Every generation is subtly different. Different parents and different environments result in new choices and unpredictable results. Not that most observers would notice. From a distance the Burning Man appears unchanged, a single constant anchor amidst a city of no constancy.
But look closer and you’ll see evidence of a tale forever evolving. Organic, rife with mutations and competing ideas. Of refinements and failures; all the messy flotsam and jetsam of natural selection, packed into a single human figure. The journey of eons – the human journey – recapitulated in a spare wooden effigy.
As Adam might say, “Consider the rib.”
The Ribs (First Man, 2007)
Originally carved by hand, the ribs were for a few brief years cut upon a CNC machine. In 2007 circumstance brought the process full circle, necessitating a quick return to traditional methods. During the rebirth – the heroic, on-playa creation of that year’s second Man – the ellipses that form the ribs were manually scribed by Red Ryan using only two screws, a length of string and mathematics. They were then hand cut by members of the Man KCrew and the DPW, as well as by the many citizens of Black Rock City who had joined us, unhesitatingly volunteering their labors to create Burning Man anew.
“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.” – Cormac McCarthy, “The Road”
Work began today almost wordlessly. Everyone on this year’s KCrew is a veteran Man builder, and by now well familiar with the steps involved. The Greenlees – refrigerator-sized metal toolboxes – were unpacked yesterday, and the myriad tools of Man-building now stand ready, awaiting our use. Sawhorses are unpacked and assembled: two for the torso and two for each leg. (The arm horses will follow later.) The lumber that will become the Man has already been delivered and now, three long timbers are carried from it and placed across each pair of sawhorses. These beams will form the Man’s spine, and the long bones of the legs.
Given that the Man KCrew draws its members from the wildly eclectic citizens and creators of Black Rock City it should come as no surprise that we too are a broadly diverse group of folks. For example our oldest builder is 62, our youngest only 24. Similarly (and perhaps despite its name) the Man Crew is by no means a boy’s club. Many women have helped create the Burning Man throughout the years. 2009 is no different, with five incredible women lending their unique skills and personalities to the task.
Yesterday, the DPW workshop stood empty, a nondescript metal quonset amidst the low, gravelly scrub that rings the Black Rock desert. Today the workshop is full.
Full of people. Full of movement. Full of sawdust.
Full of activity and creativity and – to keep things balanced – a little destruction.
Full of music from a dusty stereo, doggedly fighting its hopeless battle with The Carpenter’s Orchestra: the bass drone of belt sander and shop vac, the baritone buzz of table and chop saws, the three tenors, jigsaw, Sawzall and drill, and the 30,000 rpm soprano herself, the trim router, ever the diva.
Full of intention, the magickal force necessary to resurrect an icon from the ashes, so that it may once again take its place at the center of Black Rock City, our dear dusty Brigadoon.
Full of the elaborate dance of lore, luck and skill that gives birth to the Burning Man.
Get out of their camp and do something, that is. The organizers of Rathskellar, a new theme camp “risen from the ashes of Spike’s Vampire Bar“, are asking all of their members to volunteer with at least one other group at Burning Man.
As Rathskellar co-founder Chris “BoyChaos” Bishop says, “Many of us already choose to work with other groups for the growth and benefit of our city. Making this a requirement to join our camp was a good way to encourage more people to do the same, and to show them the value of such participation.”
Their experiment is already bearing great results. At two recent DPW volunteer work weekends, the Rathskellar crew showed up in force, contributing their sweat, blood and beers to the many tasks needed to prepare Black Rock Station – Burning Man’s Nevada work ranch and permanent staging area – for this year’s event. The Black Rock Desert also benefitted from their efforts, with Rathskellar volunteers helping to clean the playa of nails and other MOOP (Matter-Out-Of-Place) which is sometimes brought to the surface by heavy Winter rains.