Humanity has an overpowering and essential need to connect. The profound undercurrent driving us to find our other half, create a family, aspire to something collaboratively greater in our pursuits, or simply experience joy together is more real than we acknowledge at times. We are. It is the most noble truth of humanity.
Every person who attends Burning Man will concede it is inherently difficult to explain: I contend it is this intangible and very deep connection which must be felt, heard, seen, and experienced all in different measure. It is this simple reminder we are all human, and we could be better.
Burning Man is a festival in the desert of Nevada where a small city comprised of tents, yurts, RVs, and functional entertainment structures (think giant stages, cafes, and installations) is built and then completely removed 10 days later. It is a horseshoe designed around a clock, with “12” facing the rising sun, comprised of concentric circles, about five miles in diameter with the scope of lower Manhattan — that vast feeling of thousands of interesting things going on at any moment. It centers around an area of desert called the Playa where installations are placed — temples, sculptures, statues, and shrines replete with the colors only genius could conceive.
The 70,000 people who comprise the populace are all bred and debriefed on the same principles, among them are inclusion, gifting, de-commodification, self reliance, self-expression, and civic responsibility, and all of which are simply a culture of giving in mind, body, soul and goods first. Tens of thousands of people show up with more than everything they need, and then share. Every greeting is accompanied with warmth and affection. There is no crime save for drug usage. It is in many ways the best of humanity.
The vehicles permitted are only bikes, Segways, and art cars — cars or golf carts that have been artistically transformed with any number of materials into everything and every color you can imagine, each outfitted with a sound system to create its own party. It is beyond the circus, with more lights, sound, and creativity than you can imagine. Hundreds of them taking to the open desert to create the greatest light and sound show I’ve seen on the planet.
What is most fascinating if it can be digested and comprehended — if you can get past the stigma of drug-fueled orgy — is the raw human effort to be part of something bigger. It is a well-known fact amongst locals that you simply need less sleep. That the energy of this many people in reverie will buoy you — I slept in two-hour intervals, about 18 hours total in five days. You are always greeting and greeted with a warm smile and tactility, generally a hug or a variant. Many discuss the study of two monkeys born in captivity, one given a mother, and the other a wire to provide essential needs (food and warmth); the monkey without the affection of a mother died in three weeks. It’s widely believed that we are all deeply connected and it should be expressed in every conceivable manner. This is the essence of the experience.
In many ways it is a contrived stacked deck; the cynics among us will find a number of words and reasons why it functions or why it is not sustainable from an inflated economy to a term of only a week. But the simple truth is that it also represents the best of humanity. Our endless capacity to love, give, be present, and share deeply with each other.
Consider this as a deeper covenant underlies the ethos of burning man, starting in the shallow end of the philosophy it begs and wading deeper into the greater quandaries of life: do you openly embrace every person you meet? Do you welcome with trust and love at all times? Do you greet every person with warmth that you come across?
Can you understand what it truly means to have an open heart to this world? Can you embody it and offer yourself and love to everyone? Do you desire to be more fulfilled and more connected with the world?
It may very well be that it is a drug-fueled orgy of unbearable faux hippies for many, but there is a consideration of how we should all live our lives. It is written that India only functions because of its inhabitants capacity to love — billions of people with kindness at their core. The gift and ethos of Burning Man asks the question tacitly, the meaning of life and how we should live it, and provides a view of how beautiful the world can be if we are simply more open, giving, and ultimately loving of one another.
It’s also one phenomenal psychedelic cluster-fuck-fest-of-a-bender of freaks, geeks, weirdoes and sideshows.
Regardless, it undeniably asks that you live deeply, love openly, savor everything, connect to something greater, and that is something we may all do well to consider.