“Truth is Beauty”, the sculpture created by Marco Cochrane was probably one of the most talked about and beautiful sculptures and was recognisable from anywhere on the playa. The second in the trilogy by the renowned sculptor, most commonly referred to as the “Dancing Lady”, presented me with my first Burgin “playa moment”.
As I approached the statue after photographing from afar, I noticed the inscriptions on the plinth. As I squatted down to read the text, a Mutant Vehicle passed and some yobbos yelled out,
“Nice arse! Show us your tits!”
I immediately burst into tears and was sobbing.
I tried to pull myself together as I walked back to my bike but an approaching woman saw my red eyes and asked, “What’s wrong honey?”
“The statue”, I blubbered.
“Yes, it is so beautiful”, she responded.
“It is beautiful yes, but that’s not why I’m crying. It’s the inscription on the plinth”.
“What does it say?”
I led her over, we both crouched down, “What would the world be like if women were safe?”
And with that we both began sobbing and rode out the emotion by hugging it out together.
We have to push the rocks. We have to make them spin. Who cares that we are all three out of water. Who cares that there is nothing in it for us except for our own self-satisfaction. We join the small crowd surrounding the sculpture. It’s so hot. We’re so secluded, so alone, but so absolutely not alone…surrounded by a family of seventy thousand people in the middle of the desert. It’s surreal. And we are going to move this sculpture. We are going to move tens of thousands of pounds of stone. The crowd around us grows. More people are going to help. More people willing to work their hardest to gain absolutely nothing tangible in return. The crowd reaches about thirty people. We all grab on. “Counter clockwise!” our unofficially appointed leader shouts. We push. It moves. Not far, just a few feet, but damn it’s satisfying. Everyone is beaming, smiling, irrationally excited about our small accomplishment. We hug. We high-five. We congratulate each other. We disperse, taking off in different directions across the desert. Who knows who those people were, but we feel a connection with them akin to the strength of a connection to those of our own flesh and blood. We are stronger. We are happier. We are home. (more…)
All through the week, pedaling out or back home across the playa, I would see on the horizon: “BELIEVE.”
I’d always believed in people. I’d always believed in myself. Now, for the first time, I was losing it.
A month before Burning Man, I had given up on my first real relationship. It was my fault. I was young and in a time of transition. I didn’t want to be in one but he was so important to me that I tried anyway. There were clashes in what we wanted from each other. There were clashes in what was important to us.
After months of uncertainty and ups and downs, I took the easy way out. I cut myself free because I couldn’t be tangled up with him anymore.
A month went by, one of the hardest months of my life. I cried every night for weeks. I drank and went out alone and kissed strangers in dark bars. I was so lost and confused, I wanted to be self-destructive, I wanted to punish myself for shutting off the light in my life. I only had myself to blame.
We were going to be camping together at Burning Man, and I made a decision. I knew that I had to try again. Because how could we throw away something so beautiful? Let it go to waste? We loved each other, wasn’t that enough? I hadn’t given it my all yet, and before we could part, I had to know that I’d tried my hardest. (more…)
This happened to me early in the setup week, and was a nice reminder of how serendipitous encounters often leave a mark on you at the burn. They’re usually full of warmth and enjoyment, and really are part of the magic. In this case, it was the birth of my first (given) playa name.
This was my fifth burn, and I came for setup. I flew in from London the Sunday before the event started, and was in full swing getting our camp built the following day. On the third night the team and I hit the showers late evening. I was still pretty heavily jetlagged so ready for bed as soon as we were done. I was driving, and going very slowly, very carefully. There weren’t many other camps placed by this point so as we approached camp I lost the markings, and drove in the general direction I thought was home.
All of a sudden we see a lady run towards the car (it was pitch black by this point by the way).
“Oh dear” I thought, “I’ve just driven through someone’s camp”. (more…)
I was trying to decide what to do and go to each day . Not only did that take up much of my time in planning mode it also did not necessarily work out. One day I decided to plan but just be open to whatever came up. I planned to attend a talk by a Buddhist Monk at Sacred Spaces but arrived early and did not know which of three domes he might be starting his talk in. There was no indication of the correct dome so I just randomly picked one.
