I don’t go to Burning Man because it’s easy. I do it because it’s challenging. It is provocative. I forget this as I pack. Some optimist in me really doesn’t want to think about the stripping action of Burning Man, and wants to keep it a vacation that I’ve saved up all my benefit hours for (and of which I have none this year to spend anyway).
It’s not any of those things. Nor should I expect any such from Burning Man.
Much is cleared, there is that. And in that clearing, there’s power and screaming opportunity. You are left with what you brought and all your expectations, sitting out there in the sun among your friends. As you are.
I forget this.
Every time I go, I slam into my aloneness, my spiritual searching, my needs, my fear of the intensity of my own needs, the condition of my life to date without any soft focus, without impact warning. The temptation to withdraw. The just-out-of-reach closeness, the abandonment.
The environment itself serves to fan the flames of what might have already been burning as I drove out there. You’ve read enough about the environment, I don’t need to dramatize here.
So. While the event gets a lot of press as a healing, easy place, or a 7-day raving love-in, for me it is none of those things. It is magic, yes, but magic in the Dionysian sense.
Caveat boils it down in the Burning Blog:
“That’s because the psychological effect of Burning Man isn’t to solve our issues automatically, as though the Man were Jesus touching lepers, it is to bring them up. Carl Jung said that those who don’t confront their demons within will confront them without: Burning Man is a process whereby both happen at once. That’s an opportunity, but it’s also a crisis. What we do with our issues when they’re staring us in the face is never ‘automatically’ healing.
I wish someone had told me about this before my first Burn. I try to tell virgin Burners this whenever I can. I wish we were a little less upbeat about the party and a little more honest about the fact that we love Burning Man because it isn’t benign.”
Cheat-a-tory pizza for dinner, and unearthing all my Burning Man gear. That beautiful brass candle lamp. The shiny chrome wrench set. The little camping table. The Camelbak.
After 10 years, you really do accumulate what translates to luxury while living in the back of a truck on an alkali flat.
(Does pizza freeze? Why do I always order too much?)