Burning Man: An uprising of Love, Culture, Community, and radical self expression

       I have just returned from my fourth Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. For those who have never gone let me preface this writing with a quote from Laurie Anderson:”Talking about music is like dancing about architecture”. Indeed writing about Burning Man is like attempting to capture the ocean in a leaky bucket. That being said I will continue.

       Imagine you are having a dream that is being simultaneously generated by the subconscious minds of Salvador Dali, Jimi Hendrix, Dr. Seuss, Peter Sellers, George Clinton, and 30,000 other beings thoroughly rooted in the realm of spontaneous self creation. In this dream you are in a harsh desert environment complete with raging duststorms, intense heat, and cold nights. You are not alone though. There are thousands of other radical spirits like you, each trying to make this the most outrageously enjoyable dream/party/revolution/ritual ever. Collectively they have created incredible art installations, hundreds of roving party/art mobiles in every conceivable size, shape, and flavor, hundreds of insanely elaborate theme camps, and ridiculously amusing activities to enjoy. You find incredible fashion shows, swimming pools, roller rinks, game shows, spirit tuning rituals, healing body work, and life changing, soulful conversations wherever you go. And the Dancing. Practically every inch of this place is a dance floor erupting with more energy than any any you have ever been on before.
       Dub, hip hop, D&B, trance, house, funk, electro, and techno DJ’s are spinning everywhere from art cars, theme camps, and seemingly invisible locations unfindable within the normal confines of space-time. There are live stages everywhere with spontaneous improv jams. MC’s mix it up with horns and soulful grooves, afrobeats meat psychedelic rock, funk bubbles up into middle eastern dub, soul divas flow over dank house, impromptu jazz jams catch fire, and damn near any style of music imaginable jumps up and affectionatly bites you in the buttocks. The whole place takes on the form of some sort of futuristic city of sound, light, and love. You are in Black Rock city, home of Burning Man, and it is like no place on Earth.
       There are no spectators here, only paricipants. This party is whatever you want to make it. Anywhere your eyes land there are incredible displays of art, sculptures, lights, lazers, costumes, and other bold statements of humankind and taking its creative potential to a level never before imagined. All of these creative outbursts intermingle and feed off of eachothers energy. Nothing here is perceived in the isolated vacuum of everyday consciousness. Everything is part of a sensory overload that occurrs as you are surrounded by radical acts of self expression designed to awaken in all who witness them the realization that it is all of us who create reality. In this dream we are creating a new vision of Life more vibrant, aware, expressive, inclusive, imaginative, beautiful, bold, alive and transformative than any reality ever before created. In this place it is so glaringly obvious just how infinitly powerful, giving, and unlimited the love and creative spirit that exists in all of us truly is.
      Wherever you go you find examples of inspiring generosity. Cash is not the medium of exchange here. Barter, gifts, and random kindness fuels new models of social interaction. You meet a camp of fishermen who have brought in 2000 pounds of freshly caught salmon and tuna that they are grilling in a gourmet marinade and just giving away. A “flavor mobile” drives by and offers you any flavor you can imagine. Strangers invite you to a vegetarian dinner party and you can’t seem to shake the sensation that everyone here is your friend. During this week long dream you are offered such delicacies as sushi, sorbet, thai food, saki, middle eastern food, pasta, and watermelon. All over the city you find bars giving or bartering away drinks. Many of these bars are built into roaming vehicles complete with stages, dance floors, lounges, DJ’s or bands, and ridiculously creative themes.
       In this mysteriously vast desert you see giant sharks, magic carpets, living rooms on wheels, glowing worms, ornate dragon’s, flying saucers, and renegade pirate ships, just to name a few. At night the ceaseless parade of art cars takes on the appearance of a giant aquarium filled with glowing neon colored fish. The phrase free ride takes on new meaning here. Each vehicle and its sound system roams the expansively open stretch of desert called the playa where anything can happen. New friends are made on board, new neighborhoods and clubs discovered, and destinations never before dreamed of are arrived at without an ounce of effort. Everyone here has a ticket to ride.
