This post was inspired by a few stale posts by journalists who seemed to have missed the purpose of Burning Man, I recently read two TechCrunch articles, yeah who would have thought that TC was now moving into field reporting of this type of cultural phenomenon but I guess where Silicon Valley goes, it goes, and their coverage to wrap it up in a nutshell was, stop using your cell phones during the Burn (but using Google Glass would be okay) and Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man being cool with Capitalism, WTF TechCrunch… you’ve trivialized an event which is becoming a cultural movement, please please do some real journalism, in the absence of that you’ll force this former scientists to hack it for you!
So let’s set the record straight, what is Burning Man? Burning Man was initially founded as a catharsis, Larry Harvey had broken up with a girlfriend and the emotional pain had lingered for 2 years and he’d decided to head down to a local beach in San Francisco on the summer solstice and burn a man on the beach, what he didn’t expect was the magnetic effect of the burning effigy that attracted people from across the beach and he was touched by other people’s kindness in a public place and realized there was something there that deeply connected with people.
Burning man is a complex and authentic event, it challenges you to think of how you connect to yourself, the world and the universe around you! The event is much more than just a festival or event, it’s a city constructed from a global tribe and designed to break down barriers between people to allow fluid and genuine interactions which often can’t or don’t occur back in the world outside of the Playa. The temporal culture in Black Rock City IS different to anything else I’ve ever experienced outside of that city, there’s freedom on many levels, spiritual, sexual, intellectual and personal. What does this mean on the ground? Black Rock City has very few rules other than personal respect and safety, embracing community and leaving no trace, this leads to a city with freedom for total nudity, total sexual freedom and total substance use freedom… and the crazy thing is that it works!
Every Burner (attendee/resident of Black Rock City) follows their own path at Burning Man, there is no one purpose but for many Black Rock City is a transformative and connective place, one in which to explore yourself and reconnect with the world in a different way. For me, the Burn was a place for me to reflect on my next life stage, I had been stagnating professionally and emotionally and needed clarity to help fuel what I’m hoping will be my part in the next biotech revolution, I came expecting only time for introspection but as Black Rock Locals say, the Playa gives you what you need not necessarily what you want and I was thankful for the many wonderful gifts and insights that I received during my week in the hot, dusty desert surrounded by great people!
One of the best descriptions that I’ve heard of what the BM experience is to many people, is the exploration of the meaning of meaning, in a city of over 60k people on their own individual journeys!