My sister has talked me into going to one of the biggest parties of the year, “Burning Man 2011.” I have never been to this shindig in the desert, but my sister has been and she plans to show me the ropes while we going out of our minds crazy with the only goal of having a good time. Burning Man happens out in Black Rock City, Nevada (90 minutes northeast of Reno, Nevada) in the middle of a desert with no running water, electricity, or permanent residents. This dried up lake now a desert gets as remote as it can be.
While Black Rock City is remote, it is by no means lonely the week before Labor Day when 50,000+ people begin showing up to this event. Something that set this event separate from other things is a couple of rules they have. First, there is no allowed use of motorized transportation, with the main means of transportation in this city either walking or by bicycle. There is one exception to this rule for “Radically Altered Vehicles” or “Mutant Vehicles” that have been approved by the Burning Man DMV. Second on the list of rules is, “Leave No Trace.” Absolutely NO garbage will be tolerated and NO garbage receptacles will be provided the entire time at Burning Man. Participants are expected to bring MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) they brought with them, out when they leave. Third is quite an important one, which is “No Commerce,” no one is allowed to sell, buy, or barter for anything. Don’t mistake me that everyone is uptight and no one shares, it is in-fact quite opposite to that, everyone is expected to share and participate, with no one having a sense of ownership to anything, described as a “Gifting Economy” where nothing should be expected in return. And the rest of the rules are pretty much the norm of all the other rules people should come to expect but if you want to read more about the rules check out the 2010 Burning Man Survival Guide.
Now that the groundwork for the rules has been laid down, trying to explain it can sort of make sense but I have never been to Burning Man and even the official website says it’s hard to explain what exactly this event is. So I imagine that Burning Man has exactly the same atmosphere as a “Renaissance Festival” but with the main difference being that there is no master goal like reenacting a time period. Where considering the lengths that all Burners have to go through to get to Black Rock City someone could safely say that all burners are there to have a great time, party, and explore who they are either consciously or subconsciously. And considering the environment, no one knows anyone, in a remote un-forbidding landscape, human art on a scale rarely matched, no sense of ownership, no need for money, and no stimulation from the outside world, I couldn’t imagine the conditions ever better for someone to have a pivotal moment in their life. Which a lot of burners experience while there.
Every year an art theme is chosen and for 2011 it is quite appropriately for me titled “Rites of Passage” since it will be my first time to this event. Yanked right off their home page I quote
“There are moments of crisis and frisson in our lives which inform us that we’ve somehow crossed an inner threshold and are changed. Thus moving from one state of being into an unknown other obliges us to face our innermost insecurities, and it requires faith, a willingness to leap off the ladder of ordered existence. Our theme this year invites participants to join with others in creating rites of passage.”
If I was a genius or spent a ton of time thinking about it, I have the time.., I too would come up with some rite of passage for Burning Man but knowing myself I would rather relish in the whole experience of being a first time burner, instead of trying to make a vein attempt at taking off running with some idea. Of course, maybe I could think up some simple tradition. But for now, I’ll prepare for an Adventure I hope to tell over and over in my life time.
I purchased my airline tickets and have figured out what I’m doing for gifting, I plan to have a dirty martini kit on me which I will randomly share. I’ll have a liter of good vodka, a martini glass, and a small jar of olives, not sure about the type of vermouth.