Although Burning Man may seem like nothing more than an annual gathering of individuals who get literally down and dirty on the playa, it can be a semi-awe inspiring pilgrimage. For Black Rock is to Burners, as Graceland is to Elvis fans, and dare I mention as Mecca is to a Muslim.
This is the quietest camp site at Burning Man. It is at the base of Black Rock and more than 20 miles away from the Man.
For those of you who do not know, Burning Man is an annual venue in the Nevada desert where tens of thousand people from around the world gather together and build a temporary city. The city, built in the middle of a dry lake bed called the playa, contains some great works of art and lots of not so great works of art (basically just decorations for a lot of sex and drugs). For one week Burning Man participants revel around the art which is spread out on the vast expanse of the playa.
One major rule of Black Rock City is, no money. Since it is not possible to buy or sell anything, all Burning Man participants must bring enough supplies to survive for a week (if you need some thing ya have to barter or if ya have too much stuff ya simply gift stuff away). At the end of the week the art is destroyed at night in raging conflagrations which dot the playa. These fires of burning art twinkle all around the playa for as far as the eye can see, like stars in the night sky.
In a world where it seems much of the media and society glorifies material objects, Burning Man participants take perverse pleasure in creating labor of love objects and then destroying them.
Because Illumination Village (my home at Burning Man) was a stones throw away from IMHO too many darn techo clubs (at Black Rock City 2002 there seemed to be one on every corner kind of like Star Bucks and McDonalds in the real world), Dr. Mega Volt and Thunder Dome, I felt the need to find some peace and quiet to get away from the sensory overload of Black Rock City. The out I found (courtesy of the Earth Guardians) was a visit to Black Rock to stand watch at the springs.
Ever hear of the expression loving a place to death? Well that is what would happen if just a fraction of the population of Black Rock City decided to use the springs. FYI in order to get a permit from the BLM, Burning Man participants are not allowed to use the springs.
The night I stood watch over the springs I realized that the human mind is a double-edged sword which has the ability to simultaneously create and destroy long held ideas, beliefs and objects (such as objects of art constructed on the playa).
Looking up into the night sky, I thought about the Earth-centered Universe of Aristotle and Ptolemy which held sway on Western thinking and religion for almost 2000 years. That is until Nicolai Copernicus in the 16th century created a model of the solar system which explained both the varying brightness of the planets and retrograde motion. The Copernican system banished the idea that the Earth was the center of the Solar System, and in effect it said that mankind was not at the center of the universe (much to the chagrin of religious leaders at the time). Here an idea created by Copernicus laid to waste to ideas created by ancient philosophers.
Likewise I also thought about Darwin's "Origin of Species" published in the 19th century, which stated that biological types or species do not have a fixed, static existence but exist in permanent states of change and flux. In other words our human existence on earth could end in the blink of an eye, and there exists the possibility that our death as a species could be by the very technology we create. As a whole we humans have the ability to think of abstract ideas, and if sufficiently motivate we can then turn those abstract ideas into real physical objects or devices to do with as we wish (sometimes with unintended consequences).
Looking down on Black Rock City off in the distance, perched all alone on Black Rock itself in the dead of the night, I thought about my fellow participants and realized that they all:
want to be free, healthy and happy
try to avoid hurting other people
hope to find good friends and true love
wish to leave the (playa and) world a better place
These trite expressions are universal themes burners, Elvis fans, capitalists, socialists, christians, jews, muslims, etc. might agree on when asked the question, "what is the meaning of life?" So you see we have some things in common with out fellow man no matter where we grew up or what our political or religious beliefs are. And there ya have my Burning Man epiphany for this year.
F.Y.I. Larry Harvey (founder and chief spokesperson) once told a journalist that the Burning Man "Representing nothing, the Man becomes tabula rasa: any meaning may be projected onto him." Thought I would mention this, just in case ya took my ramblings as Burning Man dogma. Bottom line if ya have not been to Burning Man, don't go expecting too much, the experience might change your life or it might suck. If you are seeking peace, love and understanding you might find it at Black Rock City, along with sex, drugs, techo music (which is not a bad thing in moderation), fire, and creative methods of blowing shit up.