Archive for November, 2012

Crossposted at BurnerLove.com

This was my second year at Burning Man and it was just as magical as the first. I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around what exactly makes it such a powerful, profound experience for so many. Here’s the four things that seem to have the most transformative effects.

1. The Community
2. The Art
3. The Ritual
4. The Show

The Community

The first is that feeling of community and camaraderie that a lot of people miss in modern society. It’s reminiscent of my childhood when it seemed like everyone was nice and trying to help me. People smile, they wave, they hug, and they help. I’ve never seen so much generosity from strangers as I have at Burning Man.

For example, my back bike wheel was broken and wouldn’t even pedal. I was dragging it to one of the official repair shops when I stumbled upon one.. It was not really a listed bike shop, just a guy with two friends, a couple of tools and some spare bikes. I asked him if he could fix my bike and not only did he work on it for the next hour, he told me I could just drop it off, play around, and then come back whenever I was ready. By the time I came back it was in perfect condition and he even moved the bike spoke lights I had on it!

I asked him why he did this. He emphasized, “This is the type of thing that can really make or break somebody’s Playa experience. I want to help make that.”

The Art
If someone else can make a mini golf course or a bowling alley in the middle of the desert or an art car that looks like an Octopus, shoots out fire, and is made of scrap metal, there really are no limits to what YOU can do. It really elevated my belief about what’s possible.

 El Pulpo Mechanico

Movie Theater

The Man Burn

The Ritual

Ritual is attached to everything at Burning Man. Ritual imbues importance onto things. The rituals help guide life in Black Rock City – everything from getting a Playa name to the Temple Burn is steeped in this. “Rituals arise in a community and try to give direction to and set boundaries for the behavior of human beings”1 Getting a Playa name helps give you the opportunity to take on a new identity, a new life. The Temple Burn is a tribute to those who have passed away. The rolling around in the dust for newbies and hitting the bell upon entrance indicates that something amazing and new is going to happen. Burning Man creates a world and has its own lingo – like Moop or Darktard or playa foot – and this makes its world insular in a sense but also more connected.

Opening Ritual 2:

Opening Ritual 

The Show

The best part about it is that nothing is handed to you. It’s not Coachella or Outside Lands where you are handed an experience that you paid for. At Burning Man, you are the experience. The org only provides the infrastructure, the Temple, and the Man. That art car you had a blast on or that kick ass self improvement workshop or that guy handing you a margarita as you walked down a street are just the result of someone else who wanted to give you that experience. You are the show, not Radiohead.

1 H. Barbara Boudewijnse & Hans-Gunter Heimbrock. Current Studies on Rituals: Perspectives for the Psychology of Religion.
2 Photo Credit: hannavas, http://www.flickr.com/photos/30657818@N05/3929995216/


Read Full Post »

On Thursday November 15, I attended the Gift Circle workshop at Burning Man Headquarters.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – I had never been to a gifting circle before. I didn’t even really know what it was. I assumed it had to do with the Burning Man ethos of a gift society (as opposed to bartering, which is what most people think it is). I thought it was going to be a lecture or examples of cultures that gifting is popular.

I was pleasantly surprised by what it actually was. They had you partner with someone you didn’t know and discuss this sheet that they had of universal human needs. It was interesting to get a perspective on those from someone you do not know. The main part though was to discuss needs & gifts.

The next steps were for everyone to say what they needed from someone else. Some were around actual physical things – needing help getting a bike fixed or cleaning a garage. Some were more abstract around getting advice with family relations or wanting to collaborate with people on a project. Even though most people just met, they really opened up which made it a great environment to connect.

After, everyone went around and introduced what they could contribute to the group. I learned the many talents of people in the room and that people are incredibly generous in what they are willing to offer. Furthermore, it was insightful to see that most people want to offer services or teach someone a skill rather than offer an item like a book or something.

It was definitely a great event to check out that I’d recommend to anyone. The follow up on actually giving or receiving the gifts is the most important part, which is why when this is usually done it is with a regular group that meets. But, the environment definitely encourages this followup. The facilitators also make it extremely easy to do so through sharing everyone’s email and creating an environment in which everyone feels comfortable.Who knows – maybe you’ll find your next collaborator for that project of yours or your future mentor!

There was also a part on crafting items, but I did not go to that part.

Read Full Post »

Saturday the 27th, one of the most magical events happened: Ghost Ship. This is thrown by the Space Cowboys and Sunset Promotions, who also bring the wonderful Sunset Parties, Sunset Boat, and Sea of Dreams.

Complete photostream:  http://bit.ly/WJyAzH

The event took place on Treasure Island, in the same huge hangar that the Opulent Party happened in June. This venue is undoubtedly one of the finest in San Francisco and I am always excited for an event there. It is huge and can have several stages while also having plenty of space for people to sit, lie, find weird nooks and crannies, and have lots of outdoor space.

The event was done really smoothly. Getting there was easy – the shuttles operated from 1st and Tehama which was smart since that is extremely close to the freeway and allows the shuttles to go back and forth quickly. When I got to the shuttle at 10:45, there was no line and it didn’t seem like anyone was waiting outside when we left. The water was cheap and they had fountains that were pretty easy to access. The only downside was that it was hard to find a map of the venue to see where the different areas were. Though in some senses that did add to the mystery of it.

When I stepped in, it felt like being at the Playa all over again. The art cars, the LEDs, the blaring bass all combined to give me an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia, happiness, and that unique feeling of freedom you get from the Playa. One of the art structures they brought out was near my camp and was the reminder that I was back home after being out after a long night.

Captivating view from above.

Beautiful art car at Ghost Ship

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t paying that much attention to the music. According to everyone I talked to and the snippets I was paying attention for, it was really good. They did play some songs that were not pure dubstep – I definitely heard ‘Gangam Style’ at one point.

The main aspects that made the event so great was the vibe, the art, and all the fun ass shit to do. The community that this event attracts is definitely fun and open to meeting new people and is more about the music and art than anything else. The art was interesting – there were everything from giant marionettes to the art cars to those LED umbrellas that just looked stunning.

Elegant LED Umbrellas

As some described it to me “It was a big playground” – just like the Playa. It also had a lot of things that we missed because it was so vast and fairly intricate (again like the Playa). I saw a silent disco, tons of platforms and stands and spaceships to go on top, 5 stages, a swinging rope thing. There were also lots of places to lie down and rest if you did not feel like running around or dancing. I remember the Hookahdome had a bunch of pillows and couch seats lying around that sort of had a cuddle puddle thing going on by the time I got there around 3 am. The stand on top of the big square LED thing with the arms sticking out also had a great lookout point as well as pillows. It is in the picture below on the right side. It was somewhere on the Esplanade between 9 and 10 this year.

Look at all the lights!

The art cars were awesomely decorated and some did play music. Only one thing was a bummer – they didn’t move. I know, it’s not their fault – they can’t exactly just drive people around Treasure Island. Being in them though was a happy reminder of floating across the Playa blasting music while you danced on top. Ah the memories. Ghost Ship did a great job of not only evoking those memories but creating new ones for everyone to remember.

Read Full Post »