Solar SunFlowers at the Exploratorium Oct 7th

Sol System at the Exploratorium
Sol System at the Exploratorium

The Exploratorium will soon move to Piers 15 and 17 on the San Francisco Embarcadero.   They are in the process of creating and environmentally friendly new home and  solar power will be a part of their efforts.  Before the big move, they are featuring exhibits that help visitors explore ideas of energy  and  power use, and to kick it off,  the October 7th “After Dark: Sol Systems” will feature Solar SunFlowers.

Black Rock Solar and the Sunpower Foundation, together with Cynthia Washburn and Patrick Shearn and their  team at Poetic Kinetics, are creating two solar powered, kinetic sunflowers that will open gently in the morning as the sun rises, track the sunlight during the day, and close again each night. The multi-colored flowers will be 22 feet tall at their full height and will sense when people sit down at their bases, automatically leaning over to provide shade. The flowers will be outfitted with state-of-the-art technology and will draw people into their space with an unprecedented visual allure. The SunFlower project is believed to be the first of its kind anywhere, blending large-scale interactive art and cutting-edge technology in an immersive educational experience designed to change the way people think about renewable energy.

“After Dark: Sol Systems”

Thursday, October 7, 2010 through Sunday October 10th

Exploratorium
at the Palace of Fine Arts
3601 Lyon Street
San Francisco

Other participants include a bunch of  DIY electric cars, a small aquaponic company called Kijiji Grows (http://kijijigrows.com/)  and solar power sewer  Paul Nosa (http://pnosa.com/fr_website.cfm) who also participated in the Exploratorium’s August After Dark event, Nomadic Communities.   Hogg Island Oysters will be served while you find out about biology of  oyster and ecology of sustainable oyster farming. The night will also feature bamboo bikes and electric motorcycles as well as demos by staff scientists about electromagnetism and hydrogen.

For more information, visit their site at http://www.exploratorium.edu/afterdark/

Solar Sunflowers
Solar Sunflowers

Destinations
The Solar SunFlowers will be installed at schools, events, and festivals throughout the course of the year, at different locations across the country. The first installation will be at the Exploratorium where students and teachers will experience the SunFlowers first-hand: learning about renewable energy and technology, climate change, solar power, and green jobs. The SunFlowers will then be transported to destinations throughout California and the United States, where audiences from school kids to solar professionals and government officials will have the chance to interact with the SunFlowers.

(more…)

A Christian at Burning Man


by Weinstain

I try to remember this recent past the way one tries to remember an interesting knot in a log in last night’s camp fire. There are obvious parallels between Burning Man and the Bible: Desert, anti-commericialism, temple, smashing money-changers tables, man and fire, golden calf, gold burned from dross, contrition, expungement, community, take-care-of-thy-neighbor, come to it like a little child, Jesus was accused of drinking too much wine, talking to the woman at the well, etc… At Burning Man, I overheard a man in a short skirt say “Jesus was a burner” and someone else suggested a Jesus camp where everyone dresses like Jesus and talks about who Jesus was and now means. Certainly the art work at Burning Man made me think of what we might have access to if the Right Wing did not control so much of our assets and now our tax base.

Christians, like most influenced by their own human nature, try to find what is wrong or different with others in order to reflect they believe in the Bible or their place in the world. It’s a perverse type of announcing one’s faith or belonging, and I just did it myself! But, I do not go to church because when I tried, almost no one wanted to know me except those truly spirit gifted people who remain my friends for decades and through them I hold communion and confession. I still go on Church campouts, but most stay in their own family circles which is understandable in light of managing kids and resting from work. My church is on the sidewalk, it is in the hours I put into the things that represent meaning and honesty to me and I watch miracles happen all the time and sense a path laid out before me which is also a cerebral one. It is hard to prove or describe this algebra of serendipity that I have encountered my whole life. I also want to avoid the paralyzing mixture of self circumscription and inadvertent ego absorption that Christians suffer from when they have concluded they absolutely know what Christianity looks like and by-damned, they are going to tell you and exist solely in their own mental paradigms, thereby making their cognitions above God Himself. BTW, in case you dont know, that is how Satan got kicked out of heaven. The “man” burning in the desert seems to me like sacrificing a god to a god. There are definitely idolotrous aspects to the burning of the man and temple, as well as the offerings placed at both. But the counter proof is that no matter where people are in the space/time continuum (and it is also part of Primate behavior) they do two things: create community and find a venue for worship. Eternity is as old as humanity.

My Burning Man camp leader, the one who invited me and one of the most capable, clever, and community building people I have ever met, is a preaching atheist. He says “Faith is the absence of thinking.” Thought seems, to me, to be an act of faith. I think God is the greatest scientist and we can see his handwriting in creation. I think he wants us to discover whatever there is out there to discover because we will find more of Him. My friend thinks that if it were not for Faith of any kind (he refers to any religious person as an “asshat”) that for one we would have skipped the Dark Ages and would have already cured cancer and other futuristic feats and that all believers should give it up and start improving the world in which they presently live and that we are mostly born OK the first time. Hard to argue with that, except sometimes certain things happen that belong to the spiritual realm, such as I dreamt of Burning Man before I even decided to go, without seeing pictures or anything else or even knowing to identify what was in the dream as Burning Man. I.e., at the entrance gate line, there was a wooden circus wagon with the exact detailing and half door in front of me that was in my dream. Exactly. If God is not real, I was merely tapping into the collective conscious or somehow psychically reaching out for higher intelligence and manifesting that need to communicate with an object that would appear in the future. And then there are prayers answered in such specific and timely ways, that one cannot deny there is some greater organization we cannot see. Either way, at worst God is a great imaginary friend and I am not giving Him up. I declined going out to the playa for either temple or man burn and explained to an asking campmate that God will put up with alot, but He will not put up with worshipping other gods. That someone thanked me for she secretly prayed every day but was ridiculed by any one she told of her prayer.

