by Troy Dayton and Steve Bearman (co-posted on the Interchange Counseling Institute Blog)
photo by Peter Kaminski
So you’ve been to the playa, and you’ve seen the promised land – the promise of freedom, of self-expression, of immediacy and creativity and community. The playa fed you, and it changed you. It provided you opportunities for growth, you took advantage of those opportunities, and you came out the other side more the person you’re here to be in the world.
But then Burning Man ended, as it must. It was burned down, dismantled, packed up into dusty vehicles and carted away. Now, you find yourself without the the steady flow of magic that helped you become more yourself. You’re “home” (in the traditional meaning of the word), and you’re probably wondering whether you can still be the person you liberated yourself to become at Burning Man.
You can be. All you need to do is to make use of these 5 principles:
1. There is no default world
2. Expect more from strangers
3. Form your camp
4. Be part of the generosity economy
5. Embrace impermanence
1. There is no default world
photo by Scott London
Burners have come to use an unfortunate term when referring to life after Burning Man. They call it the “default world”, as if magic only happens in the desert during one week of the year. This is particularly unfortunate because there is one great secret to bringing everything you love about Burning Man into the rest of your life and to making the rest of the world more like Burning Man. What secret, you ask? As it turns out, there is no default world.
We’ll say it again, because this really matters. There is no default world.
If it helps, you can think about it this way. Some art installations are just too big to bring to the playa. They need to be left out in the rest of the world. In fact, really the whole world is just one, big, world-sized, interactive art installation. It’s all just a series of temporary encampments in which humans have, through their ingenuity and creativity, figured out how to interface with the wilderness and live together in clusters. Just like the street clock and the open playa, the rest of the world is available to explore and interact with and play with while wearing one costume or another, playing one role or another. There is no default world.
When you start to recognize the true, interactive nature of what we’ll call “the extended playa” (that is, the world-sized, extra-playa art installation), you’ll find that so much more is possible.
2. Expect more from strangers
photo by Tyler Powers
In a community like Burning Man, you can assume, even assert, the right to approach any random person and have an interesting interaction. There’s room to transcend the ordinary superficial greetings and interviews. You can introduce yourself effervescently, or oddly, or launch right into the middle of the conversation you wish you were having with someone. You can overtly express interest and curiosity. You can play. You can do all this because you expect, more often than not, that your enthusiasm and curiosity will be met with the same. You expect people to be interesting and to be excited by your invitation to play with them.
It’s no different on the extended playa. If you give people a chance to be their more expressed, more playful, more connective selves, more often than not, they’ll take you up on your offer. Everyone everywhere wants deeper connections, more meaningful interactions, less seriousness and more play. If you expect this of the people you meet, you’ll be right more often than not.
Hugs and affection are a particularly important domain in which to expect more from strangers. We all need love, and hugs are one of the best ways to deliver it. Take the risk to go in for a hug. You’ll be surprised how many people reciprocate. Of course some people will be hesitant. They may not even know that hugging is an option! Or they may just be plain scared of hugs. That means it’s your job not to be scary. You can pull this off by hugging people in a way that demands nothing of the huggee. Practice being sensitive to where the other person is at while still expressing your affection and admiration. If you get it right, you may notice them releasing and relaxing. Hugs bring us together. You are just the right person to initiate them.
Not only is there no default world, but there are no normal people. There are, however, many people who have gotten good at projecting the appearance of normality. At Burning Man, the endless parade of people flaunting their unusualness brings joy and excitement. The unusual is both delightful and challenging, enticing and intimidating. Out here on the extended playa, people love the unusual just as much as you love it at Burning Man, but there is such a constant press to conform to social norms, that we sacrifice our wonderful weirdness, our playful impulses, and our freaky freedom just so we can fit in. Without even realizing it, you have probably come to participate in this system of socialization, subtly and continuously discouraging people from coloring themselves outside the lines. It takes some deliberate effort to reverse that tendency. Part of expecting more from strangers is noticing the weirdness in others and encouraging it to express itself. When you encounter someone who is already weirder than you, instead of looking away or otherwise indicating disapproval, remember the courage it takes to break with norms, and you’ll realize just how valuable that smile or that nod can be. Say “yes” to the strangeness of strangers.
Remember, nearly everyone you know was once a stranger. Expecting more of strangers increases the likelihood that the people you meet will become a part of that sometimes elusive network of connections we call community.
3. Form your camp
Open Mic Meditation Group (Bay Area Edition)
Isn’t it nice to have a group of people to return to after you venture out into the playa, take risks, and try new things? Everyone needs the support and embrace of their camp.
Many of us had the experience, in high school or college, of having a group of people we considered our own. Being brought together into a shared environment over and over again, and enduring challenges together, created a sense of reliable camaraderie. The adult world, however, is not set up for us maintain these kinds of bonds with groups of friends. That’s why forming your camp in the extended playa is so important.
Have you found your people? Do the people who populate your life excite and inspire you? Do they encourage you to be more yourself, to become more of who it’s possible for you to be? One way to know you’ve found your people is that you find yourself sharing the kind of love, intimacy, and vulnerability with your friends and colleagues that most people expect only from a romantic partner or their best friend. If you don’t have an abundance of these kinds of connections yet, it’s time to find them. Start your quest by going to the places where your kind of people go. Search in workshops, meetups, trainings, celebrations, festivals, and conferences around activities and topics that draw you. These tend to be environments where people are deliberately brought together to have meaningful contact. Make use of those contexts to start new relationships with more realness and risk than you used to bring to interactions with “strangers”.
Once you find your people and develop new kinds of friendships based on growth and support, then what? Now it’s time to make an impact together. Camps where people just hang out together are okay, but the camps that thrive are the ones where people are about something. They offer up something that they enjoy offering to others. In your camp on the extended playa, don’t just make the time you spend together about catching up, discussing current events, or consuming entertainment. Getting up to stuff together can be so much more fulfilling. Support and challenge one another to grow and develop, and find ways to contribute to your larger community. Contributing to one another and to the world around you is what gives your camp meaning.
4. Be part of the generosity economy
Perhaps the most transformative feature of Burning Man is the gift economy. There is something so profound about receiving a gift simply for being in the way of someone else’s generosity. Unconditional generosity stems from a belief that everyone is special, deserving of approval and random acts of kindness.
