|It's hard to believe I did this for ten years. Ten years of anything
is a long time. Some folks might think ten years of traveling across country
to sleep in a desert was kind of crazy. Some folks might have a case for
that. The year 2013 marked the tenth year I attended the Burning Man festival.
(I skipped 2007 because my wife and I went on a trip to England.)
After my first visit, it seemed important enough to create a web page. I soon realized there was a lot of country between me and the Black Rock Desert. There were places to visit, things to do, and I wanted to see as much as I could. Too often, I'm afraid, I zoomed through amazing places with little time to stay and look around. But that didn't bother me. What it did was remind me what to look out for next time I was in the neighborhood. I've seen mountains and deserts, walked through ancient sites, met amazing people, and counted stars in an endless sky.
|Did I learn anything after all those years? Did I bring anything back
from the desert with me? A thing or two, I think.
I'd seen domes my whole life, but before Burning Man I never really thought about how to build one. I never sat down to calculate how much food I ate in a week, how much water I needed to drink, cook and bathe, and how much space it all took up. I'd never spent so much time on the road alone before. Before Burning Man, I'd see homeless people sleeping on grates inches from a busy highway, and wondered how they could possibly sleep with all the noise. Now I know: when you're tired enough, you can sleep anywhere. Some of the happiest -- and saddest -- moments of my life have been in the Black Rock Desert. The experience has opened my eyes in so many areas.
I used to think Burning Man was a place where people had the freedom to take off the masks they wear in everyday life, to cast aside the trivial self-images that can stifle our individuality. Now, I think Burning Man is also a place where people have a chance to put on the masks they've always wanted to wear, to try out new experiences in a non-judgemental environment, and perhaps become the person they've always wanted to be.
People like to say there are two types of people who attend Burning Man: participants and spectators. The participants are the people who pitch in, who help plan, the people who put things together. They organize the camps, gather the gear, put up the tents, create the art, play music, volunteer to help, cook the food, organize events, clean up afterwards, and help keep people safe. Stuff gets done because of participants. Things happen. ...And then, there are the spectators. The spectators show up, listen to the music, look at the art, eat the food, drink the booze, dance at the raves, use the porta potties, and are basically there to sit back, relax and be entertained. Spectators might be part of the process, but they don't really contribute anything to the process. Burning Man works as well as it does because of everybody that pitches in to make it work.
The same dynamic can be applied to business or politics or personal relationships: no matter what the idea, concept or position, sooner or later, somebody needs to step up --participate-- and put the nuts and bolts together for anything to happen. Somebody has to do the work, or nothing gets done. It might be a lot of work, but anything worthwhile is worth working for. That's what Burning Man has taught me: If more people pitched in and participated in the process --and weren't just along for the ride-- more stuff would get done. It's as simple as that.
This links below will direct you to the web pages of my Burning Man trip reports. After this, I'm not going to be posting any more reports. Well, not here, anyway. I'll post pictures on Facebook and write about it in my blog, but I think ten years of reports is enough to create web pages about. People might start thinking I was bragging about it.
|Oh, one more lesson: always wear shoes when going to the porta
potties. Trust me on this one.