to start let’s say there’s the amazing of tens of thousands of people gathering in a desert to be and appreciate art. and there’s the problem of radical inclusivity via exclusivity, of anti-consumerism via Amazon Prime frenzy.
aside from those “of courses”, what I find lovely and special about burning man is just how barely-held-together everything is, and yet how well it all works. it’s that string of eL-wire that’s barely clinging to your fur coat, that little piece of string that’s literally the only thing holding up your art-DJ-booth, the little stuffed animal tenuously zip tied to your brake cables.
it’s an environment so chaotic and ephemeral that any tiny upgrade in the solidity or permanence of things can be directly appreciated as a genuine accomplishment. adding another screw to the two by four that holds the giant thermos of hot-cocoa to your four wheeled art bike; tying a slightly better knot on the guy line that is constantly being tested by fifty mile an hour wind gust; packing that one extra granola bar before you begin a 16 hour long adventure.
coming back into the default world we confront the fact that everything’s already _there_. it’s already buckled down, tied up, double-reinforced, and permanently secured: not only our structures, but our relationships, our identities, our futures.
life on the playa challenges us to identify less with what we built around us and more with what we can bring with us. what we can bring with us physically into the middle of the desert, on our backs as we trek through black rock city, and moreover, what we can bring with us, bare and naked, as we go about interacting with other humans. what can we bring by way of dance, ability to hear and heal, spark of intellect or adventure? How can we delight and contribute without the assistance of the all-to-solid structures that hold us on the pedestals we construct for ourselves in normal life?
the playa challenges us to consider how just being can be enough to be a contributor and not a mere observer. it encourages a deeper generosity of the moment, and a willingness to reach out and make an offer, rather than only to give when asked, and only to ask when absolutely essential.
when I went to the temple this year I was moved by the portrait of an old school burner. in the default world his name was john and on the playa he was sparkle pony. he sat there, smiling wide in a dusty arm chair in the middle of the desert with the oldschool man pavilion in the background.