Giving in this way is so freeing, such a pure expression of our desire to contribute, such a celebration of our connection to everyone else’s humanness. Receiving in this way can be equally freeing, especially if you’re someone who always gives to others as a way of life. When the people around you are indulging in the joy of giving, letting yourself receive from them is an act of service!
On the extended playa, giving stuff away isn’t always so easy. We may be met with suspicion, with people wondering what our hidden agendas are, what debts they may be incurring if they accept our gifts. You yourself may be afraid to be so unconditional with your generosity. Will your gifts be rejected? Will you get your own needs met?
Start small. Give a flower to your barista. Smile at people you pass on the street. Offer free hugs at the subway station. Notice what the little things are that people around you might need to make their lives better. Give away snow cones in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter. Heck, you can even give away healthy food if you want! Offer your services as an everyday counselor or a roving massage therapist. Notice how it makes your life better to give, and how it changes your community.
Take it further. If you really want to take the generosity economy to to the next level, organize your camp to do it with you. Giving stuff away can become a way of life for you and your people.
5. Embrace impermanence (at least for now)
Burning Man is the ultimate expression of impermanence. An entire bustling city grows from nothing and back to nothing in just one week. That art piece that you spent so much time on and infused so much meaning into is burning right before your eyes.
No matter how much time, work, and love go into creating the things you create, they will all only ever be temporary . . . your art, your relationships, your children, your very life.
In fact, one of the things that makes beautiful things beautiful is their ephemeral nature. Imagine an epic sunrise that just goes on and on. Someone would come by and exclaim, “Look at those incredible pink clouds!”, and you would respond, “Yeah, whatever. They’ve been like that for hours. I’m ready to get on with the morning.”
We suffer when we remain attached to things that are impossible to hold onto. Cherished experiences slip away and are gone, leaving us with nothing but grief and loss. Learn to embrace the relentlessness of change, and those tears become a celebration of the preciousness of each moment. Everyone watches as the beauty of the temple is consumed by flame, and we sense our connection to one another. We’re all together in this impermanent dance with life.
Impermanence may be heartbreaking, but it’s also kind of awesome! It means that we get to remake the world in every moment. Our relationships, our identities, our careers, our expression of who we are: none of these permanent-seeming parts of ourselves are set in stone. Even if they were, erosion and entropy and mortality would wash the stone away in time.
The sad news is that every good feeling, fulfilling relationship, or special moment is fleeting. The great news is that every bad feeling, shitty relationship, and terrifying moment is also fleeting. There’s nothing to do but surrender to the insecurity and beauty of loss and change.
You knew that Burning Man would end shortly after you arrived. There’s freedom in such temporality. You got to see just how versatile and creative you could be, knowing it would soon be over, and knowing it was impossible to hold on to any experience for too long. Really, all of life is like that, just a series of moments. Let them go and discover who you can be now.
We can hear the beating of a different drummer rising up through you and into action, ready for you to burst into the world as the new and improved creative spontaneous hug machine you always knew yourself to be.
But wait, when you wake up in the morning, you’ll still be looking at that same old to-do list, the same responsibilities to others, the same fires to put out. Where does carving out a new more expanded creative self fit into all that?
That’s the tough part. It involves making tough choices about what to prioritize, what to risk, what to release. It also requires, bit by bit, infusing your existing activities with creative joy and presence.
Don’t forget. A more magical world is possible: more inclusive, more generous, more free. Well, actually, you will forget. Impermanence works on your mind quicker than on almost anything else. But then you’ll remember you forgot, and you’ll step out into the beauty of the extended playa once again.
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between their work and their play; their labor and their leisure; their mind and their body; their education and their recreation. They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence through whatever they are doing, and leave others to determine whether they are working or playing. To themselves, they always appear to be doing both.” -Francoise Rene Auguste Chateaubriand
Steve Bearman, Ph.D. – Founder of the Interchange Counseling Institute in San Francisco, Steve is a counselor, social justice educator, and workshop leader. In addition to teaching Interchange’s year-long Counseling and Coaching Training Program, which is now in its 10th year, he also leads workshops on community building, relationships, overcoming anxiety, gender role conditioning, healing body shame, death and grieving, and spiritual practice. Steve just returned from his second burn.
Troy Dayton (T. Dazzl) – Co-founder of Burner Map and blogger at Burner Love. Troy currently serves as co-founder and CEO of the legal cannabis investment and research firm The ArcView Group and a board member of the Marijuana Policy Project. He cofounded Students for Sensible Drug Policy and is a founding board member of The National Cannabis Industry Association. Troy previously served on the leadership team at the Interchange Counseling Institute and as Director of Development at the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). Troy just returned from his 13th consecutive burn.
This was my second year at Burning Man and it was just as magical as the first. I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around what exactly makes it such a powerful, profound experience for so many. Here’s the four things that seem to have the most transformative effects.
1. The Community
2. The Art
3. The Ritual
4. The Show
The first is that feeling of community and camaraderie that a lot of people miss in modern society. It’s reminiscent of my childhood when it seemed like everyone was nice and trying to help me. People smile, they wave, they hug, and they help. I’ve never seen so much generosity from strangers as I have at Burning Man.
For example, my back bike wheel was broken and wouldn’t even pedal. I was dragging it to one of the official repair shops when I stumbled upon one.. It was not really a listed bike shop, just a guy with two friends, a couple of tools and some spare bikes. I asked him if he could fix my bike and not only did he work on it for the next hour, he told me I could just drop it off, play around, and then come back whenever I was ready. By the time I came back it was in perfect condition and he even moved the bike spoke lights I had on it!
I asked him why he did this. He emphasized, “This is the type of thing that can really make or break somebody’s Playa experience. I want to help make that.”
If someone else can make a mini golf course or a bowling alley in the middle of the desert or an art car that looks like an Octopus, shoots out fire, and is made of scrap metal, there really are no limits to what YOU can do. It really elevated my belief about what’s possible.
Ritual is attached to everything at Burning Man. Ritual imbues importance onto things. The rituals help guide life in Black Rock City – everything from getting a Playa name to the Temple Burn is steeped in this. “Rituals arise in a community and try to give direction to and set boundaries for the behavior of human beings”1 Getting a Playa name helps give you the opportunity to take on a new identity, a new life. The Temple Burn is a tribute to those who have passed away. The rolling around in the dust for newbies and hitting the bell upon entrance indicates that something amazing and new is going to happen. Burning Man creates a world and has its own lingo – like Moop or Darktard or playa foot – and this makes its world insular in a sense but also more connected.
