The green man himself.
How do you explain Burning Man?
I thought I wouldn’t fall into the pretentious “you have to go there to get it” type responses, but when I tried to explain it, I realized no matter how detailed I went into the story it couldn’t capture the millions of angles and facets of the experience. Even when you’re there it’s impossible to understand or comprehend what’s fully going on.
Burning Man is like standing in a pool of shotguns, which are all loaded with creativity, connection, and expression and firing at you at the same time. So much stimulation, activity, spirituality, humanity, interconnection, and entertainment goes on all at once, it completely overwhelms your senses.
If I were to sum it up in one short thought, Burning Man is the closest place in our world where imagination and reality intersect.
Every step you take leads you to a place where a person or group of people have created something purely for the sake of creation, interaction, and fun. Each smile you see (thousands upon thousands) leads you to a human connection you may have missed out in the “default” world. All the amazing people you meet are operating at a pure, open form and it feels really good to be around.
To describe burning man is to describe it in tiny, microscopic slivers.
At Burning Man, you’re surviving in a harsh, barren desert with 60,000+ other people, all while wearing crazy costumes and wrapping your face in bandanas, dusk masks, and goggles to protect from the dust storms and wind, exploring from day to night (and rarely sleeping), all while taking care of other people, yourself, gifting water, food, presents, hugs, and love for the sake of gifting, not leaving a trace of trash on the desert floor, while learning about your strengths and weaknesses and interacting with tons of people in an organically positive way, and so forth.
I could write 100 pages about the art I saw, but that wouldn’t touch on the intense human connections and relationships that unfolded. I could tell you about the powerful self reflection Burning Man creates in each attendee, but that wouldn’t touch on the non-stop partying and dancing that goes on. I could talk about the night times full of endless womp-womp electronic music, but that wouldn’t touch on the incredible life-changing discussions, the spiritual and creative workshopping, the mind-blowing art creations rolling around the desert, or the small circles of powerful conversation that leave your brain echoing off itself.
There are just too many aspects to it that speaking on any single one leaves out hundreds of others that are integrally important. So, I’ll try to lead you through one tiny thread of a burning man experience that would be exciting for someone to read. I’ll focus on the nonstop art that surrounds every burner.
Our camp’s Desert Flower art car and our donut shaped tent structure.
Once you pass the entrance gates, everything inside Black Rock City is free and gifted and most everything is interactive. You’re encouraged to say “yes” to everything that crosses your path and constantly break out of your comfort zone. The whole society operates on giving and it really works. It feels amazing.
So to give an example of a morning at Burning Man… you wake up at 8am because the sun is burning up your tent, you bring your cup (you MUST bring a cup everywhere), load up on a delicious Chocolate Mocha Latte at the coffee camp next door, have epic morning conversations with your camp mates and then set off on your playa bike…
What an unreal experience to bike through cracked, white desert and see a magnificent, 30-foot tall steel wolf statue howling at the sky, and then one hundred yards later you pull up to a giant “Char Wash Machine” where a group of people are locked in a gate and gigantic spinning metal arms rotate around them spraying out streams of fire and heating them up like a “Car wash” but it’s a… “Char Wash” …and then you bike a little further, you pass 3 naked people covered in brilliant body paint, pass a man in a glowing white fur coat with giant neon alien eyes and a purple top hat, pass a woman with multicolored hair and bright, crystal eyes, pass the most creative costume you’ve ever seen in your life, pass a 30-foot swordfish skeleton with triggers to push so people can make it move in different directions, and you arrive at a larger-than-life statue of the word “BELIEVE” which people are crawling all over and sleeping on top of, and then you look up at the enormous, wooden spaceship in the center of the entire city which has 4 levels and hundreds of people walking up inside of it to look at the giant, glowing Green man who stands on top as a symbol of the experience and then slide down the giant slides which shoot out of the structure in various directions to pop out on the thick, white desert floor…
You jump back on your multi-colored green-and-red lit up bike, pass the most beautiful 70+foot statue of a translucent dancing woman, roll across another section of desert while a giant set of glowing Lips and Teeth roll past you one direction, a large furry caterpillar with a couch and 12 electro-hippies singing and dancing on it’s fuzzy back passes the other way, a three-story mutant car in the shape of a bottle covered in TV screens rolls by with people dancing and partying on the roof (which has a full service bar on it) blasting house music, and then from the other direction is that crazy steam-punk, fiery octopus again! blasting balls of vertical fire to the beat of nearby music stages and laughing at you from it’s multiple faces!…and then a parade of naked people run by and you arrive at a telephone booth that says “Talk With God” and you pick it up and you talk with God, and then you bike back to the playa and come up to an old wooden church, which is crooked in the air because one end is lifted 20 feet high so rows of wooden seats are exposed inside and lead up to a stage where a beautiful, old organ with epic, tangled rolls of sheet music spring out in every direction skywards and anyone can come up and play an impromptu performance (they end up burning this church to the ground a few days later) and then you go back to the city and the cutest girl in the world with pink-blue-and-purple hair screams through a megaphone at you, “Get off your bike and have a coconut ice cream cone with whipped cream!!” so you jump off, hug 10 people around you, scarf down the ice cream, someone shoots whipped cream in your mouth, and then you jump back on the bike and end up at an “Accupressure Massage Workshop” which lasts 2 hours and half of that time you get massaged and the other half you learn how to give a great massage, and then it turns out afterwards they are doing an Acroyoga workshop, and then you meet a group of Russians, Kiwis, and a gal from Vancouver who all want to hop around the different camps and you find yourself at the Skinny Kitty Tea House which serves 6 different types of tea under a beautifully constructed tent structure where 3 women are doing aerial Cirque du Soleil style tricks on ribbons of fabric from the ceiling while some random guy with an afro sits at a dusty piano and plays the most beautiful music you’ve heard all day and the acrobats sync their dancing to it and you bike 3 more blocks to your camp where the most amazing people you randomly fell into camping with are building their own 30-foot tall gigantic moving Flower Art Car with 20-foot glowing petals and a giant metal dome you can sit on as it drives around the majestic playa, but you pass it and walk to one of your camp’s three lounges that one of your campmates brought in a trailer across the country and set up full of tons of pillows and lights and couches and shade and you pass out on a large, pink beanbag for an hour before setting off again…
…and when you wake up you realize it’s only 2pm and you’re probably going to stay up until the sun rises.
One of the only photos captured of me at BM. Silver leotard on the glowing flower art car.
That was about 1% of what happened at Burning Man. Next I could tell you about the personal revelations, the intense conversations and connections I made with people, the reflections on what life could be like, and the lessons learned from Burning Man which you can integrate back into the “real” world…
But…. that’s all for another blog post.
During the 9hr car exodus at the end of Burning Man (which normally takes 20min) we had some epic street dance parties.
The glowing, neon-city at night with the man.