       You jump on a mad max like flame throwing vehicle and end up at a far away installation called the Temple of Gravity. Here you find a raging hip hop party has broken out that gives new meaning to the phrase “rockin’ out”. You see some of the nastiest bay area hip hop DJ’s throwing down at a dance floor where slabs of granite weighing thousands of pounds are suspended above the dance floor by chains and a thin metal structure. While deceptively safe, it appears to be the ultimate way to dance on the edge. Should the granite fall for any reason the dancers below would be crushed. To add to the insanely fearless vibe there are scads of people dancing atop the granite slabs, making them bounce and swing wildly in an astonishingly death defying gesture of unrepentant funkiness. People from all over the world are here at this party and you truly feel that this place is both everywhere and nowhere all at once.
       On another occasion you jump on a double decker bus that has been converted into roving opium den lounge. After bouncing around the main drags and inner playa you are taken to the outer limits of Black Rock City where you find others who have gathered for a spontaneous dance party at sunrise. Each person you meet here seems to bring back some long lost but sorely needed life wisdom. Pieces of your soul come floating back to you in each experience you have. The walls of everyday society have been triumphantly demolished. There is no class, racial, or religious differences. Just beautiful souls who are surviving the struggles of a harsh environment together in the most creatively positive ways imaginable.
       Love here takes on new dimensions. No longer trapped in the context of one on one romantic encounters(though there is plenty of this going on) Love is freed up to exist in a million different forms, each one helping to release the spirit from the limiting confines of expectation. Love can appear here as a soul bonding conversation, a suprisingly thoughtful gift, affectionate and loving contact from a friend, a spectacular sunrise, unexpected yet necesary help, or an incredibly inspiring work of art.
      This desert has a powerful healing energy that can’t be denied. One cannot be surrounded by so much Love, creativity, beauty, freedom, and sexiness without having there own wounds and issues jump to the surface. Any residual negative energy one is holding onto that prevents them from being fully present in this moment undoubtedly makes itself known, sometimes unexpectedly and painfully so. The beautiful thing though is that the environment here is one where this is expected and people go out of there way to help eachother acknowledge, heal, and release their inner pain. Friends help eachother process deep seated emotional traumas,  the community looks out for its members, and there is always a serious session of dance therapy awaiting anyone who needs it. Others volunteer reiki, massage, and energy work. No one is alone here unless they decide to subscribe to that particular illusion. Not only is one given valuable insight into their own unconsciously imposed limitations, but also the tools to heal it. This is much more than any other social gathering has ever attempted to be in our Western culture. This is an elixir that revitalizes the core creative essence in our being that has atrophied in commodified society. At times Burning Man feels like the final answer to that eternal question:”Why?”.
       Then there is the Burning of the Man itself. While this incredibly intense ritual takes on different meanings to different people, it is an undeniably powerful release of energy. What is the energy that is being released? It is the freeing of the past and all its unfufilled expectations. It is the freeing of our inner pain as it is transformed into new light. It is the obliteration of former limits of perception we unkowingly subscribed to. It is our creative potential becoming aware of and in tune with itself. It is the full restoration of ritual sacredness to Life itself. It is the abolition of an arbitrarily imposed sense of a singular, isolated self and its replacement with an empowered sense of unified community. It is the release of a new self. The birth of a new and unified tribal mindset. It is whatever you decide you want it to be and so much more than you ever could have imagined. Burning Man is the antidote to all the half assed flawed concepts of life and reality that humanity has allowed itself to be suckered into. Burning Man is the single biggest “Fuck You” to that ubiquitous oppressor,”the Man”, ever conceived of.
       Remember that party that you went to where all the walls broke down and all the old rules no longer applied? The music was alive, the crowd was one, and the energy just simply would not stop? Remember just how magical, vibrant, and alive the whole party felt, as if it had taken on a Life of its own? Remember how changed you felt after it, as if things could never be looked at the same way again, as if you had regained some lost ability to see truth and Love more clearly? Burning Man is like a thousand such parties simultaneously blowing up into and out of eachother, creating an entire city of that energy that burns to the ground any belief that we are anything less than the creative Love and Magic of Life itself. Stop sleeping. Come dream with us. www.burningman.com

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