God looks upon the earth and at any moment sees millions of people “getting it on”. He did say go forth and multiply, afterall. 19 months ago someone demanded I take Plan B. I relented due to the ramifications of getting pregnant. As a result, I have quit ovulating on a regular basis and my uterus is building cells at an unhealthy rate. I bleed profusely for weeks at a time. I am pre-cancerous and my uterus should be removed. Sex is dangerous, and I felt taken too lightly at Burning Man not for reasons of free expression but of licentiousness and lack of meaning in the generation after mine. There was a time when a man simply courting a woman was said to be “making love to her.” I grow old, yes, I wear my trousers rolled. Partially because food and wine are my major acts of hedonism and have the hobbit body to prove it. On the other end, I felt woman were self-objectified because that was the social norm at Burning Man. Regardless, it seems that most people do what they want because they do not believe in God at all anymore. And that is the major difference between any secular excercise and Christianity: the notion of eternal life.

My biggest worry about being at Burning Man was not the sex, mind altercations, or nudity. It was the fear that I would have to endure people with some cheap surface notion about revisionist pagan or earth dieties chastising me for not completely giving over to the “when humans are left free to do what they like” (which, btw, not even wild animals undergo the mating ritual every day of the year), and I did not endure this at all until we were waiting in line to get out. The lady behind me asked me what I thought and I told her that the sex and mind altercations were a bit much for me, and then she and another lady decided to burn sage at me and give me funny looks. If there were a true apocolypse, it would be these people that would revert to Lord of the Flies behavior in a heart beat. I did not want my last memory of my first burn to be of this. As I turned onto the asphalt, there was a person dressed in some kind of monastic robe with a shamanistic stick, tapping it on the ground and saying something out to the pure white playa before him. Was he apologizing? And then I remembered my preburn skepticism about 50,000 people not leaving a trace, for 23 years ago I had studied geology with just a handful of people who were willing to build a road to go around an egg filled nest before the bus. Whomever this person was, s/he reminded me of Cabeza De Vaca and all the complexities of spirituality and nature I already believe and the irritation faded.

The question is not how bad and hedonistic is Burning Man. The real question is, is my faith at least as large as my judgement against others? It is not how shocking others are, but how shockingly true I find my faith to be. Do I believe and practice that which I *think* I espouse, that I *think* exists? Do I just think I believe in Christ and that He died on the cross for our sins so we could have eternal life? Do I invest myself into the world in a way which shows I believe this, or at least seeking the answer to this, and everything that comes through it such as “love thy neighbor as thyself”? I can say my atheist camp leader friend is actually a better Christian than I in that department. Anyone can be cool, but awesome takes practice.

Burning Man – The Prophecy of Shambhala


by Ian MacKenzie

The eyes.

I stare into the eyes of a stranger. Blue, deep, and vibrant. Quivering with life. Glassy like the pools of glacier water from the mountains of my hometown. Wide like the expanse of stars that glisten overhead, in the absence of city lights.

We have yet to trade a word, this stranger and I. His cheeks are weathered, partially concealed by a beard the color of sand. His hair is tucked behind his ears, his lips pursed in a faint smile.

His eyes.

My ego rises in my throat, threatening to burst my concentration, until suddenly…a release. Deep inner calm. And a strange familiarity that comes from recognition, as if seeing an old friend buried beneath the costume of this strange body.

“Everything is loved not for its own sake, but because Self lives in it,” says the ancient Hindu text, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

My hand rests on this stranger’s heart. His fingers cup my own. We breathe together, softly, evenly, as one entity. We share lungs, as much as we already share the oxygen.

Until finally…

“Find a way to thank your partner,” our instructor calls from across the tent, weaving through a crowd of participants also locked in visual embrace.

I release my gaze from this stranger and come back to form. I clasp my palms together and bow my head as he does the same. A softly uttered “Namaste” and then the moment is over. We’re on to the next exercise, the next partner, the next stranger that is strange no longer.

This is Burning Man: Metropolis.

It’s my second visit to Black Rock City, a manifested city in deserts of Nevada. I’m joined by 50,000 refugees from what veteran Burners call “the default world.” The default world is the realm of employment, taxes, traffic, shopping malls, TV news, celebrity gossip, and advertising. But it’s also subject to the more insidious ills of power, control, repression and judgement.

In contrast, Black Rock City is a space of radical self-expression, creativity, and unconditional acceptance. You are free to wear a bunny suit in the blazing sun. You are free to speak like a monkey to your peers. You are free to ride a bike naked, wearing nothing but a large purple hat. And you are free to participate, to build community, and to celebrate beauty in all its forms.

