Many wonderful stories were left in the comments on our “Hey, First Timers! How Was Your Burn?” post, but one in particular stopped us in our tracks. I wrote its author, Paul French, to see if he’d let us reprint it as a post of its own, and to invite him to contribute more posts to the Burning Blog — it was that good.
He agreed, and at the same time reminded me that we’d met on playa that year, randomly, at Distrikt, where we enjoyed a very pleasant chat. They say the playa gives you what you need, whether you know what that is or not, and well, there ya go — another case of playa serendipity. And with that, here’s Paul’s story:
There is no English translation for the first gift I received at Burning Man. It was not a necklace or a bracelet or other trinkety item of raiment. Instead, it left me exposed, across a stretch of seven extraordinary days on the playa, to both brutal sadness and the gates of personal freedom. It was gifted to me by Mitch, from Chicago, when I told him of my plans to travel to the Northern shores of Brazil.
It was a feeling.
A single word.
As Mitch explained it to me, saudade is a Portuguese word that came to describe a sadness for those who set off on long journeys to sea, or to battle, but never returned. More mysteriously, it’s the anticipation of longing. It’s the duality of envisioning, before you should, a future swamped with nostalgia.
It was with me as I explored the customs and structures of Burning Man, where the most inhospitable place on the planet is transformed, for a fleeting week, into the most creative space in the universe. Saudade was coiled and fused with the ten principles of Burning Man, which inspire participants to carry the playa’s spirit back beyond the mountains and into rebooted lives. Read more »