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Why the fuck would I want to go to Burning Man?

Posted in Burning Man

What the hell is this hippie shit? Black Rock City, 2004. Image by Kit O'Connell.

This post was formerly posted on Lauren Rothman’s DefyAuthority.NET. I am reprinting it here for those of you who missed it.

So Lauren is going to her first Burn this year. Apparently, half the people she talks to are envious and the other want to know ‘Why the fuck would you want to do that?’ That’s a good question. In fact, there are a lot of reasons not to go to Burning Man. If you’re going just because you’ve heard there is free booze and naked titties there, you don’t belong at Burning Man. If you’re going to get wasted and climb up something high and fall off, save the Rangers the trouble and stay home. If you and your significant other are going to import your relationship drama onto the playa, or can’t communicate well enough to talk ahead of time about what to do when one of you takes drugs the other doesn’t approve of, or when one of you bangs that cute little thing with the dreadlocks then you shouldn’t go.

Or maybe you should come and break up in a huge messy fight in the middle of the week. You’re probably better off without. Because something is going to go wrong. Your vehicle might break down. Your tent could fall down in the wind, and if it doesn’t it will fill up with dust. Your artwork or amazing project will fall apart in some crucial way. That’s assuming you don’t fall off a stage or an artcar, or walk into a fire and die.

It’s expensive. And the weather sucks.

Burning Man actually isn’t for everyone.

So why the fuck would you want to go? Setting aside the usual reasons (art, music, drugs or sex perhaps), how about…

It’s a sacred party. You can place your emphasis on the sacred or on the party but the truth is somewhere in between. Once upon a time we took part in this kind of revelry on a regular basis, and I believe the human animal has a deep need to experience hedonistic release and ritual.

It’s a mythical archetype made real. The first time I ever took psilocybin mushrooms, I weirded out my less bookish companions by wandering around downtown Austin rambling about Jungian archetypes. You know that science fiction cliché where all the stories of myth and legend are actually visions of the transhumanist future? Burning Man feels like that, full of angels and demons, aliens, fire-breathing dragons and a luxurious city that vanishes without a trace into the dust…

The environment itself is psychedelic. Go out to the edge of Black Rock City to the trash fence. Look out at the utter wasteland, empty of even vegetation on the other side of the trash fence, as barren as any moonscape. Then turn and see the madness of the city, full of lights sound and color. On your way back, get caught in a white out dust storm and watch people and cyclists appear and vanish again into the swirl. You’ll feel like you’re tripping even before you take that altoid.

It’s 50,000 of your nerdiest friends. Remember those nerdy kids you hung out with at lunch during high school? Maybe there was a goth, or some theater nerds, or the computer geeks. Now imagine a city full of tens of thousands of them and you have something a little like Black Rock City.

Most likely, if you’re drawn to the event you know it already. Despite, or because of all the chaos and broken plans, if you attend with an open mind you’ll find yourself transformed. If you don’t think it’s for you, do everyone a favor and stay away. You can look at the photos later and laugh at all the hippies from the comfort of your dust free, safe, quiet home.

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