Burning Man cherishes true freedom as the highest ideal. Small irony, considering we believe the “default world” to be the world of the real.

***

Last year, I arrived at Burning Man with various ideas of what to expect. Yet, as is typical for “virgins,” my ideas were quickly overwhelmed by the outrageous – even my ability to process the experience did not recover until weeks after I’d left the playa dust behind.

This time, I vow to move deeper into the ethos of the event. I want to decipher the elements that make up the soul of Burning Man – and thereby distill the elixir than can be brought home for a world in desperate need of healing.

And I may have found a clue in the prophecy of Shambhala, the mythical Tibetan kingdom.

Once thought to be a physical city of enlightened beings, Shambhala is no longer regarded as a real location. Instead, it has come to embody a new spiritual prophecy, as recounted by Buddhist author Joanna Macy. She learned of this new interpretation while visiting Tibetan friends in northern India.

There comes a time when all life on Earth is in danger. Great barbarian powers have arisen. Although these powers spend their wealth in preparations to annihilate one another, they have much in common: weapons of unfathomable destructive power, and technologies that lay waste our world.

In this era, when the future of sentient life hangs by the frailest of threads, the kingdom of Shambhala emerges. You cannot go there, for it is not a place; it is not a geopolitical entity. It exists in the hearts and minds of the Shambhala warriors.

I bike past Center Camp, the beating heart of Burning Man. Figures come and go in the fading light of day, faces covered by gas masks, and ski goggles – the prophecy reverberates in my head. Could these figures be the warriors called to task?

I feel as if I’m peering into an uncertain future.

This year, I wanted to find if the answers to Black Rock City – now more important then ever, when you realize the default world is burning.

***

“Visa or Mastercard?”

“Visa,” I respond, unperturbed by the absurdity of the question.

“Mountains or beaches?”

“Mountains.”

Both men before me nod their heads. One wears a white speedo, oversized glasses, and a cowboy hat. His friend is more suited to a Mad Max film, sporting a shaved head, black jeans, and a leather vest. Numerous tattoos adorn his skin; the word “TRUTH” is inked over the knuckles of his right hand.

“The Beatles or the Stones?” “Beatles.”

“Favourite colour?” “Blue”

“Was Inception a brilliant movie, or a hackneyed piece of garbage.” “Weeelll…” I hesitate. “Garbage, good.” Tattoo guy jots his notes on his paper.

The pair continue their interrogation, chatting occasionally to compare notes, but always with the utmost focus. After all, according to the handwritten sign outside their tent, they have a duty to perform: craft me a playa nickname.

“What do you do?”

“I shoot films. Documentaries mostly.”

“Why?”

The answer comes naturally. It’s something I’d considered many times in the past. “I want to show people things they’ve never seen before, or show things how I see them. I want to show them beauty.”

They exhale slowly in unison. “Good answer.”

Another 5 minutes pass before they reach a verdict.

“Okay sir, please stand.” They motion for me to step forward. Speedo man produces a Tibetan bowl from his backpack. He slides a tong around the edges, producing a metallic ringing that glides through the tent like wind.

“Please close your eyes.” I do. “By the power invested in me by no one in particular, for the purposes of giving you, Ian, your new playa name and baptizing you in the fire of Burning Man… you shall now be dubbed…”

Tattoo guy pauses for dramatic effect.

“Vision Weaver.”

I open my eyes. He has a square of cloth in his fingers, with my nickname and an eyeball scrawled below. The iris is webbed, like a spider’s. “This should affix to your shirt,” Tattoo guy says. “But since you’re not wearing one, give me your hat.” I pass him my large purple hat, and he pins the cloth to the center above the brim.

“Look at that,” he remarks, holding it up. “Now you have your third eye.”

My thoughts return to the prophecy:

Now the time comes when great courage—moral and physical courage—is required of the Shambhala warriors, for they must go into the very heart of the barbarian power, into the pits and pockets and citadels where the weapons are kept, to dismantle them.

So in this time, the Shambhala warriors go into training. They train in the use of two weapons: compassion and insight. Both are necessary. One is the recognition and experience of our pain for the world. The other is the recognition and experience of our radical, empowering interconnectedness with all life.

Tattoo guy hands me my hat, and I hold it in my dust-coated fingers.

Vision Weaver.

The single eye stares at me, unblinking, in silent confirmation.

Insight.

***

It’s the quiet morning of the Temple Burn, still an hour before the sun peeks over the distant horizon.

The previous night, the Man had burned in a characteristic inferno, amid the fierce winds of another dust storm. A single arm was the first to drop, leaving the other raised in a victorious salute. The crowd responded with raised fists of their own; respect for Man that laughed in the face of annihilation.

Then, the tower crumbled, and the effigy was no more.

Now, the Temple, a much more somber structure, is quiet, except for a handful of souls huddled around the fire. The shadows flicker across the walls, off the photographs and faces of those remembered, and those destined to be let go. The Temple is a monument to shared loss; a practice almost entirely missing from our modern society. Death, in the default world, is to be kept hidden.

I wander the hallways, my gaze lingering on each note to a deceased, each memory that no longer serves.

“Dad, I love you.”
“You were my best friend. I’m not angry anymore.”
“Nothing lasts – but nothing is lost.”

