As I write this, I’m flying above the clouds over New York City and still feeling high from an incredible seven day Burning Man experience in the remote Black Rock Desert in Nevada. That one week transformed me profoundly, just as it has thousands of other souls who have made the annual pilgrimage to this oasis of humanity and creativity.
Since Burning Man two weeks ago I’ve cheerfully weathered my baggage being lost, being stuck in rush hour traffic in NYC without air conditioning and having my clients locked out of a major event – all with good cheer and empathy. Before Burning Man (B.M.) I can only imagine the bitching, griping and negativity I would have spewed.
I’ve changed and I have a new found love of life and humanity. I hope and pray that I stay stuck this way for the rest of my life.
If I sound like a born again Christian it’s because Burning Man at its soulful best is a spiritual experience in which we rediscover our faith in humanity, life and ourselves. But this soulful experience is free from all the typical religious guilt, dogma and creeds.
I went looking for the “American Dream” at the Burning Man Festival. But I found much more than a vividly alive American Dream. I found humanity. Burning Man renewed my faith in the goodness of life and human beings when we are free from repression, materialism and competition. It can sometimes be hard to see the beauty in life and humans when you are jockeying for position in rush hour traffic or scurrying through a soulless strip mall.
At Burning Man I felt the naked truth that people, life and the Universe, when they are free to be, are amazing miracles. The Burning Man experience is so beautiful and profoundly moving that it can move a grown man to cry. I know because it happened to me.
The beauty of this powerful and liberating revelation overwhelmed me on day five as the sun rose over the mountains and light up the desert playa. The beauty of life, humans at their best and pure natural beauty couldn’t no longer be contained within me or repressed. All my feelings came streaming out in tears of joy, like the tears of a prisoner released from captivity and seeing the sun from outside their cell for the first time in decades.
Those near me gave me heart felt hugs and said “Welcome home brother”. On that glorious morning I became a “Burner”, who as they say “gets it”. I had come home to myself and the powerful realization of how beautiful people and life can and should be. In the “real world” these people would be called strangers. But out in the middle of the desert playa we were all soul mates. A full account of this tearful transformation at Burning man is at “Born Again“.
The seven day party that some dismiss as a giant drug induced orgy is really a celebration of humanity, creativity and life itself. Burning Man is a state of mind that can live far beyond the Black Rock Desert and well past one week. As the true Burners say “take it with you when you leave”.
When the almost 50,000 participants return home to virtually every corner of this world many of them carry it with them and share it with those they encounter. Some Burners even participate in “Burners without borders” and donate themselves and their spirit of generosity to those who are victims of natural disasters. And when Burners return to Burning Man each year they welcome each other home, as in “home is where the heart is”.
When Burners say “Welcome home Brother (or Sister)” they don’t mean to a particular place on earth but in our hearts. Returning to Burning Man and the Black Rock Desert each year is about returning to your best self and renewing your vows to take your best self back into the world to shine and make it the world we know it can be.
Burning Man says to those who come – be whoever you want to be or need to be. But be genuine. Be real. The symbol of the Burning Man is of a human being with arms stretching up into the sky. To me it says burn bright human beings. Lift your hands and heart up into the sky and burn beautifully and rise again from the ashes to do it again and again year after year.
I believe that we humans can and have created both Heaven and Hell here on planet earth. Burning Man was the closest experience of heaven that I’ve experienced here on earth. Where else can you spend one week with thousands of the coolest most turned on people on the planet and have your needs and dreams fulfilled without ever spending a dime?
Unlike the “real world” where “money talks”, at Burning Man money is practically useless since everyone is giving themselves and what they have freely. The real currency of exchange at Burning Man is you. People are interested in you and your ideas. The often corrosive and bullying power of money has no business at Burning Man.
Now doesn’t experiencing perfect strangers who are truly interacting and sharing rather than transacting sound like Heaven to you? Doesn’t experiencing the social barriers of class, gender and race as irrelevant sound like Heaven to you? Burning Man proved to me that such a Heaven is possible.
Some year I want to take a leap of faith into the arms of humanity and parachute naked into the Black Rock Desert. I know and trust that within minutes of hitting the ground the Universe would provide everything from a toothbrush to all the essentials of food, water, love, brotherhood and ecstasy.
I no longer intend to say, “have a good time”. From now on I intend to say “be a good time” because we make the good times within us and all around us. I am overjoyed to be a “Burner”. I can’t wait to return next year and bring those I love to share all the beauty with them and watch their inner beauty burn brightly in the desert.
I will always take Burning Man with me where ever I go.
Burning Man 2009
I’m looking forward to going home to Black Rock City for the 2009 Burning Man Festival. This year I’ll be camping out in “Bat Country” with this year’s Roads Scholars, some close friends and a fantastic group of truly gonzo burner’s. To view our plans for the 2009 Burning Man during the first week of September, click here.
To see more photos of Burning Man from 2001 to 2008 from Michael Olsen “FireFingers” visit ZorkMagazine.