The best part about it is that nothing is handed to you. It’s not Coachella or Outside Lands where you are handed an experience that you paid for. At Burning Man, you are the experience. The org only provides the infrastructure, the Temple, and the Man. That art car you had a blast on or that kick ass self improvement workshop or that guy handing you a margarita as you walked down a street are just the result of someone else who wanted to give you that experience. You are the show, not Radiohead.
1 H. Barbara Boudewijnse & Hans-Gunter Heimbrock. Current Studies on Rituals: Perspectives for the Psychology of Religion.
2 Photo Credit: hannavas, http://www.flickr.com/photos/30657818@N05/3929995216/
Rishi is the creator of a site to help people prepare for Burning Man, BurnerPrep. He typically writes about how to get the wares & goods necessary for the Burn but what’s the point of getting ready if you can’t have all these awesome experiences & grow from it?
In a bizarre move that further positions it to become the next Myspace, Facebook is acquiring yet another social networking site with a loyal following. It was announced today that the internet giant is buying BurnerMap. The app, described on AngelList as “Google Maps for Sparkle Ponies,” currently helps about half of all Burning Man attendees find where their friends are camping.
BurnerMap nemesis Crankydust, founder of the Association of Burners for Burning Burner Map (ABBBM) was mildly disappointed with the purchase. “Decomidi-fuckin-fication folks! What’s next? An ad shoot for Krug? Coffee sales in center camp? No sex allowed in tents!? Some flaming pumpkin seed monster/lemonade stand ‘art piece’? This event has gone to hell!”
While specifics of the purchase are being kept under wraps, it is rumored Facebook payed somewhere east southeast of $1 billion. That’s “b” as in “billion.”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg explained the reasons behind the acquisition. ”On their website they call Facebook ‘The Zuckerborg’ with a funny picture of me as a Borg. It makes me chuckle every time. Plus, it was only a billion dollars. I figured, why not? I dropped that on a game of mini-golf over the weekend.”
The four founders of the app (Morgasm, Little Spoon, Brandl and T. Dazzl) were surprisingly calm.
“Last night I had $134.36 in my checking account. I wake up this morning and there’s $250 million,” said Little Spoon. “But I still can’t take more than $300 cash out of an ATM… what the fuck?!”
Brandl, found frantically looking for that round double valve flanged piece of PVC pipe for the flaming pumpkin seed monster/lemonade stand (you know the one) in a Lowes in Fernley, NV screamed, “I’ll give you a million dollars if you help me find the damn thing . . . and some oven paint. No really, a million dollars. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mr. Press Release Writer. Make yourself useful!”
T. Dazzl was found on a private jet in Reno applying 14k Gold glitter on the faces of people in his entourage. “We started BurnerMap to help people find their friends. Now I’m rich, biatch! Lets celebrate with a karaoke orgy. No, not the one we are having right now.”
Zuckerberg says Facebook plans to expand BurnerMap to other festivals around the world. First up will be The Gathering of the Juggalos in Illinois. ”If there is any group that has a harder time finding each other, it’s fans of Insane Clown Posse.”
by Steve Bearman, Ph.D. and Troy Dayton (T. Dazzl)
Ordinary reality is not designed with personal growth in mind. If you like conformity, competition, or pretense, then ordinary reality is a great place to be!
If what you’re interested in is personal growth, however, you’ll need to go through the cracks in ordinary reality and find out what’s on the other side. Where can you go to find respite from ordinary reality? Look to retreat centers, human potential workshops, counseling sessions, spiritual practices, altered states . . . and Burning Man.
By altering ordinary reality through environment, art, and community, Burning Man provides unique conditions for healing, growth, and liberation. Taking advantage of those conditions is where you come in.
Here are 5 ways to squeeze the most personal growth out of your Burn!
1. Be Your Odd Fickle Little Self
2. Go for Connection (in all its forms)
3. Start an Evolution
4. Be the Drugs You Wish to Take in the World
5. No Mo’ FOMO
1. Be your odd fickle little self
(Thanks to Scott London for most of the photos. )
“We need to recover the ability to pay attention to something other than the whirlpool of questions and doubts about what is required or expected for acceptance.” – Brad Blanton
We all start out as weird little authentic people with special gifts and the confidence to express them. As we grow up, society teaches us that fitting in is more important than honoring the evolution of what makes us special. We learn to fake it, don masks, and smile when someone points a camera at us.
Almost nowhere else on Earth is there more room for you to be you than at Burning Man. But even here, revealing your true colors might feel risky. Fortunately, you’ve come to the exact right place to take those risks. Instead of trying hard to be liked, acting the ways you’ve learned you should, or hiding your feelings, you can find your voice, show your vulnerabilities, and share your idiosyncratic gifts.
But how can you be committed to authenticity while also being open to trying new things that you are not sure yet are “you”? Partly, it’s about motivation. If you’re expressing yourself in a given way out of a desire to fit in, or to be like people expect you to be, that won’t be so growth-promoting. If instead, it’s done out of a desire to make your outsides more like your insides, or to explore a novel way of being human, there’s where you’ll find growth potential.
As new aspects of reality come into your awareness, new aspects of your identity may crave expression. Trying on new ways of being is just as important as dropping old pretenses. There’s an edge to walk, between who you once were, and who you’re discovering yourself to be.
Authenticity does not imply consistency, so go ahead and contradict yourself – no, actually, wait – don’t!
Burning Man may just be the place where the ways in which you are too much, are just enough.
2. Go for Connection (in all its forms)
Photo Credit: Shelly Gerrish of Photography for Good
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship… There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” - C. S. Lewis
So many of us spend so much of our lives grappling with isolation and alienation, wishing for deeper, more real contact. If someone has, by whatever means, arrived at Burning Man, they, like you, want something more. Like you, they want to be close, to love and be loved, to trust and be trusted. If you walk across the playa assuming that everyone wants to be close, so much more becomes possible.
There’s a trick to creating intimacy everywhere you go. Think back on the last time you were attracted to someone. You likely gave them an unusual quality of attention and appreciation, friendliness and respect. You treated them as if they were special, and they could feel it. What would it be like if you gave that quality of attention to everyone? We’re not saying you should be attracted to everyone, or spend the same amount of time with everyone. You can, however, practice seeing each person’s unique and extraordinary beauty, and treat them accordingly. The more you can do this, the more your everyday interactions become magical. And more and more flavors of intimacy become available.