Last year, I scrawled a message of thanks to an Aunt that taught me a lesson in facing death with compassion. This year, I wanted to return the favour, and decided to become a Temple Guardian. My duties: hold the space, protect the Temple, and honour the grief that everyone must transcend.

The stars watch impassively as I circle the perimeter. I wear a set of angel wings, cut from the very plastic bottles that are clogging the oceans and lungs of sea creatures around the planet. But under the creative blades of a friend, they become something else – something more.

In my hands, a plastic sword.

I rest a moment near the campfire, long enough to catch a man rise to his feet, visibly anxious. He bursts out in spontaneous poetry, spouting words of angery and redemption, fear and hope. When he finishes, the few still awake bow their heads in salute, and the man fades away with the moment.

Silence.

Suddenly a voice breaks out in song. I realize it’s been a long time since I’ve heard the sound of singing, lonely tonight, but starkly beautiful. Tonight these halls will burn. But for now, they offer themselves in crucifixion to the loneliness that only consciousness can inflict.

In the shadows, I notice a figure leaning against the Temple walls, struggling to find a clear space to write their message. I watch from a distance, quietly, peacefully.

The figure completes their note, and steps back. A moment passes while they judge their handiwork, before they turn and sit on a spare ledge. In the darkness, I still can’t discern the edges of their face, but I can tell they’re weeping.

For a Shambhala warrior, their weapons are compassion and insight.

Both are necessary. You have to have compassion because it gives you the juice, the power, the passion to move. It means not to be afraid of the pain of the world. Then you can open to it, step forward, act.

I consider walking up to the figure, and placing a hand on their shoulder. But intuitively, I hold back.

Instead, I guard the space. I attempt to honour their sadness. Breathe in suffering, breathe out compassion.

After a time, their shoulders raise. Their presence calms. Their grief momentarily abates.

The figure rises and disappears into the playa.

***

It isn’t long before the horizon eases pink, hinting at the sunrise to come. Crowds of Burners begin arriving at the Temple, weary from a night of dancing and debauchery, but eager to watch the spectacle.

My shift as Temple Guardian is almost expired. On my last walk around through the hallways, a voice calls my name.

“Ian?”

I turn and face Leigh, a friend whom I’d known online for years, but only met in person at the start of the Burn. She’s wrapped in a thick overcoat and red-rimmed shades. We speak briefly before deciding to watch the sunrise outside on the playa.

As dawn grows nearer, my eyes burn. I realize I haven’t slept in almost 48 hours.

“Cigarette?” Leigh asks, holding out her pack.

“Sure,” I say, even though I don’t smoke.

“I don’t smoke either,” she says smiling, and lights the tip.

We’re silent for a time. A crowd of Asian girls in thick white parkas stroll past. Nearby, a fire dancer practices for a group of onlookers.

“So how was your Burn?” she says, aware that any answer is always inadequate.

“Good,” I say. “I feel like this time I’m finally able to understand all this…” I sweep my arms around me, attempting to take it grasp everything with a single gesture.

“What did you find?” I sense Leigh mentally cataloguing the variety of criticisms routinely levelled at the event. Not that she believes them, but they’re too numerous to ignore: Burning man is too elitist. It’s too environmentally destructive. It’s inherently unsustainable. While all these criticisms are partially true, they miss the point.

“They say the default world isn’t real, and that Burning Man is a place where you can be truly free. But Burning Man isn’t real either. They both depend on each other.”

Leigh considers my statement before taking her cigarette butt and tucking it in a metal tin she produces from her robes. She waits for me to finish mine.

“So what is it then?”

Not Shambhala, I think.

“It creates the space between the worlds.”

The sun crests the horizon in a brilliant arc, sending rays exploding into the atmosphere.

***

I bike home in a dream. The playa is lit with the rising sun – music drifts in from the DJs still spinning to the crowds. Others are waking from their tents or emerging from the RVs.

My duties as Temple Guardian are complete. Tonight, the Temple will burn.

My pedals squeak. My tires churn through the desert sand.

I look up to find a reflection penetrating my eyes. An art installation, like many dotting the grounds of Burning Man. This one is composed of interlocking triangles, welded together, and embedded with a variety of mirrors.

I dismount my bike and stand before the largest mirror. Startled, I reveal a self I feel I haven’t seen in eternity:

My beard is thick, caked with playa dust. My wings stretch up over my head; my torso sheathed in plastic armour. My hand still clutches the plastic sword, smooth, but strong to the touch.

You cannot recognize a Shambhala warrior when you see her or him, for they wear no uniforms or insignia, and they carry no banners.

The Shambhala warriors know that the dangers threatening life on Earth are not visited upon us by any extraterrestrial power, satanic deities, or preordained evil fate. They arise from our own decisions, our own lifestyles, and our own relationships.

With that wisdom you know that it is not a battle between “good guys” and “bad guys,” because the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart.

My eyes are deep, gazing back at me from the vast expanse on the other side of the reflection.

I clasp my hands together over my heart, and offer a quiet bow.

After a moment, I release my hands, mount my bike, and pedal back to camp.

To Make a Heaven out of Desolation


by Brian

A week has already passed. Our time is almost up. The horned moon hangs high over the most magnificent playground ever built. The electric landscape is fit for a scene in one of Dali’s dreams, with fantasy figures rising out of the futuristic desolation­many destined to be burnt or torn down, to dissipate back to dust after one week of use.

