Burningman: It’s Burning, Man

imageIt’s all in the comma.  A pause.  A self-awareness.  A narcissistic pleasure of inhaling the echo of one’s voice.  Except it’s not – when everything is everywhere and anything is possible; when art, drugs, music, dancing, love, bitterness, crazy costumes, fire – when all of it crescendos into a roaring cacophonous kaleidoscope, then it becomes uniform white noise.  A tabula rasa.  Specs of dust in a dust storm painting your vision.  And then it’s you, in a cloud, alone with your thoughts.  This was my burn.

I’ve had several people ask me “What is Burningman?”  I can’t speak for others, but to me it’s about two things: 1) extreme respect for individuality and 2) self-awareness.

Why?  Because at Burningman you can do whatever you want: do naked yoga, make amazing art, burn stuff, walk up to a pretty girl and tell her she is gorgeous, walk up to a man with three penises and tell him he is awesome, yell obscenities through a megaphone (episode), do a lecture (TedXBlackRockCity), build a church in likeness to a mousetrap (Google Images), and so on, and so forth.  You  can do anything… just so long as it doesn’t hurt other people.  But drive faster than 5 MPH kicking up dust and you’ll have that same character with a megaphone stomping purposefully after you: “Slow. The. Fuck. Down. Asshole.”

This was my second burn.  Far, far more intense.  And with better stories…  and with more changes.  At the previous burn, I was an observer.  At this burn, I was a participant. 

I’ve made friends – people who I didn’t realize exist, who pushed me in ways that I did not expect, who took my breath away with how incredible they are.  And I’ve changed.  I’ve watched virgins change.  How?

1. Recalibration.

I feel recalibrated.  My JoVE situation, relationship conundrums, assholes – the priority of these things has been emotionally downgraded.  Good people, family, amazing stories, living towards a goal, living as if living itself is a goal, living in the now appreciating the transience of it all, values vis-a-vis society, my role in society – these have been upgraded.  None are conscious decisions, but my internal dialog feels more focused, more direct: “X doesn’t matter.  Y matters.  Focus.” 

2. Insight into communication.

We are so used to verbal-intellectual communication, that we forget about all the other signals that our bodies send, often despite ourselves.  You’ll have to buy me a drink to hear more on this… 

3.  On confidence.

I feel this.  I see it in others – especially first-timers.  Opened shoulders, a confident relaxed gait, bright eyes that will not look away should you choose to meet them.  A cold and unapologetic “sorry, who the fuck are you again?” towards anything that looks like snobbery or dismissal, yet a tremendous openness and reservation of judgment towards those who are themselves open.  For myself, I all of a sudden found it easier to build rapport with people with whom it is generally so hard for me to find a common language.

In all, I feel recharged.  I just hope it all lasts, but now I have a pendant to remind me. 

BTW, another story – Burningman has an amazing culture of gifting.  You give gifts.  You don’t expect anything in return.  I bought a trombone in SF and brought it with me to the playa.  The note in the photograph above was gifted to me by a dude running around with an amazing typewriter contraption.  The pendant was gifted by a seasoned burner, who gave it to me with words “Man, you really take me back.  Thanks so much, man.  Here, a friend of mine makes these, they take hours to make.”  Both were gifted at Sacred Spaces as I was jamming to JPOD, who is awesome.

Anyway, good times. 

That said, I should note: it’s not all unicorns and rainbows. The event itself is bittersweet.  It can be quite tough psychologically at times and the effects last well past the burn.  But that’s for another post… may be…

Oh, and for those wondering if I indulged in substances, the answer is no…  aside from having chilled champagne in the middle of a hot desert after a wedding, which was amazing and I don’t even like champagne.

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