Because intimacy is a function of authenticity, it also takes many forms. Launch your daily playa adventure with the intention to find a new one. Treat people as if they are special (because they are). Then find out what you can create together.
3. Start an evolution
“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anaïs Nin
You did not used to be nearly as awesome you are now. Think back to a time before you had grown and developed into your current form. When you do this, we imagine you feel a good deal of relief. It’s so much better to be the current you!
Now, imagine your future self reading this. When they think back to their old selves, it’s you they’re imagining! They’re remembering who they used to be when they were limited in the ways you’re limited, and they’re feeling a sense of relief to no longer be bound by such limitations. How do you imagine your future self to be different from the current you?
One way to orient toward growth is to guess at what the next steps are in your ongoing development and to reach for them. Every day on the playa is an opportunity to stretch into your new self, to clumsily or gracefully try out new ways of being.
Whether or not they’re aware of it, everyone is trying to reach for the next stage in their personal evolutions. You can support that by noticing what may be trying to happen in others and helping it along. We’re all afraid of being judged as we incompetently try to become more than we already are. You can help offset this fear by celebrating newness. You’ll find yourself celebrating your own newness too, giving yourself more permission to do it wrong, as you awkwardly grow into your future self.
To learn more about starting an evolution, go start one. Invite us to it.
4. Be the drugs you wish to take in the world
Our normal rational consciousness is but one type of consciousness. Whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness.” – William James
Because people seem so self-expressed and bizarre at Burning Man, it’s easy to make the assumption that everyone must be on psychedelics. Surprisingly, most are not. Perhaps they were last night or last year, or perhaps they’ve achieved their profound absurdity through extra-pharmaceutical means. Regardless, only a minority of people are on drugs at any given time.
Drugs don’t create new experiences; they unlock them.
On a new drug in a new environment, you might experience new ways of being that are difficult to recreate on your own. If you’re deliberate about it, you can learn over time to produce within yourself the kinds of states of consciousness associated with the drug all on your own. The next step is externalizing those states to create novel experiences for the people around you. You can be the drug!
Think about your drug of choice and what it makes available to you. Does it help you to feel more free and less inhibited, to take more pleasure in everyday experiences, to love more fully or without reservations? Does it give you permission to experience reality with more flexibility and creativity, to open your awareness to include more than it usually does?
Now, how can you help to create those experiences for the people you’re with, wherever you go? Think about how to facilitate freedom, pleasure, love, expanded awareness, and lucid dreaming with friends, lovers, strangers, and fellow adventurers. Don’t wait for it to happen. Be the drugs you wish to take in the world!
5. No mo’ FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)
“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” H. L. Mencken
Somewhere out there in the sea of burners, you imagine, is a person having exactly the kinds of experiences you think you should be having. They’re always having a good time, never bored or overwhelmed, invited to all the best events, having the best sex, accumulating the best stories to tell after they get home. Why, you lament, can’t your Burn be like theirs?
But you are comparing your insides with another person’s outsides, like comparing apples with the dreams of oranges. When you do this, you cast your attention out into an ideal, imaginary world, and you feel inadequate in comparison. That can turn a momentary negative feeling into something much bigger with more meaning.
There is only one experience you will ever have – yours! You may rise to exalted states of transcendent bliss, only to find yourself cranky and unmotivated an hour later. You may miss the best party on the playa, only to enjoy a simple evening with an old friend. That art project didn’t turn out as planned, and you are left rebuilding while your friends are out adventuring. All of these experiences are needed. When you trust the energetic system of yourself, you find that none of these states are random. They all fit into the magnificent ecology of you.
Integrating experiences is as important as having them. Contracting is as necessary as expanding. You will always be missing out on other people’s experiences. Don’t miss out on yours too!
As veteran Burners can tell you, personal growth often happens at Burning Man whether you want it to or not. Some people are dragged kicking and screaming into the next stage of their personal or relational development. Taking charge of your personal growth isn’t just a good idea, it can also save you the pain of involuntary evolution.
Now, go on . . . find those dusty cracks in the fabric of reality. We look forward to joining you in getting the most personal growth out of exploring them!
Steve Bearman, Ph.D. – Founder of the Interchange Counseling Institute in San Francisco, Steve is a counselor, social justice educator, and workshop leader. In addition to teaching counseling and coaching trainings, he has led workshops on community building, relationships, sexuality, polyamory, gender role conditioning, death, and spiritual practice. This is Steve’s second burn.
Troy Dayton (T. Dazzl) – Co-founder of Burner Map. Blogger at Burner Love. CEO at The ArcView Group. Formerly Director of Development at MAPS and lead fundraiser at the Marijuana Policy Project. Co-founder of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Troy served on the leadership team at the Interchange Counseling Institute and is a graduate of the program. This is his 13th consecutive burn.
Playa Name: Sassy
Camp/Village Name: The HeeBeeGeeBee Healing Oasis
Camp Website: http://www.heebeegeebeehealers.org/
Any Burner related project you want to promote besides your own camp/village?
My business, Sassy Facilitation, gets to write Burning Man off on my taxes… because of the amazing professional development I get out there and bring back to the default world to build those radical conceptual and infrastructural bridges more effectively. www.sassycooperates.org
BurnerLove: You do a lot of work in the world of co-ops – facilitating communication, working to help co-ops achieve their goals, thrive, grow and be awesome – what have you learned from Burning Man that has helped your understanding of co-ops.
Sassy: There are so many overlaps in the skillsets applicable in my work with co-ops and the work I do to contribute to the Burn. My first 2 years were spent organizing small camps of friends sharing a few things, and I quickly realized how much my training as a co-op organizer contributed to our having an easy and fun time of it. Then I found the Heebees, and suddenly, I get to write Burning Man off on my taxes. Yes, it uses so many of my professional skills, it’s actually legit. Looked at from my sector’s point of view, Nectar Village and it’s member-camps is basically an umbrella co-op system (much like the fabled Mondragon co-ops in Basque, Spain, or the Arizmendi Bakeries in the SF area, formed based on the same model), which is chartered to support 2-3 weeks of partying and providing healing, power, and other services to its members and the community they create.
I learned so much from the dust that I bring back to my daily work.
I learned anew how the default world truly neglects the incentivising power of fun. it sees fun – frivolity, celebration, and dancing til you drop – as separate from work; it is play, and it doesn’t belong in our labor systems. We Burners experience them to be wrong – we understand that having the most epic experience possible is a great motivator for people to not only think radically outside the box about what is possible, but to then act accordingly, and actually organize and commit to create it.