Ordinarily, a week in the desert does strange things to a man. Here, at high elevation, the air is thin, the sun is drunk, and the wind punches with dusty fists. By the time night rolls around and the stars are frigid points in the sky, you’re as good as a walking corpse–or you would be, if you weren’t inside this exotic carnival heaven. This is no ordinary occasion, and you’re filled with energy you’ve never had before. We are in Black Rock City, the site of the notorious Burning Man, waiting for the temple to burn.

At any other time, intoxication would be the most appropriate answer to conditions so austere–but the surroundings have made vice an enjoyable luxury and not a necessity. The power of imagination overrides all else. Fifty thousand celebrants have revelled with the bare elements, and now as we stagger around propped up by our very last nerves, what have we come away with? We came here from all over the country–indeed, from all over the world…so much has transpired in such a short amount of time, that it’s hard to grasp, but perhaps that’s the point: unconditional presence. You’ve got to let it go if you want it all to hang out.

In the distance, the space-age music stages thunder hypnotic rhythms, while mandalas and video clips are projected onto veil-like screens. Whole crowds are put into trance as the mathematics of electronic sounds tap a core, primal root. A sixty-foot tall monument to tetris gently glows over the sand. So-called mutant vehicles, painstakingly engineered and decorated, blast flame-throwers like apocalyptic trumpets, or creep like angler fish thru the pearly-white dust. Jungle domes, scattered liberally, stand like decapitated beehives.

This is the unreal element of reality, the truthful absurdity that carnival embodies. The carnival is an illuminated theatre. If you ask around, almost anybody will tell you that they’ve never felt anything so real–that they’ve never felt so alive. At this juncture, with convention pushed past its breaking point, nature meets imaginative power. Strange and beautiful metallic sculptures sporadically rise into the air. They are somewhere between plants from a savage garden and the dream of the goddess who is forty feet tall, strapped with steel and iron sinew, nude, and frozen in the middle of a legendary dance. You can barely make out the silhouette of thousands of camps radiating out into the darkness.

In this rare moment, most of the Burners who have stayed the extra day, after the Man fell in a show of flames and fireworks, are gathered here outside the temple. They’re dressed in wild costumes, if they’re dressed at all. There’s much fur splashed with bright colors, silver bikinis, wizards, monks, aviator goggles, cowboys, and men wearing dresses. It’s funny how people in costumes find it easier to be honest with each other. Here, everyone is encouraged to express themselves fully and utterly, and their costumes speak volumes. People are free to live out their deepest fantasies, free to wear their most secret hearts on their sleeves. Their unexpressed desires are out in the open air, along with the fringes of their personality. They are free to become their dreams, a spectacle, anything. You’d think that social anarchy would lead to disaster. On the contrary, this extreme individualism gives way to an extreme sense of community. If Burning Man is about anything, it’s about connection–which means knocking down every barrier. There is no money here–only gifts and trades, and you can find anything you need. Perhaps the unconditional respect for an individual breeds in him respect for others. It’s only logical that if anything goes, anything can come as well.

But despite these wonders and luxuries, the week has been filled with trials. This is no place for the feeble-hearted. Every moment of joy is earned. It’s easy to corrupt a paradise as most vacationers do, but it’s a feat to erect a heaven out of several miles of desolation­and this is not to mention the thin air at 4,000 feet, the searing heat, the frigid nights, and the wind that blows dust into your over-crowded tent and into your eyes, or the port-o-johns. Now don’t get me wrong–the people who run Burning Man are extremely well-organized. They’ve got an efficient medical unit, a loyal and helpful troop of rangers, and frequently drain the goop from the toilets. Still, these conditions are an undeniable shock to one’s system. But it is the challenge of not only surviving but thriving in full-color inside a desert that is always trying to kill you that lends so much force to the experience of Burning Man. Anything worth having is going to bring about sorrow somehow. The trick is dancing with it all.

Amongst other things, the place is a nexus of mental activity. Most people who have never attended Burning Man seem to think that it is some type of lawless chemical nightmare, a week-long warfare of the senses, crawling with nudity, leprosy, and other degenerate horrors of the blind and futile hope that only a hippie can fathom. It goes without saying that Burning Man is one hell of a party­but keep in mind that different people have fun in different ways. Here, you can find some of anything–from deviant sex to clean energy politics, from new age healing to basketball to whisky bars. There are people here from every walk of life who are more than willing to have a conversation about anything that comes to mind. There are camps holding educational workshops, as well as 24-hour music and any form of entertainment for you to rage and rave deep into the night.

People have travelled from all over the world to get here. Today, I met someone from far away Siberia, who came to play for the week. There are few things so hopeful as the sight of adults playing like children, and there is no accurate stereotype for the typical Burner. Your next door neighbor’s mother died again? I don’t think so. Check his clothes for dust when he gets back. I met many professionals, a political consultant, a few doctors, several entrepreneurs, and a pharmaceutical salesperson­as well as students and vagabonds. Of course there are some who come just to party and load up on drugs, but they are not the majority. The most common drug on the scene was alcohol, and that’s an American pastime.

