When I told a few people I was going to Burning Man their reactions were at times diametrically opposed.
“That is so you!” said Malia.
“That is so not you!” said Gary.
I wasn’t sure whether this reflected their own personal beliefs about what Burning Man encompasses or their individual takes of who I am. Because I am not a cartoon character that is 100% evil or good, silly or serious, pious or putrid, tastes great or less filling, or likes only the wheat side or the frosting side, I can say that to a degree they were both right.
I am what some might describe as a “free-spirit” in the fact that I like to do my own thing, being told what to do can feel to me like shackles in a non-voluntary dominatrix setting, and I don’t particularly fit into a society that is based on conformity–whether it be corporate society or Burner society. I like exploring, whether this involves places, people, information, or food collected in a way that doesn’t involve killing or torturing animals.
I also hate all bullshit when it doesn’t come from a bull. I am not saying I gleefully frolic in fields of cowpies, just that bullshit is supposed to come out of a bull’s ass and not a human’s mouth.
I will be writing a series of pieces on my experience of Burning Man, most of which will not be the standard byline from one camp or the other, as well as my own unique philosophical take-aways. Like everyone else who talks about Burning Man, I am just describing my experience of the “apple.” Unlike most, I don’t ignore the half a worm in the apple after I’ve bitten into it because I wanted to believe it was from Eden and not a garbage can.
In a line or two, it was an experience for me like no other: dusty, artistic, fun, depressing, bonding, isolating, beautiful, ugly, mindful, mindless, containing authentic aristocrats and costumed clowns. There were times I had a big smile plastered on my face and was like, “This is awesome!” and other times my wet tears contrasted with the dry Playa as I prayed to God to, “Get me the hell out of here!”
The lore of Burning Man alone wasn’t enough to get me to rob the bank necessary in order to finance such an adventure. It was my new girlfriend Jane Doe’s 6th year going and she had been telling me how important this event was for her and that this was possibly her last year attending and I didn’t want to be 90 years old and have to listen as an outsider to her toothless mouth gumming on about how great Burning Man was back when her breasts didn’t hang down below her belly button and so I committed myself to go with her.
At times when I was there I thought I might have committed myself to an asylum. But Jane Doe was the only thing that really mattered to me and if The Great B.M., as I like to call it, is important to her, then by the law of syllogism: If A then B, and B then C, then A then C–the logical conclusion would be that I wanted to take a B.M. with her.
I think I got out of Burning Man what I needed to get out of it, much of which was not good drugs or a sense of community and hope for the future of mankind but, after being in a petri dish on steroids bitten by the gamma irradiated spider that turned Peter Parker into Spiderman with Jane Doe, a clearer understanding of the challenges in our relationship and the goal of tackling these issues so that we can both do a celebratory touchdown dance in the end zone, which means “engage in anal sex.”
“Burners” call the world outside of Black Rock City the “default world” but I don’t consider a one-week, unsustainable Millionaires Hippies Club any more “real” than my daily grind to which I bring my creativity and rebellion and love and compassion. While I don’t anticipate or feel the need to return, that being said…never say never.