Observers from the ‘default’ world often brand Burning Man as a dusty week in the desert driven by sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, which is like proclaiming that an elephant is a heavy animal. BM is a contemporary quest complete with challenges, victories, sirens and the occasional Golden Fleece.
Call me a prude but over three Burns I’ve not had drugs or sex although I’ve shared some seminal hugs. And sadly, rock n’ roll receives little airtime and Burners mostly hear music made without instruments, lyrics or a beginning and end point.
BM is like a competition that we train for, reach one or more climaxes during and then withdraw afterward. Obtaining a ticket is only the first gauntlet. Preparing for the onslaught of a fully self-reliant week in a moon-like environment with 1,700 Porta-Potties, violent silica dust storms and sleepless nights takes months of pre and post preparation.
The highest and lowest infiltrate the Playa. Seriously enlightened beings share wisdom and healing with seekers while seemingly rudderless souls stumble towards their next high. BM offers a kaleidoscope of opportunities for whatever your intentions might be. And because you have been pickled and stimulated in the parched Nevada dessert with 70K of your closest friends, your good and bad experiences will be amplified in equal measure by the training you have put into surviving and thriving during this giant social experiment.
The smorgasbord of art, workshops, talks and events reminded me of college. A daily Kundalini Yoga class anchored my Burn while biking around the massive Playa visiting artworks and strangers reminded me of the joy gleaned through discovery and random encounters and acts of kindness.
Although the numbers and nations represented increase each year, BM is not for everyone. It is an initiation for those willing to sideline their phones and judgments long enough to embrace an alternative path. On this journey I found important, misplaced and unacknowledged parts of myself, which brought me clarity and inner resolve. Searching for happiness or enlightenment at BM or outside of ourselves is as futile as trying to bench press an elephant. But then I guess we already knew that.