A Change of Heart

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by Peter Tjeerdsma

On Wednesday night of 2006, our crew threw a huge all-night dance celebration – some 8000 people under the huge Conexus Cathedral we had just finished building on Tuesday, and lighting that day.

The next day, I’m out re-burying some lighting and power lines that had got kicked up by dancing feet. I take a break for water and a stretch, and here’s this beefy dude at the other end of the trench, using his bare hands to clear and rebury the cables. He nods at me, and keeps working towards me. He’s built like a linebacker, and doesn’t look much over 20.

After 15 minutes or so we meet in the middle, finish up, find some shade, and I offer him a beer and a nod in thanks. Words didn’t seem necessary.

Eventually he asks me, “This your project?”

“I’m architect and engineer, but a couple hundred people worked on fabrication over the last 4-6 months, and half a dozen leads to pull everything together.”

“Jeebus, how’d you get that many people to work so hard?”

“Hell if I know, we’re all just fuckin’ crazy, I guess.” I tell him how our tribe got its start throwing dances in a gothic church, hence the cathedral we’re sitting under.

I ask him how long he’d been coming, and he says, “Last year was my first.”

“Cool – what got you out here?”

“Well. Um. I was a frat boy.”

“No shit. What was that like?”

“Kinda stupid. Five of us got here on Friday in a buddies’ RV, basically drank all weekend and went around giving shit to the hippies and ravers. But after a while, I realized something: they were having a lot more fun than we were.”

“Heh. So what brought you out this year? You said ‘was’, eh? You’re sure not dressed like a frat boy now.” He was wearing a camo Utilikilt, and matching cowboy boots and hat spray-painted with a camo pattern of purple and blue. Nothing else but a bandanna as a gesture to the dust.

“All my buddies were saying what a waste of time it was, but I said fuck it. I came out here on my own, been having a great time just cruising around helping people. Always something needs fixing out here.” He finishes his beer, crushes the can with his boot, picks it up and stows it in a pocket in his kilt.

About the author: Tales From The Playa

Tales From The Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by its participants.

3 thoughts on “A Change of Heart

  • And that, dear friends, is why we practice Radical Inclusion. Are we going to convert everyone? Naw, BM can’t possibly appeal to all. But you never can tell in who it’s going to resonate.

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  • as a christian, I believe there are lost souls out there that need finding. Souls needing to find a place to belong and be loved. It only happens by people not institutions. BM doesn’t feed anyone any more than other institutions. It’s participants, however do. Just as people are a church; people are Burning Man. Radical Inclusion is a radical idea not because it is is a doctrine posted on a web site but because people practice it. Practicing Radical Inclusion and the other of the basic tenants of Burning Man change lives because people are using them to reach out to wandering souls, saying, come here, we will love you! You belong!

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