality and looks. I guess it comes from doing shows for a living. but I am happy to have experienced burning man and I do tell people I meet, “you should go once as it really was a unique 10,000 ring circus where I only saw two minor disagreements between human beings in the times I went. that part amazed me how the people got along.”
so, I do know large groups of people can live in peace and love. but what confounds me is that they have to go away from the “norm” of their lives to become something different. I think back to today, I go to the silence of nature and monasteries, as burning man is very much the carnal world. monasteries are about getting out of that world. what an interesting irony and dichotomy of sorts, no?
why can’t we all live this way all the time? maybe that is where the seeds of augmanity were planted. or was it the “you” show?