Some people say that Burning Man is a living philosophy, an organic composition where the lines between spectator and spectacle are blurred unto oblivion. Here, art is not limited to a specific place or form­the very air is a willful theatre. Many of the die-hard Burners dedicate tens to hundreds to thousands of hours into producing art they can share­be it costumes, sculptures, paintings or gifts­all for no rewards, at least in the conventional sense. There is, however, a very distinct joy in giving.

Burning Man is a haven for the discontent, or at least those who are striving for more­those who feel incomplete, who feel cheated in some way by the ordinary day-to-day. It is a home for the spiritually malnourished, a breeding grounds for knowledge, flexibility, endurance and expansion. It is a place where people can do what is natural and connect without the erected barriers and fictions of conventional roles and status. The currency here is imaginative power. Money is a dream of the past. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t sustainable. It is an experience, an exploration–whatever you make it. As they say, the burden of freedom is recognition.

But enough of that–this is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The crowd around the temple is silent as it slowly goes up in flames, along with the prayers and pains of the weeks and the year. It was built, this year, to mimic a sand dune, with planks of wood flowing a rounded form. For the past week, people have been coming here to meditate, to pray, reflect, and make peace with those lost or leaving. This, more than the Man, illustrates the work that is being done here, as well as the meaning of the event–the addressing and overcoming of the past and its limits in a myriad of ways, so that there is room for an illimitable future in presence, where one can be living fully by giving life one’s best, and having a good time at it.

Whatever has happened here, whatever has passed can never be properly conveyed, except by the silent eye of the hurricane. Many people will leave here with a boundless sense that will be battered back down by everyday life. Others will return to their routine, and take away a thousand tickling memories. Some will be inspired by the creativity they witnessed, and carry it with them in their everyday life. Some will already be planning for the next Burn.

Fire is a transformative agent as well as an image of balance, a primal hearkening that gives life as it takes. The land we live on is, in a sense, the ghost of fire. Fire is a symbol of life itself. For one week, we have lived on fire, seizing life as joyously as possible–and now, we let it go in peace.

The temple falls, but next year, it will rise again. For a moment longer, everyone is silent, and then people are cheering on the flames. And like everything else, the night rolls on. There’s only question left, an eternal heckler: why not?

Well?

Burning Man at Open Video Conference in October

Ever wonder what the small print on back of a Burning Man ticket really means to a photographer?  Want to understand why Burning Man has certain “Terms and Conditions” regulating media use?  Curious about how the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF’s) recent criticisms have affected Burning Man’s policy on the use of images?   Want to learn more about this or share your opinion?  Join us for an ongoing public dialogue about digital rights at Burning Man and implications for wider society!

On Fri., Oct. 1, 2010 5:30-6:30 pm EDT, Burning Man IP Legal Counsel Terry Gross and Burning Man adviser Rosalie Barnes will have a panel discussion with EFF’s Corynne McSherry at the Open Video Conference.  The panel meets at the Auditorium of Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), located at Seventh Avenue and W. 27th Street in New York City.

You’re invited to participate in-person or virtually!  Details about registering for in-person are here: http://www.openvideoconference.org/.

The session will be streamed live via the Internet on the main conference page via www.openvideoconference.org.  Folks watching online will be able to tweet questions to discussion moderator Katherine Chen using a hashtag.  For more info and online discussion about Burning Man’s digital rights policy, go here: http://blog.burningman.com/digitalrights/.

This is what OVC has on their site:

Summary: EFF v. Burning Man – (Friday, October 1 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM)

Description: Each year, Nevada’s Black Rock desert plays host to the Burning Man festival. Tens of thousands of people make the pilgrimage to celebrate self-reliance, creativity and freedom. Anything goes in Black Rock City–except, apparently, when you’ve got a camera in your hand…

For some time, the organization behind the event has enforced a highly restrictive set of policies around photography in Black Rock. Through its ticket sales and online terms of use, the Burning Man Organization claims ownership over all photos and videos created at the festival.

In late 2009, Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Corynne McSherry went on the attack, criticizing these rules in a post at EFF’s Deep Links. This set off an internet battle for the ages. Burning Man argues these restrictions protect attendees’ privacy. People escape to Black Rock to express themselves freely, not have every action documented—-and they need to be protected. But EFF thinks attendees’ freedom of expression, and their copyrights, must be respected. How do you balance both concerns?

In a interesting turn of events, Burning Man, the EFF and Creative Commons have entered into negotiations to transform the largest counter cultural art gathering in the world into a legal platform for human readable language and free culture. Will it work? Will it crash? What will they as a team decide?

Join us for a real world ethics question, and a small-scale version of the free culture debate with insights into the governance of online video platforms, privacy, autonomy, and freedom of expression. Throw in panelists from Burning Man, EFF—and giant burning wicker man—and you have one interesting discussion. http://blog.burningman.com/digitalrights/

Presenters:
Corynne McSherry — Electronic Frontier Foundation
Lightning Clearwater III — Burning Man IP Legal Counsel
Rosalie Barnes — Burning Man
Moderator: Katherine Chen – Assistant Professor of Sociology, CUNY

Burning Man mental picture


by Alex Nayberg

The excitement was rising, the rush on my skin, the tension in my scalp, with each additional step I could feel the blood in my veins flowing faster and faster. The anticipation of something amazing, something astonishing, unknown, something which doesn’t exist were making me dizzy yet made me want to go faster and faster.