A Jewish man was concluding his talk and I took a place on the floor next to a serious looking young man. We exchanged brief hellos but nothing else. The next speaker came in and announced her talk was on ESP. I decided to stay because I was comfortable and had no desire to move but I also had no interest in her subject matter. I had long ago explored this subject in great detail and felt very complete with it. I decided to just stay to enjoy the moment. It became obvious to me that the young serious man had come just for this talk and that the subject was important to him for whatever reason. I became more interested in his involvement than with the speaker.
At the end of the talk she opened up a question and answer time but seemed more interested in leaving and moving on. He seemed to have waited just for this moment, to ask his important questions. The two of them were not a vibrational match and I sensed his great disappointment. She moved on quickly but he lingered gathering his belongings. I felt drawn to offer him one of the gifts I had made and to offer to listen again to his question at a deeper level. First, I offered my gift, which was an arm cuff I had spent months making with symbols of the divine to match the Cargo Cult theme. Then I asked him to repeat his question. I listened intently. I could feel his deep confusion about his life situation and I offered what came to me to say. (more…)
Hey! If you’re in the Bay Area, come participate in The IlluminArts Walk! (Or if you’re not, perhaps organize your own illuminated walk, and send us your pictures to attach to this blog post!) The IlluminArts walk is in conjunction with San Francisco Travel’s “Illuminate SF”.
As early winter dusk descends upon our City on December 5th, Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) and Illuminate the Arts invites residents and visitors of San Francisco to don lighted gear and illuminated wearable art, and engage in an evening of participatory pageantry. The IlluminArts Walk is a strolling light installation at the human scale – where participants become art by illuminating their most fun evening finery and walk from North Beach to the Embarcadero. The route explores three works of illuminated art, traverses two neighborhoods, and brings new energy to our sidewalks and Telegraph Hill, all while enjoying gorgeous vistas of The Bay Lights. This event has been created in support of San Francisco Travel’s inaugural “Illuminate SF”, a new seasonal program which offers the entire city of San Francisco as a gallery of light-filled art, illuminating the dark winter evenings. (more…)
HURRAH! It’s a red-letter day for all you MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire: Our Leave No Trace efforts have made it possible for Burning Man to happen again in 2014.
On Thursday, November 14, the DPW Playa Restoration All-Stars regrouped on the Black Rock Desert, meeting with the Bureau of Land Management to conduct the annual inspection of our site. If you didn’t know, everything we do hinges on this one moment: If we don’t pass our inspection, the BLM may not allow us to continue holding Burning Man on this public land.
[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man’s 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]
Sometimes the exception to a rule can deepen understanding of a principle. For example, some critics of Burning Man insist that by allowing coffee sales in our city’s Center Camp Café we violate a tenet of our non-commercial ideology. They say that this is evidence of deep naiveté or demonstrates hypocrisy. My reply is that we’ve never espoused a non-commercial ideology. To be against commerce is to oppose the very existence of civilized life. Even hunter-gatherers engage in trade in order to survive.
When most people say that any thing or act is too commercial or has been commercialized, very few of them mean to say that the practice of commerce is necessarily bad. Instead, they are expressing the feeling that something essential — something that should never be bought and sold — has been commodified. This is why we have always been careful to use the words commodify and decommodify.
Our annual event in the desert is meant to provide an example of what can happen in a community when social interactions cease to be mediated by a marketplace. Until quite recently, all societies have provided many different kinds of rites and rituals – set apart from daily life – that rehearse and reaffirm certain core spiritual experiences that are held to possess an unconditional value.
For example, in the culture created by Burning Man, the value of a gift, when rightly given and received, is unconditional. Nothing of equivalent value can be expected in return; this interaction shouldn’t be commodified. Likewise, love – the love of a parent for a child – should never be commodified. This, too, is an unconditional value, hedged round by a kind of sanctity, and can never be measured in dollars and cents. (more…)