So I’m standing in this bar the other night. This total stranger … never seen him before … is passing in front of me. Suddenly he stops and just swings around and looks me in the eye.

Then he starts talking … a little tipsy, British accent, and I’m thinking who is this guy?  We chat for a while, I’m making small talk to be polite, and he mentions Burning Man.  I like to hear what people say about Burning Man without them knowing what I do for a living, so I let him go on for a while without letting on.

He says Burning Man is the one place in the world — and he’s lived in more than a handful of exotic countries — where he actually felt HOME.  He came with his friends from the UK and it changed his life. He tossed it all up in the air, moved to San Francisco, and here he stands in front of me.

I finally tell him who I am, and he says: “Oh, wow!  OK, I really need to tell you this story.”

Banksy's Girl With Heart Balloon
Banksy's Girl With Heart Balloon

“You know that one Banksy stencil of the little girl with the heart balloon?”

“Yeah, sure,” I say. He tells me he was an animator back in the UK, and made a short animated film based on that image. He had a picture of it on his bedroom wall for years … it was the first thing he saw when he woke up in the morning, and the last thing he saw before falling asleep.  Then he came to Burning Man for the first time.

Out at Opulent Temple on Friday night (“The best party on the planet, mate!”) he’s in the middle of the massive crowd, dancing with his friends. Suddenly the crowd parts, and there’s this beautiful girl … and they lock eyes and move toward each other … time stops. “I look down, mate, and I shit you not … I look down, and there on her arm is a tattoo of the girl with the heart balloon!  I nearly fell over.  We ended up together for years.  So I gotta ask you, man, you gotta tell me … how does that happen?  What the hell is going on out there?”

“Well,” I say, “that’s playa magic.” Synchronicity, coincidences … it happens all the time out there … I’m always hearing stories about it from people. You could be thinking about a nice banana split, and you’ll turn a corner and against all odds there’s some dude handing you a banana split.  “Yeah, but why is that is what I want to know?”

We go through our lives with our psychic guards up, I tell him … there’s too many people and it’s too risky to be open to everything and everybody all the time. But you go out to the playa, and everybody’s walking around with their guards down … everybody’s psychically open, and the energy just moves freely between people, and well, it just happens. Whatever you’re sending out, somebody’s picking up.

And I tell him, “Now, think of what would happen if people lived like that all the time, right? What would the world look like? What would that do to human potential? That’s what we’re doing out there … the Burning Man experience shows people what it can be like, and hopefully they bring it back with them to the real world even a little bit, and it stretches human possibility that much more. It’s not just a big party in the desert, man, not by a longshot.”

He nods, satisfied.  “So, tell me,” I ask him, “why did you suddenly stop and start talking to me just now?”

“I don’t know. I just  … did.”

“Right, exactly,” I say.

If you’ve got a story of playa magic, please share it with us in the comments!

About the author: Will Chase

Will Chase first attended Burning Man 2001. He was Burning Man's Web Team Project Manager and Webmaster from 2004-2009, and the Operations Manager and member of the Art Council for the ARTery (Burning Man's art department headquarters in Black Rock City) from 2003-2008. In 2009, he transitioned into the Communications Department, where his responsibilities include global communication strategy, authoring the Jackrabbit Speaks Newsletter, content management for the Burning Man website, coordination of Burning Man's social networking efforts, and acting as editor for the Burning Blog. Tales of his sordid adventures can be found on his website.

55 thoughts on “SynchroniCity

  • Our camp, the Liminal Labs, had the great good fortune of camping next to YOU ARE THAT PIG 3 years ago. We exchanged tasty bacon, cocktails and stories throughout the week and they even drove us out to the burn in their giant pig shaped art car. I was sitting around with the head of the pigs one morning, shooting the shit, and the talk turned to motorcycles. He liked to ride, so do I. He’s from east bay, I’m from SF. We start talking about bikes and i reminisce fondly about my old ninja. He enthusiastically joins in, talking about HIS old ninja. We match detail for detail and it turns out – he’s the guy who bought my ninja when my ex sold it for me years ago. We’d spent the whole week living next to each other only to discover we were joined by a motorcycle in real life. No, you cant make this shit up. Its freaking magic.

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  • It’s funny. I haven’t been able to access my email and see emails and instant messages that I had with a friend I recently lost. I have tried every password that I could possibly remember and haven’t been able to figure it out. Yesterday I accused my brother of changing the password because he uses my computer. I read this article earlier in the day and when I got home hit the link to Gmail by mistake when opening the browser. I randomly got the password on the second try and have found hundreds of messages I had forgotten about. Having a great time looking back on all the memories.

    My first time to participate in Burning Man and cannot wait! See you on the playa!

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  • I had two fantastically serendipitous moments this year.

    The first was on Sunday night (8/28) when a group of us from Reno all went out exploring to see the art. We headed over to the Temple, which we had all been watching being built in our city throughout the year, and knew several people on the crew. We ran into Kiwi out there and he said hello, gave us all a round of hugs as we congratulated him on the amazing structure. After a few minutes he bid us goodbye saying he had to get to work. We watched as he walked through the barrier to the construction lights and turned them off, signaling they were finished building.

    The second was late Burn night. I was wandering through some neighborhoods over by 7:30, an area I hadn’t really explored. I ran into this big plastic heart that I remembered from my virgin burn and my friend and I climbed up into the top chambers. Right after we got in, a couple approached and asked if there was room for them. We scooched over and made room and they climbed in. We started chatting about the anatomy of the heart, a subject I’m well versed in from having a daughter w/ a congenital heart condition. After a few minutes, I asked where they were from and when they told me, a lightbulb moment hit. I looked at the woman and said her first name. She was one of my friends in high school, but we hadn’t seen each other in almost 20 years. She and I had chatted on facebook about trying to find each other on the playa, but you know how hard that can be. Here, out of 50,000 people, we both happened to climb into some random heart on 7:30 at 3am in the morning.

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