I learned about the power of normalizing radical expression and creation. Coming to the playa, you are likely to find folks not only accepting you and what you do, but celebrating it, and perhaps even pushing your dreams farther than you could ever have imagined. And this is Normal – not just precious and rare, but truly the way we live our lives in our community. This new normative reality opens people’s minds and hearts in such amazingly productive and transformative ways.
I learned through daily experience how adversity and challenging parameters can spur and facilitate growth and creation, not just kill or distort it. A freak 80 mph windstorm one day during setup led us to reorganize our work-days with productivity ice-cream breaks scheduled in – and now we can set up fast enough to begin supporting our village before the gate opens.
I learned how a bank slate of an environment can do so much to our perspective on our resource and waste streams. I have a degree in Sustainable Ecology, and am steeped in this stuff; yet even I have had my eyes opened year after year by just what it takes to build and run a modern city of 50k+. It is both dismaying and humbling, and – curiously – heartening. Because for so much we use, and waste, so much is created, reused, and celebrated.
BurnerLove: Quick few words of advice for virgin Burners this year?
Don’t go to the burn until you are really called to go; then, go, and don’t carry any expectations with you
- they will only become baggage. Be prepared to participate with your whole self – but remember that voyeurism is participation, when done right. Be prepared in general – read the guides, talk to friends and strangers, bring enough water and food. Most of all, bring an open heart and mind, and be ready to have your mind opened. Take notes. Take pictures. Take away the lessons, connections, and most of all, the joy
BurnerLove: One piece of wisdom from successful, juicy co-ops you’ve participated in that people can take and apply to their camp at Burning Man to make it work better. Even if its only 10 people, 2 ice chests a BBQ and a 20 year old RV?
Sassy: Ironically enough,
though our city and culture is built on a certain amount of lawlessness and creative chaos, the key to an awesome camp experience is a solid and playa-ready communication structure.
Whether you are a few groups of friends sharing beer and a common shade structure, or a village as complex as Nectar, everything will flow more easily, safely, and with more epic heights of awesomeness if ya’ll communicate well before, during, and after the Burn. Setup a listserve, have different folks in charge or wrangling the different aspects (like water, shade, travel, food, beer, any camp public offerings – including the supplies to offer it, including any permits needed, and the labor to staff the offering, and the labor system that will setup, maintain, and strike the camp on playa). Decide how you are going to decide things before you have high stakes decisions to make at 4 am in the middle of a dust storm. have plans for how ya’ll will communicate and share labor when ‘playa happens’ and folks disappear on a soul-retrieval journey or spontaneous pony posse. Decide who will be lead in emergencies, who will re-stake camp after dust storms, and who make sure the beer stays cold. make it fun, but remember that doing it right makes the burn so much better
BurnerLove: You are active in various aspects of the kink/BDSM community on the playa. What’s the biggest difference in how the kink community represents/expresses/organizes itself on the playa and in the default world?
Sassy: In my experience there is very little difference, except perhaps in my context. Off playa, I run with a fairly intimate ‘tribe’ of kinky/BDSM identified folks, and we are mostly queer, and of all ages, body types and genders. We tend to have private parties and gatherings. On playa, I tend to rub shoulders with more strangers – and while there are many queers, and I do find them to play with, the overall scene is much more straight, and less ‘edge-blurring’ and ‘bendy’.
Yes, my on playa experience is a bit ‘more mainstream’ than my off playa SM play
- but its also more varied. I run into more folks doing other weird things and trying different methods of doing those things in the dust than in my home community. And that, I find priceless.
BurnerLove: I know you are involved in helping sex/kink orientated classes/events work out safety plans and other important logistics. Could you give a quick response why that is so critical and maybe some links or resources where folks thinking of organizing these types of classes/events can get more information.
Sassy: If you want to play with kink, and reap the full benefits of that play – which can and does include anything from pleasure, orgasm, deep trance states, and even psychological breakthroughs – you must first build a safe container to hold and guide that play. Without doing that work beforehand, it is very very hard to safely and successfully have a transformative and fun play session. But
if you do set up the space right, the possibilities are truly endless for what you can accomplish together.
There is a lot of great literature out there, but a few examples of folks who do it right (and tell you how) are: girlpile.net, “Come Hither – a commonsense guide to Kinky Sex” by Dr. Gloria G. Brame, and of course the playa’s own Bureau of Erotic Discourse.
BurnerLove: A ‘kink curious’ Burner wants to scratch that itch on the playa for the first time. What should she be aware of? Anything not obvious or counter intuitive she should keep in mind? Maybe something that doesn’t apply outside of Burning Man?
Sassy: Try playing at a party or in a group for the first time. Be aware of your boundaries, and keep them in your conscious mind. Remember that just because you are in a radically different place and probably having a heightened experience, it does NOT mean that you have no boundaries at all. In fact, especially
at the Burn, boundaries are what enable us to soar to new heights – they are the structure and safety line that enable us to scale the unscaleable walls of our fears and hopes and desires.
this is always true, but especially hard to keep in your mind, heart, and actions on playa. Perhaps make a plan with a buddy to be able to ask for instant aftercare, at any point in the week – i.e. either of you could come up to the other at any point and ask for 10 minutes of check-in and aftercare; preparing this kind of mutual support safety net can actually help eliminate the need for it.
BurnerLove: Is playa dust a magical aphrodisiac full of wonder and synchronicity or is it just me?
Sassy: Yes, it is. No, its not just you. It is truly a magical place – and anything you do out there is touched by that magic. Bring an already magical SM scene to the playa, and you will probably find you’re off in the clouds flying higher than you could have ever thought possible.
Obama can’t make it this year.
I’ve got two highly coveted front row tickets to Burning Man that are burning a hole in my pocket. I want you and your favorite partner in crime to have them at face value $395.
If you post a video in the comments section showing you putting one or more of Burning Man’s ten principles into practice in the default world you will be entered you into the contest. The winner get’s 2 access codes for tickets.
The video must be posted by noon pacific this Sunday (7/29) to be eligible. I will announce the winner as chosen by the Burner Love editorial team by noon pacific on Monday. And the winner will have only 24 hours to purchase the tickets before the link to purchase them expires. Since these are simply codes to purchase tickets, the winner does not have to be the purchaser and can give their codes to whoever they want.
Get creative! We could completely care less about the quality of the video. What we care about is the quality of the act captured by the video, what principal you are illustrating, and why.
