I must confess right off the bat that at first I was more than a little uncertain about the Heart of Burning Man this year.
This was my 6th time going to this unique community experience and festival. My previous years attending were ’98, ’99, and 2000, with not choosing to go again until 2014, ’15, and now ’16.
Out of all of the previous times I’ve gone, this was the first time I’d been genuinely worried that Burning Man will have ‘jumped the shark’ for me—that the essential energy and ‘magic’-ness will have been snuffed out through the ‘newbies’, party people, and yes, materialism and greed.
The first time that I was truly concerned about my personal experience of it; that even though I might keep a stiff upper lip and a hopeful outlook, that I would ultimately leave the event—possibly early—disappointed, frustrated, and more than a little heartbroken.
The first time that I chided my fellow burners when posing One. At. A. Time. at a large rainbow-colored arch art installation:
“You can all come in at once, y’know! This art is meant to be interacted with, not posed with!”, etc. It frustrated me. All of the burners there (about 9 people or so—some couples, some singles) wanted to pose under this beautiful arch and had to do it alone, that is, with no one else (strangers) in the picture. If anyone else entered the area (like myself, which I did 3 separate times to interact with the sculpture—I wanted to touch it, stand there and breathe under it, look at it from up close, etc.) they would walk a few paces out of the area until it was empty again (i.e., after I had left ‘the frame’). Everyone was civil. Everyone was patient. And I assume, everyone loved their pictures. Ugh.
And I kept looking for the innate creativity, that was always so easy to find before. After all, everyone here is an artist; everyone’s a creator. I greeted others loudly as I rode my bike, in a cheeky British accent: “Well, hello there! Good morning/afternoon/evening to you!”, and, more often than not was met with a complete ignoring. Chris thought that perhaps they hadn’t heard me, but a lot of them did, I know it. I thought that they just didn’t care.
I was truly scared (for the first time) that the heart of Burning Man might be withering away; or that it could be in cardiac arrest, gasping for us all to give, give, give—not just take, not just consume, not just watch. I spoke about my fear with anyone who would listen: how can we sustain the ‘old-school’ Burning Man culture, if they keep allowing such a large amount of all-new people in each year? How can the New learn without Those Who Have Gone Before to teach them?
And then, I had my Burning Man Moment. Yes, it happened on Saturday, quite late in the week. The day of the Burn, and also the day I happened to have nosebleeds and diarrhea and needed to stay in the motorhome. But the Moment happened. And then another, and another. I felt better. I was infused with a new Energy, and it just kept comin’. I’m not going to go into details about my experience (at least not right now), but when you get a Burning Man moment you know. It feels Special, things are clear to you, and All is Right with The World.
And interestingly, enough, once this changed for me, my outlook changed. My health changed. My experience of Burning Man changed, and I was no longer frustrated with my fellow Burners! I was very content with Everything. I now have a deepened awareness and love of my life, and myself in it.
Burning Man has gifted me on all levels in so many ways over the years, particularly mentally and spiritually, and this year was no different. It will always be a spiritual mecca of sorts for me, far from the huge rave party that the rest of the world (and many burners, too) identify it as.
In leaving the Playa this year, I looked to the mountains, to the Playa, and whispered from my (thankfully) reformed lips, “Thank You, Burning Man, for All That You Are and All that You Do”.