Here and there out of complete darkness strange lights were emerging with bizarre colors and shapes, some on the ground, some in the air and some simply moving along with me to somewhere, to nowhere, to there… Hundreds of dark yet colorful silhouettes of people popping out everywhere were joining me for the same cause, going in the same direction.

Destination, you don’t really see it, you feel it, in your gut, it’s like a giant magnet that moves every muscle in your body. You know that the end is near but you also know that that place is nothing but opposite of the end; it’s an entrance into outer space, into nothing and everything. It’s like a giant colorful matter that consumes you entirely, your body, mind, soul, consciousness, your very existence.

You know what’s going to happen and you don’t know what’s going to happen, you are furious and calm at the same time, this sweet confusion and anticipation of the overwhelming happiness is boiling your mind. At the end you barely keep yourself from running. Few more steps and you are finally there…

It’s like someone has turned on the light but in very slow motion. You can see the entire process of surfacing the mythical realm right here before your eyes. From dark to light, from negative to positive, from emptiness to completeness. It’s like growing breathing organism transforms every second into something new.

It takes few minutes to process, to digest, to understand, to believe, to get used to what you see and what you feel… It doesn’t compute in your mind, as you know deep down inside that 2 plus 2 must be 4 and not 375, but you can see it, you can touch it, you can hear it; then you realize that it’s real.

The music like thousand voices comes from everywhere; you are completely surrounded by lights, people, dust, air, feelings and emotions. You have the desire to go everywhere at once, to see everything at the same time. You want to hug the space. You want to consume it.

Five Moons


by Suzanne Roberts

“To the desert go prophets and hermits; through deserts go pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find reality.”
— Paul Shepard

1.
Even the dead become art—
nothing here needs burial, not
the bone tree, nor metal magnolias
blooming. Not the skin of dust.

It’s the earth that’s a shadow.
A pint is a pound, the world
round defies meaning here—
We slant into a waterless horizon.

And the horses say, cloppity clop.
The moon, a gnome’s ass.
Nothing is as it seems.
Everything is as it seems.

2.
The question mark
of a collar bone,
the flash under skin,
thin and tight like a tent.

Dust soaks our eyes.
Without the usual
borders, gravity
has pulled from us
even our names.

3.
Drift on a lifeboat,
a submarine, a magic carpet.
The sun rises, red and ripe

like a plum. We sit together,
pass the blue bottle. The beat
of a distant drum echoes

across the ancient lake bed,
the pink glow burns mirthless
in our eyes. How I’ve grown
afraid of myself.

4.
Temples are always
constructed from wood

and from pain. Words
turn to fire, then ash

and smoke. Again,
dawn evaporates the stars.

5.
The scorched sea stretches
into the perpetual near-dawn sky.

Here are the rules: The world
eventually folds in on itself,

like any other world,
and disappears. No matter,

the dust still clings to our hair.

Pilgrimage


by Jack Watson

The night was an entire universe modeled in scale; the Orphean journey into the underworld; the truth that every man walks through in these dimensions of allegory. The music reflected the climax in the drama of a Burning Man all-nighter; characters introduced, plot thickened, and now, resolution demanded. The bass thumped through the carpeted interior of the chamber in which we had sequestered ourselves. Drew and I lay crumpled and intertwined in this small, dark, lonely hole we had stumbled into in the Root Society dance dome. Bodily exhaustion contended with spiritual hunger (how does one sleep when the Universe is begging you to watch its immolation?). But the hole was lovely and black, soft and warm. I would not be surprised if it was some actual fairy grotto that cast a spell of sleep on interlopers and transformed them into captives eternal, enchanted and possessed. We flirted with surrender, and nodded for a while.

We had started the day with the determination that we would explore the Playa together after two days of not connecting. We helped each other put costumes together, set out on bikes, laughed and fought. At some point earlier in the evening we had bumped into some of our friends, but, being in a very different place, quietly excused ourselves, folding easily into the chaos and madness that is found on every corner of Black Rock City. Deep out in the playa our bikes finally succumbed to five days of battle with playa dust, the chains creaking and dry. They had been valiant but they would not, could not take us any further. We locked them up to (hopefully) fend off any mischief that the gremlins of the playa (who are always up to no good) might devise for the bikes, and set off on foot.

Off in the distance, lopsided, looking almost like it had crashed into the soft bed of gypsum dust, was a space shuttle. We climbed through an opening at its tail, and found a bar populated by aliens, super heroes, renegades and spooks. A lovely wood nymph tended drinks, and set us up with freshly opened coconuts, and the milk fed our stomachs, but also our minds and our hearts. We lingered, grateful for shelter and sustenance, enjoying the motley company. The bar shuddered, the patrons grabbed for handhold, and the shuttle drove away. Drew and I looked at each other, excited to be carried away. When it all lurched to a halt, we rolled out of the opening and found ourselves on the Esplanade at about 9pm (geographic 9pm, not chronographic).

