The experience at Burning Man is really undescribable.
Organizers bill the festival as “an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance.” I guess this as good way to think about it.
There are so many ways that it is radically different then the ‘default world’ that it just becomes hard to explain. I have many friends and aquaintances who have been to Burning Man or are Burners (people who self identify as part of the community and go again and again). I guess I never really sat any of them down to ask ‘what is it like’ I had a few impressions based on tidbits I had heard about but it was really just out of this world.
Trees – The first thing I did when we stopped at a rest stop on our way to Reno from Burning Man was to hug a tree. There are none of those in the desert except flaming mettle ones. It was just so amazing to see this life growing out of the earth. When I got home I marvlled at the flowers in our yard and the vines on our fence.
Earth – The earth at burning man is really present. The Playa is flat and present. You can’t help but feel the earth. The techno and music going kind of creates this beat that you feel from her. I was awake early for sun rise on Sunday morning. It was amazing with the cathedral gave an extra sort of awe to the whole sun rising experience. The feelings evoked were deep indescribable making tears well up.
Little bits of Magic – That morning I decided to go all the way out to Hope street and bikc back along the outside. Between 2:00 and 7:00 there is walk in camping along the edges. This is one place to camp if you want quite way out on the edge. I biked along found this little sanctuary. It was just a normal tent you might find in a famers market. It had underneith it a white carpet and a white couch (that was an old car back car seet) and several lovely white pillows. A white table and with a buddha in the middle. They had drapped wide white cloth streamers hanging down from the edges and a wind chime hung in the middle. The white streamers where waving in the wind and the chime dinged away…like little fairy bells. I was very tired and decided to stop and rest on the pillows for about half an hour it was lovely. It was these sort of spontanious goodnesses that just seem to be normal here that make Burning Man so great.
Navigation on the Playa – Burning Man is laid out in a circle . I really loved orienting to things this way. It gets you out of the ‘grid’ of the default world and gets you thinking organically. In the middle is ‘The Man’ at 12 o’clock is the temple and at 6 o’clock is center camp. At 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock there is a path out to the man and within the streets a circle of theme camps. Camping happens between 10:00 and 2:00. The space between 10 and 2 extends out into ‘deep plya’ and is where much of the art is. The street facing the Man is called the Esplnad. It is like a promonade where a lot of the evening activities happen. Then there was Anxious, Brave, Chance, Destiny, Eager, Fate, Guess, Hope. All addresses had a ‘time’ location and a Street.
Mutant Vehicles – Their are no normal cars at Burning Man. They are wonderously different. There are 30 foot high motorized tricycles, bunny rabbit vans, carrot cars, motorized couches, clouds, so many…you almost never see the same one twice. Out here in the default world they seem so boring. If you have a vision of a car…this is a great place to make it for and drive around for a week. Just get it approved by the Department of Mutant Vehicals.
Theme Camps range vastly relfecting a wide diversity if human experience and interest. Math Camp was for Mathematicians, Evolutionary Center was folks working with evolutionary consiousness, Pancake playhouse served pancakes every morning, the list goes on and on and on….
My Theme Camp – Sustainabilaville I stayed in Sustainabilaville at 8:15 and Eager. We had a tower made out of scafolding 5 high. Hanging from that was aluminet fabric that was invented in Israel to protect crops from the sun. We had 50% block for our morning light and 75% blog for the afternoon. On either side we had costco barns – one for the kitchen the other for our vanity and cloths. Our tents were under the morning side of the lilluminet and on the afternoon side facing the street we had a great living room area.
Identity on the Playa. This is really interesting. Most folks have a playa name – they range from Ra to Alphabetty, to . One of the reasons for this is that messages written in the playa info system are all publically avaliable on the web. One might participate in life activities on the playa that one does not want tied back to ones ‘default’ world name.
Resourcefulness and Creativity– Everyone brings all they need to survive for a week on the Playa. Food, Water and other Supplies. The only thing you can buy at Burning Man are Ice from ‘antarctica’ and coffee or tea at the Center Camp. Other then this no cash changes hands on the Playa. This makes for an interesting week..no cash yet total abundance and creativity. People gift each other all kinds of things, stickers, bandanas, CD’s, food, music, art.
I would totally recommend Going to Burning Man if you can. I am going to work on organizing a theme camp near sustainabiliaville (based on there successful model of ‘how to do an oasis in the desert) for folks in the Planetwork and Identity communities who would like to go – go together. Feel free to ping me if you are interested.
The things that might bug you and how to deal with them on the Playa.
Dust. No question the playa is a dusty place. Water is a precious and not really bantied about as it is in regular life. Never leave camp without your googles and dust mask. you never know when a dust storm will pick up. If you have these two things you will be fine.
If you really want an escape from the dust you could rent an RV. To me this is a sort of cop out from actually being in the Playa. RV’s have showers.
You can set up your own shower and have a grey water evaporation system to avoid hauling all the water you used off the playa.
The one thing that was just great and basically helped me stay clean the whole time was (clorine free) baby wipes. Just use two of those to wipe your whole body down and you are clean as you need to be. Bring moisturizer and use it liberally. Minimize the exposure of your feet the Playa.
You can augment any of the above once every few days running behind one of the trucks that drives by spraying water on the roads to keep the dust down. (the problem with this is you have to hear a truck coming strip down in time and run behind the truck….down side your feet get way muddy.)
You know I was sort of dreading porto-potying for a week but was surprised. The contractors are really on top of keeping up with the traffic as it where, so they were really not that bad. They had germ gel to squirt on your hands after you go.
Nudity and Sex You have to be ok with seeing people naked – men and women. Having said that most people are not naked all the time. It is not uncommon to see penis shapes protruding from art cars or guys just wearing extra penis/balls on there costumes. I saw at least two guys dressed up as big penis’. Women walk around topless too and even nude. After a few days all of this sort of just recedes into the background and you can basically ignore it. It is sort of obvious where the sex and fetish camps are – if you aren’t into that stuff don’t go to their camps. There is so much more happening in Burning Man…you will find plenty of other interesting things to do.
Be prepared to be continually fascinated by new things. They come out of everywhere. All over. After a week of my return I find myself a week later looking at the world with a renewed sence of wonder – almost child like but perhaps more deeply conscious then that.
The experience at Burning Man is really undescribable.