Not everybody who wants to make it to Burning Man will get to attend this year but the whole point of Burning Man isn’t the event, it’s the ideas that drive it. And you don’t need a ticket to the dessert to experience the magic of gifting, radical inclusion, immediacy, etc. The more we can spread these values in the default world the more our whole year can be as transformational as a week at Burning Man.
Add even if you don’t win, I bet you will have fun creating the video and spreading goodness into the world.
For your reading and interpretive pleasure, here are the 10 Principles:
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.
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.
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.
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Can’t wait to watch these!!
UPDATE 7/30/2012: About 700 people viewed this post and not a single person posted a video showing them putting any of the 10 principles into practice. I actually logged in to take this post down and erase it from Internet memory so the world wouldn’t know that my contest failed. But once here, I realized that I was kind of proud of this failure. Failure is instructive. I’m noticing something surprisingly liberating about leaving this failure here on the site. Taking it down would be sort of hiding that I’m human. It’s liberating to know that I can hang a failure out to dry in the real world without it impacting my own sense of self-worth. It’s a small act of subversiveness to help make obsolete the insidious cultural norms that keep us from a more intimate experience of life.
Love Beds photo by Spider Rick http://www.flickr.com/photos/spider/
Hopefully, the following will happen to you this burn: You will have a moment with someone(s) that sends chills down your spine. You’ll look deep into each others eyes and have one of those devouring kisses that begs for further action. Then, in the heat of anticipation, you need to decide where you will become animals with each other.
Don’t be a boring lover and take them back to your tent. That’s sooo “default world.”
Way to impress her, dude.
My motivation in telling you this is that I’m trying to help you fulfill a likely fantasy of having the most memorable and adventurous sex of your life.
Regardless of where you are on the playa, numerous people within a block or two of you have spent months planning and creating the most romantic and sexy places…just for you. Their hard work and dedication will be for naught if those spaces remain empty while you are getting sweaty on a blowup mattress that makes a decidedly unsexy sound when it rubs up against the sides of your tent.
Think about it. You could pop your tent up in your living room and be in the exact same setting. Boring.
If this is true (which it is), why is there not usually a line of people waiting to hook-up in these amazingly sexy nooks and crannies?
In default world, when it’s time to hook up you generally just go back to one of the partners’ homes. Unlike Burning Man, the average city does not have sex palaces just waiting for strangers to hook up in them. This is one of the greatest unique gifts of Burning Man but you need to know its an option. That’s why I’m telling you.
2. Presumed need for privacy
Even if you don’t need privacy, people often assume their partner does and since most people are just terrible about having frank conversations about needs and fantasies this question often doesn’t come up. If you don’t need privacy — there is always the Orgy Dome. (Check out this video about Orgy Dome and maybe even slip a bill in their fishnets to help them expand this year.)
Inside the famed Orgy Dome
And, even outside your tent, privacy is still an option. There are places on the playa that have fully decked out private hotel-like yurts and numerous little private nooks made perfectly for your carnal pleasures. Not sure if they are there this year, but Ashram Galactica is one of these places (although you need reservations at this one).
A suite at Ashram Galacta
There are also lots of semi-private spaces. These are places where people can tell that someone is hooking up in there if they look at the right angle…but its not like getting jiggy on a stage.
Then there are places that are much more open, which for some has a particularly intensifying appeal.
Dome Sweet Dome photo by Littlewoo http://www.flickr.com/photos/littlewoo/
Photo by Molly Tomlinson of photoclave.com
3. Not sure if it’s OK with the creator of the space
Maybe you see that perfect place to hook up but its hard to tell if it’s for general use or just for people in that camp or even just for the people that made it. Generally speaking, I say go for it. Unless the space is buried deep off the public part of the camp and there are not a lot of personal items like someone would keep in their main sleeping space, chances are its been built for you to connect in. If there are people around it that look like they are part of the camp, ask them. Too many desirable places like this are left empty because people are too shy to ask or just hop in. Also, there are some camps that look like they have great places to hook up in but are explicitly non-sexual and are for cuddling or sleeping. Please be courteous of their intent.
4. Lack of pre-planning
Often these places are tucked away and hard to find on purpose. I make it a point to know of at least 4-6 places all over the playa where there are awesome places to hook up so that when the moment arises, we don’t have to start looking then. There are a number of ways to do this:
1. Make it a point in your daily travels, particularly in the few blocks surrounding your camp, to find a places that you like. Introduce yourself to the camp leaders and ask what the story is with the space. On more than one occasion, the person told me it is not a public space but that they’d give me special permission use it if it was free when I wanted it.
2. Look in the “What Where When” and the camp list. Usually if a camp is sex-themed, there will be places made to do it there. But I highly recommend checking it out before bringing someone there in the heat of the moment because a lot of these places, while sex-themed, are decidedly unsexy or are just not open for people at that time.
3. Mark these places on your Burner Map, so you can always see where the nearest sexy place is, should a situation arise where it’s needed.
Especially if you are using someone else’s space, make sure you have Leave No Trace Sex. That means putting a towel or jacket down if possible and not leaving wrappers, etc. If someone can tell after you are gone that someone had sex there, then you have failed to leave no trace.
It’s important to note that having sexual relations in public (ie. in plain site of unsuspecting passerby’s) is technically illegal on the playa. The fact that it is illegal may or may not make you more likely to be turned on by it. : )
Should you decide to break the rules and have sex in open playa at night, please make sure you are very visible to anybody in a vehicle otherwise you could be run over. Even if pain is your thing, there is no “safe word” for a couple thousand pound vehicle blaring dubstep at 2 am.
I hope you have the juiciest hottest sex of your life in a setting that is as grand and beautiful as the person(s) you are sharing it with.
Leave your hot stories of unique places you’ve hooked up at on the playa in the comments section.
“T. Dazzl” is a longtime burner and BurnerMap co-founder. Want more? Check out “5 Ways to Maximize Personal Growth at Burning Man”.
Every week BurnerLove interviews one fabulous Burner, today we feature Miss Information and take a peek at the Burner community in San Diego.
Miss Information, a name gifted to me in 2011.
# of Burns:
Three, 2012 will be four.
Any Burner related project(s) you want to promote?
I’d definitely love to promote YOUtopia. Here is our Facebook page.
San Diego is also bringing its second CORE project to the Playa this year, a project titled “CarouShell“, which will be an actual human-powered revolving carousel based on the Balboa Park carousel, the twist being that the ridable critters will be marine life native to the San Diego coast as well as a surfboard (being chased by a white shark). We also have a Facebook page at , and a WePay donation page.