Looming in front of us were two thumping, bouncing domes. Revelers spilled in and out, clutching each other, stumbling, parading, striding. Perhaps wanting to ease into this new frontier, we went into the smaller dome first. Cups were in short supply, but we put aside our squeamishness and accepted some spirits in glasses that may have met many lips that night. We danced; bouncing at times with the crowd, and at other times just the two of us. Layers came off one by one, and soon I was down to a pair of briefs that betrayed my true identity as a comic book hero. We shook, we gyrated, we kicked, and I’m ashamed to say, I probably also clapped (I consider clapping on the dance floor to be a faux pas). The night had the weapon of exhaustion, and the only shield we had against it was dancing. In this dark hour the night was winning, and we fled to the bigger dome, with the night right behind us. This was when the hole found and seduced us.

I have slept my whole life, wakefulness a dream. In Black Rock City, we are all refugees seeking some existential diplomatic immunity. Every morning I was there, I had to fight with an urge to flee back to the somnolent comfort of my decades long nap. I felt overcome by my own lameness, drowning in my own mediocrity. But the night is an avid hunter, and it wanted us to stay. Drew’s head was on my shoulder, and I had lost him. The music pressed down like a blanket, and told us that this was all there is, or ever would be.

I squinted out into the dome to see if there was any salvation from this hole consuming us, and there it was, the Deus Ex Machina. Golden fingers caressed my eyelids, glowing bolts of orange and pink flying from a cosmic bow, turning corners, searching and penetrating. The day had heard our distress, and was coming to our rescue. The music shifted, subtly at first, then fully proclaiming an aria of hope and succor. There was a resolution to this plot that seemed hopeless. I squeezed Drew’s shoulder, and told him “Look…the sun is coming up!”. We shook off our doldrums and knew we had to leave. We escaped the Dance Dome with our souls intact.

***

We were a long ways from home in every way it could be factored. We had tents and sleeping bags that we could set out for, that were indeed begging for our return. Our camp would soon offer breakfast, and sustenance in the desert is not to be dismissed lightly. It seemed inevitable that we *MUST* *NOW* go home, grateful to have survived the night.

But some part of me knew that we were not yet done. In another direction, just as far away, was the temple. La Sagrada Basura (“The Sacred Trash”) I had not been there yet, and the time remaining in Black Rock City was short. I had already missed visiting the Man, putting it off and then finding out it was too late because he is cordoned off in the day before the burn. I said to Drew “I don’t know what you need to do, but I am going to the temple if you would like to come with me.” We set off into the deep playa, not entirely sure of the way, trying to navigate the always twisting path from the Dark and the Profane to the Sacred and the Profound. (Usually they are not as far away from each other as you might think.)

Once we had our bearings, we walked together yet separate. A woman danced her welcome to the sunrise, accompanied by sonnet and symphony that we could not hear. Dust devils arced and leapt, illuminated by these first rays. Revelers began to pour from their cathedrals of excess and debauchery. We could not be seduced, we would not be distracted.

Several clicks out from the temple and intentionally placed, I am certain, to be in our path, was an ante-temple. It was small and white, symmetrical and beautiful. I pulled over and waited for Drew.

The word “temple” carries heavy baggage for me. In the religion of my formative years, the temple is a sacred place that access is restricted to. Esoteric mysteries are completed, boundaries and beliefs are challenged, allegory and metaphor are invoked as more real than the solidities of what we presume to be reality. I am now estranged from this, and the names they now call me are Expatriate and Outcast. The bolder among them would dub me Apostate. The temple is not approached casually, and I plumbed myself for the intention and courage to go on, to find my own Sacred, to rise to the occasion and dare to annunciate my own ritual and mystery.

Ancient wisdom collaborated with my own experience, and this ante-temple was designated to prepare for the visit to the temple. I set down my back pack. Drew was still out behind me. I took off my clothes, and put them in the bag. From the pack I retrieved a small bottle of hand sanitizer, with which I anointed the crown of my head at the third eye, and the throat, the heart, the spine at the small of my back, and the pelvis slightly below the navel. Drew arrived, and somehow knew that this was an occasion of silence, and I was grateful to not need to ask for it. I began anointing him in the same places. In a whisper, I told him “Before you enter the temple, one must cleanse himself.” I turned and set off, naked except for my shoes and socks and pack.

In the temple of my religion, a garment is given to cover your nakedness. I have often wondered whether the sin is nakedness, as is commonly assumed, or was it being ashamed of our nakedness; of the body and its various functions and sensualities. I walked to the temple naked to experience humility, vulnerability. To stand in the vision of all and challenge the shame and embarrassment that I knew would come, to defy the judgment that was most likely my own and only my own.

At La Sagrada Basura, as with every temple at Burning Man, people write on the temple wishes, intentions, prayers, meditations, and dreams. They pin up pictures of lost loves, lost children, people they have hurt, pets, and other detritus of the default world. It is a place of catharsis and hope. It is beauty in harsh angles and reclaimed garbage. Above one door of the temple there was a painted placard that boldly insisted “LOVE IS REAL”.

I walked through the temple and read what people had written, touching the things that penetrated my heart. I looked at the pictures. I watched a wedding party. I observed and honored fellow penitents in meditation that was sometimes anguished. I cried for the lost. When I was done, I found some inner chamber of the temple and took off my back pack, from which I retrieved my clothes. I put them on and asked someone to take my picture, reborn and whole, unashamed.

Then I found a pen and wrote on an empty space of some balustrade of the temple. I will not tell you what I wrote, because it is sacred, and you will never know because it is now all ashes and air.