Saturday, September 10, 2016

I Didn't Go to Burning Man to Party!

I didn't go to the Playa to party. I didn't do drugs. I didn't have sex. Sure, I drank alcohol, but I didn't get drunk. A hangover in the pounding heat of the desert would have been terrible! While I wholeheartedly support everyone's choice to experience Burning Man however they want, I choose to have a less traditional experience. Literally, my Playa name is Sober. But overall, I still got a natural high from the Burning Man experience!

I went to the Playa to challenge myself, and be a part of a one of a kind, powerful community. Literally, for only one week a year, there is no place on the entire earth like Burning Man. Together, 70,000 souls create a city just to destroy it, but with the intent to rebuild next year. But I really want everyone to know you don't have to do drugs or participate in sexual activities to have a transformative experience. This can still be a fun place if you are not into those things!

I'm a super nerd. When you arrive on the Playa, you're given a book with the schedules of a variety of activities you can participate in. I immediately dive into the book, circling the myriad of exciting options. I went to a workshop on how to be an ally to the deaf community. I learned negotiation tips for women. I volunteered with my camp as we facilitated clay making workshops and ran a bar specializing in Scotch and Hop. I wrote the names of those who had passed in the last year on the Temple. I got matched with my soulmate in a camp designed like Costco! I watched an off Broadway quality theatrical performance, and listened to inspiring live music. I explored art exhibits, placed in the awesome background of the desert. I accepted beautiful random acts of kindness from strangers, whether that was a hug, a grilled cheese sandwich, or a handmade pendant. I cheered with crowds as the Man burned. But I also sat in silence with tens of thousands of people as glowing ash hovered above us as the temple burned.

Deprive yourself of running water and electricity for a week, and you'll learn to deeply appreciate them. Gather all of the trash you accumulate in one week in one place, and you'll be more aware of your consumption habits. Participate in a camp where your survival is dependent upon shared responsibilities, and you'll understand what it means to be an active citizen of a community.

After waking up at 4:30am in a dark 40 degrees to quickly pack your tent to rush in the Exodus line to leave the Playa, I ended up being forced to wait about six hours in the orchestrated pulsed lines. The Playa constantly provides ample opportunities to cultivate patience! In the final pulse before we finally departed the Playa, everyone exited their cars to mingle and soak in our last moments together. People gave out popsicles and shared snacks. Others invited fellow travelers to draw on their car. We were eager to hit the road, but with the bittersweet irony of leaving our home.

On the one way road out of Burning Man, people returned to their normal default world ways, and passed slower vehicles. You drive by multiple small businesses to collect your trash or get hot food. You slowly reintegrate into society. My sincere belief is that we all reenter the world as changed individuals, bringing a new powerful perspective for good.

Having gone twice now, I hope to return to the Playa again next year. Thank you to the Man for sacrificing yourself each year. I get it now. He has to burn so we have a reason to recreate it all again next year. We must start from nothing.

Going through significant personal and professional transitions over the past few years, I'm reinvigorated by the Burn. The only way to start again is to completely let it all go to create from scratch. This is also a concept of the female protagonist Daenerys in Game of Thrones. Oh, and I think it is a strong theme regarding Jesus and Christianity. From nothing, who I am is the possibility of possibility. Thank you Burning Man!