Did you get active with the Burning Man community before you went to Burning Man? What was the spark that got you going?
I attended my first local event in 2006, an event called Xara Dulzura. This was my first exposure to the Burning Man community.
I absolutely loved the feeling of community that I experienced there, the open acceptance of so many different types of people, and the culture. I knew at that point that I wanted more.
I attended a few more local Burning Man events, including Fuente Eterno in the Canyon de Guadalupe in Mexico, and a couple of San Diego Decompressions, as well as some local social events, parties and the like. This all culminated in me going to Burning Man for the first time in 2009, as part of a theme camp called Camp Makin’ Bacon. After I returned from my first Burning Man, I was asked to volunteer for the 2009 SD Decom, and ended up creating event graphics for the event. That was my first active role in terms of volunteering with the community.
What makes San Diego’s Burner Community unique?
The obvious answer to this question is the people, of course! But I think that in combination with our amazing weather, and a vibrant art and performance community, there’s so much to do here. There’s also a very laid back feel to our community here. We have a few “hub” houses for Burners here, specifically one in Escondido called Pu’Uhonua, where the residents frequently throw large community gatherings at least two times a year, called Splash Up (before the Burn) and Splash Down (after the Burn). These events always bring out a large variety of people, both newbies and veterans to the community. In addition,
when I was still new to the community, I was never made to feel like a “noob”. People were more than eager to help with questions I had, and were super-excited when I finally made it to my first Burn.
First thing that comes to mind about the community that puts a smile right on your face?
The loving nature of so many in our community makes me smile. The majority of our community is eager to lend a hand, or a responsive ear, and open their homes to those in the community who might be new or less fortunate. It continually makes me smile and is hands down my favorite thing about the community.
You are very involved in the San Diego Region, from YOUtopia, to being one of the SD regional contacts, and many other of the San Diego Burner community. What’s the attraction for your involvement in the ‘off playa’ community and events?
My attraction is primarily a desire to have Burning Man and its culture be a year-round part of my life. I enable that desire by participating in as many of our community events as I can, either as an event lead (SD Burning Man Film Festival), as communications lead for YOUtopia, and by attending board meetings of our regional funding and organizing entity, Sundburn LLC.
with the increasing demand for Burning Man tickets over the past two years, I think the role of regional “off playa” communities and events is going to continue to become more important,
as more and more people who want to experience the culture find themselves unable to make it to Black Rock City (or what some of us jokingly refer to as the Gerlach regional).
The COREProject appears to be a hit – for San Diego Burners and the other Regions. Why do you think that is?
The CORE project is a tremendous opportunity to build community, at least that’s been our experience in San Diego. Last year,
the first year for the CORE project, saw the arrival of members to the community who had absolutely no awareness that there even was a San Diego Burner community,
heard about our CORE project, came to build parties, and ended up participating in other community events as a result of their involvement with the build. And that’s certainly proving true this year as well.
The wonderful thing about CORE is that people with all different kinds of skill sets can still participate, whether they’re good with tools, painting, fundraising, or just want to come out to the builds in support of the project. All are welcome, and the diversity of people in attendance at the builds is awe inspiring to see.
I’m so glad to hear about the CORE Project. What’s the biggest challenge you are facing this year pulling it off? ?
As with most large art projects going to the Playa, the biggest challenge is fundraising. Our budget for the San Diego CORE project is $10,500, which includes money for build supplies (lumber, tools, paint, etc.), as well as transportation of the project to the Playa (truck rental and gas). We have currently raised close to 50% of our goal, through a variety of Burning Man ticket raffle sales, Kickstarter, WePay donations, a small grant from the Burning Man organization, and a grant from our local entity, Sundburn LLC. People who are interested in donating to our project can visit https://www.wepay.com/donations/core-san-diego. To learn more about our project, visit our Facebook page.
What’s the biggest (good) surprise about SDCORE this year?
The biggest (good) surprise both last year and this year, is what a tremendous community building exercise the CORE project is. People hear about the CORE project here in San Diego, and are excited to find that there’s a thriving San Diego Burning Man community that they had no idea existed. Everyone participates in building the project, whether they’re good with tools, painting, watching kids in the Kidsville section of our build site, or even donating to help make the project happen. In addition, due to the hazardous wildfire conditions in San Diego, we rarely get to build and burn effigies of any substantial size, so this gives our community an opportunity to participate in and be a part of a large effigy burn, something that many other communities take for granted in other parts of the country.
Any thoughts on the Burning Man ticket situation this year? Growing Pains, signs of trouble to come?
My personal take is that the Burning Man organization was trying their best to alleviate the sellout conditions last year and trying to minimize scalpers getting a hold of tickets and then selling them above face value. In addition, the 2011 event exceeded the BLM maximum participant ceiling, causing the event to be subject to BLM review this year. I think they were trying to contain the possibility that would cause that to happen again, putting the event in jeopardy in future years. I think the organization very much takes to heart the problems that this caused for so many wanting tickets who were unable to get them through the lottery, and who are still looking for tickets, either through STEP or through others selling their tickets because they’re not going after all.
If the Burning Man festival didn’t happen starting in 2013 do you think the regional Burner communities are well established/rooted enough to continue and thrive?
I definitely think that if there were no Burning Man 2013 that it would increase the focus on regional communities to continue the culture. In fact, I think that this is already happening. Many who can’t attend the Burn are creating their own Burns in their region. For example, YOUtopia, San Diego’s regional event, used to be called a Decompression, but we’re moving away from calling it that and are now referring to it as our regional event.
Participation in YOUtopia went from 800 in 2010, to 1200 in 2011, and this year we’re looking at participation of up to 2400 people!
I also think we’ll be seeing more regions collaborating to put on multi-region burns, similar to Lakes of Fire.
Quick words of advice to Burner Virgins this year?
Read the first timer’s guide! And leave your personal expectations for the event at home in the default world. Burning Man is about discovery, not expectations.
Thanks Miss Information!
Gerlach, NV - Citing hard economic times and a desperate compulsion to anger and confuse Burners everywhere, Burning Man announced the American Alpine Hat Association of America (AAHAA) as its first ‘Participatory Dusty MoneyBags’ today.
Known in the advertising and default world as a ‘sponsor’ AAHAA will be making a $10 million dollar donation to the non-profit Burning Man Project. AAHAA says its mission is to make alpine hats the number one choice in hats by 2013.
Citing security concerns, an unnamed media representative for Burning Man addressed the media during a conference call announcing the decision.
“We know this will be controversial with Burners,” said the media rep. through the fuzz of voice masking software before hanging up.
A press release sent out minutes later claims the $10 million dollar sponsorship deal will be used for some great causes.
“Keeping ticket available and prices down”
- ‘West Oakland Lungs for the Young’: All of those big Burning Man art projects built in west oakland warehouses involve a lot of ketamine and industrial waste. 100 local kids negatively affected by the interactive art pollution will receive Iron Lungs autographed by a prominent Burning Man artist.
- DJ Pinch’s ‘Dubstep for Dumb Fucks‘ Project to spread dubstep to rural, country music loving areas of America in the hopes of finding America’s first dubstep DJ to win a Country Music Award.
- Hazardous Haberdashery – An art project of Occupy Burners. Hats, clothes and cheap, fashion accessories belong to poor people will be stolen, taken to Burning Man and Burned by hippies dressed up as bankers to demonstrate the scorn America’s 1% have for poor Americans.
AAHAA, America’s second largest alpine hat trade group said the decision to become Burning Man’s first Participatory Dusty MoneyBags’ wasn’t an easy one.
“We at American Alpine Hat Association of America (AAHAA) have been looking to expand our market share of scalps for some time. After a dozen focus groups and intensive market research we found alpine hats were most closely related to two groups:
a) Retired Bavarian World War Two Veterans
b) Dubstep Dancing Burners.
While the American public holds serious negative associations with both groups we decided to embrace the future. And that future is dubstup and Burning Man.”
In exchange for the $10 million dollars AAHAA will get:
- Advertising banner on the BurningMan.com website
- Signs on the entrance to Burning Man will be in the shape of alpine hats
- Birthday Cake art car to be re-shaped into an alpine hat
- Distrikt will have an alpine hat happy hour every day from Wednesday on
- Kostume Kult will be distributing 5,000 alpine hats nobody else in America wanted.
Posted in 2012, Burning Man, Consumption Blog
Tagged AAHAA, Alpine Hats, Burning Man, Burning Man 2012, Corporate Sponsorship, Dubstep, Iron Lung, ketamine, Kostume Kult, Occupy Burners, West Oakland
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” – Rumi
Burning Man may seem like all rainbows, hugs, and candy-canes….but it’s much more textured than that.
My good friend Little Spoon (Micah Daigle), tells a story about sitting at Center Camp at the Burn with 20-30 people watching a woman with a guitar singing a very touching, vulnerable song. As the audience sips their bought coffee; on the edge of their seats and touched by her vulnerability, a guy on stilts with megaphone walks in and starts berating the audience.
“Look at you saps, sitting there, spectating! Get off your asses and go experience the burn! You look like you are at a shopping mall sipping your lattes. Bullshit! And you, poor girl doing your cute thing with the guitar. So your heart was broken and you wrote a song a bout it. Big fucking deal!”
Then he disappears and the audience is left totally shell-shocked as the woman walks off stage. At first, Micah felt really uncomfortable and tense. He felt sorry for her and wished he could do something about the injustice.
But then, the MC returns and says, “How about a hand for that guy! That was awesome! Where did he go? Get him back here.” He comes back and the host puts him on stage to berate the audience for another 20 minutes.
As Micah describes it, “It was in that moment that I truly got Burning Man. I realized that if that guy was free to express himself as a dick, then I was free to express myself however I want. There aren’t any ‘polite police’ going to enforce their rules on me. And as bad as I still felt for the performer, I realized that her and my embarrassment was a small toll to pay for us all to be here in one of the freest places on Earth. The secret to the desert’s beauty is often found in her harshness.”
All good art makes you uncomfortable in certain moments. It rides the edge of OK. This could be called social art.
We could all use a week without our mental filters that keep us from saying inappropriate things. Face your fear of hurting people’s feelings. It’s getting in the way of discovering yourself.
Of course, touching someone without permission, stealing and vandalism clearly crosses the line. Also, continuing to bother someone after they have asked you not to or for an extended period of time I also think clearly crosses the line.
There is an immense sense of freedom that overcomes you when you are no longer held hostage by your fear that people will be offended by who you really are in a given moment. The playa is big and it can handle whatever you’ve got inside….good or bad. Let it out. Rock the boat. Let out the primal scream.
And let others have their primal scream, too. Don’t take yourself too seriously if someone hurts your feelings. It’s all grist for the mill. Everybody is expressing their inner demons and inner gods.
This way, when someone comes with smiles, candies and rainbows…it’s more likely to be genuine. You can’t fully appreciate and honor the light, if you don’t offer the same gift to the dark.
UPDATE 7/18/12: What I’m gleaning from the numerous negative responses to this post is that some people are really upset that I would validate such outrageous behavior by sharing the story of the mega-phone guy as an example of radical self-expression. In varying ways, I hear them saying “No! That kind of behavior is not OK at Burning Man.” Some of the comments don’t seem relevant…like making the 10 seconds that the guy yelled things in the bullhorn equivalent to vandalism or physical assault. Or suggesting that his 10 seconds on the megaphone justify them physically assaulting him for being mean. Hyperbole and irrationality aside, I can read between the lines to see that this is some people’s way of responding to a very real sense of injustice.
I can now see, that by choosing such an extreme example, it took reader’s focus off the larger point I was making about radical honesty, primal screams, and honoring the shadow, and instead people tended to focus on the far less interesting debate (IMHO) about whether the particular example I chose crosses the line or not. I’ve toned down the example a bit to make it less extreme while still being near the edge.
Also there is a difference between not liking something and disallowing it. I don’t like the KKK and I would not want them hosting a demonstration in my city, but I would allow it because I believe in free expression. I would allow it because someday I might have a viewpoint that others don’t like and I’d want to be able to express that. The same idea is at play with the mega-phone guy. Yes, he is being a jerk. That’s exactly the kind of expression we most need to protect because it is exactly the expression that is most at risk.
Some people have said the mega-phone guy should not be allowed because he is keeping someone else from expressing themselves; in this case, the woman playing the guitar on stage. But we are talking about less then 10 seconds of interruption in a crowded Center Camp where there are lots of other competing noise and activities going on. I think that’s a small price to pay to live in a setting for a week where the full range of expression reigns supreme.
Burn So Happy