One of the most common questions I’m asked by people who know nothing about Burning Man but are considering going anyway is “Do you have a … you know … special name?”
I tell them I do, but that they’ll have to see me on playa to learn it.
Then, almost inevitably, then get concerned. “Will I have to get a new name?”
I always try to picture how that would work: I imagine the Gate looking like Ellis Island, with bored bureaucrats asking people in fishnets and utilikilts “Papers please.” They look over the documents closely, and notice that the “new name” box hasn’t been checked.
“Okay,” they say. “Your name is now Fuzzypants. And his name is Bilge. Congratulations. Move along.”
“I said move, Fuzzypants!”
Actually, we should do that. It sounds fun.
But it’s interesting to me that of all the things people could worry about at Burning Man … “Will I die? Will I get heat stroke? Will I be run over by a bus shaped like a zoo?” … the idea of being given a new name ranks anywhere near the top.
Yet in my experience it does. And while that makes no sense intellectually, I get it viscerally. (more…)
I’ll be honest. All the joking and blustering I do about Burning Man is just a cover-up. I talk about being “so ready” because I’m not, and I hope your convinced look will convince me. I think Burning Man is really hard, and I’m scared to go back again.
There. I said it. I am afraid of Burning Man. I said it again. I’m going for the fifth time, and I’ll still be scared the sixth. That, I know.
“The more digital we get,” he said, “the more ritual we need.”
I jumped those words. My heart pounded. “Yeah!” I remember thinking, with an exclamation point and everything. I wrote it down in my notebook and put a little star next to it – my shorthand for “this is worth a whole article on its own.”
Larry Harvey has been talking about just this kind of thing for years. He even insisted that the following line be inserted in to Burning Man’s charter: the organization places “embodied ritual before symbolism.”
Which is awesome, to the extent it makes any sense at all.
But getting excited by something like that is a lot easier than explaining what it means, or why it’s true.
So obviously I might not be 100 percent on board with this concept that so excites me.
I stand by what I wrote in that post. But I also think Conley has hit on something vitally important, that needs to be explored – and that Burning Man may be the most advanced form of that “something important” we have. (more…)
Since the year 2000, there has been a Temple at Burning Man, and when we talk about the Temple, most people think of what started that year with David Best and Jack Haye, and became a long line of temples that have graced the playa. The Temple has evolved from what became a memorial to their friend into an “emotional nexus” of our community, where thousands make pilgrimage each year to remember those they have lost, to celebrate and affirm life, to heal and to forgive.
In 2012 I was fortunate to meet many of the people who are involved with building the Temple each year and to research what I came to believe are some of the essentials of understanding what the Temple at Burning Man has become. It is a place where our community goes to unburden itself and it is a representation of our maturity as a community as well as a natural manifestation of something sacred in the City of Black Rock.
Proposing to be the one who builds the Temple at Burning Man is serious stuff involving quite a bit of work within an existing structure of volunteers and other Temple minded folks to create something for the community. One question that was raised over and over again as I spoke with people who have done this before was that you should not ask yourself “WHAT am I doing this for?” but rather “WHO am I doing this for?”
For many Burners, the Temple is a vital place where those who build it possess a solemnity and a respect for that process. It is also a place for those who attend the event to use for grieving or celebration of life in an environment that is in contrast to a lot of the rollicking and outrageous things happening elsewhere on the playa that week in late summer.
Walking around the Temple at the middle of the week, I personally get overwhelmed by the amount of emotion that is focused like a beam in there. It is as if, from its inception each year, to all the planning and all the hands that build it, then when the event begins and it becomes “the largest collaborative art project” on the playa; that the energy of so many caring people turns whatever sublime Temple structure is built that year into something far greater than any art project.
Stopping to read the remembrances of so many loved friends, family and pets who have passed on, seeing the pictures of so many of them, pausing at the altars and shrines where people have lovingly placed tokens of their lost one’s lives, well, that can really get you right in your plexus where you feel that big sorrowful empathy wave. The Temple is a profound space where some of us who have lost loved ones can let them know that they are still loved and missed, but that it is all ok, they can pass and we can move on.
I’m a large, somewhat dim and oafish fellow, and I can only stay in there for so long before I have to walk away from it out onto the blankness of the playa with the Temple behind me, and breathe deeply so as to not betray the tough guy façade I live behind.
It is a heavy place. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.
Regardless of who builds the Temple, it is always something spectacular and special. There are bona fides and expertise that are a prerequisite to building the Temple at Burning Man and I was privy to finding out what some of those were this year.
I’ve written an article about what I discovered after being on playa (and attending the Temple construction before leaving for Black Rock City) for the building of this year’s Temple of Juno. I was able to research and read some of the intellectuals who’ve written about the concept of the Temple, including Lee Gilmore, Sarah Pike and Larry Harvey; and I had the pleasure of speaking with some of the folks involved with building Temples through the years including David Best, Jessica Hobbs and Jack Haye. The article is on the Burning Man website and is titled, Spirituality and Community: The Process and Intention of bringing a Temple to Black Rock City.
Burning Man would like to have a conversation that explores what you feel about the Temple and to get your insights on it since it is really your Temple. Please read the article as it is meant as a starting point to stimulate discussion. Our community loves discussions and the Temple is something many of us have very strong feelings about. Feel free to read the article and post your thoughts here.
I love what my friend Caveat wrote about the Cargo Cult theme. He is beyond correct that we’ve got a narrow road to walk through a mine field of cultural explosives. But I have a smaller, simpler question about this year’s theme:
When Christian media first got wind of Burning Man, they accused it of being the latest fad in Satanism.
They still do that … apparently Satan’s had a slow decade … but now there are so many articles with the premise of “my time at Burning Man as a Christian” that it’s practically its own genre – and many of these articles posit that Burning Man is something the Church can learn from, and that there is a place for the Cross at the Man.
Which begs a question I’ve been wondering for a while: When exactly did a Cacophony sponsored trip to the desert to build art and shoot guns transform into a major spiritual pilgrimage for the Western world?
Whether or not it’s appropriate to think of Burning Man in those terms, there’s no question that many people do. The number of camps offering morning yoga has increased alarmingly in just the last few years. A number of people talk about Burning Man as though it were an alternative to mainstream religion – as, for example, this recent Huffington Post blog suggesting that because Burning Man fits Joseph Campell’s criteria for a religion it’s ready to hit the big leagues. And as a Volunteer Coordinator for Burning Man, I receive hundreds of volunteer applications every year that say something like this: (more…)
A few weeks ago Charlie Smith, who is based in Atlanta, came to California to do a little fundraising, have a workshop to teach a little welding and other skills while building community and working on his 2012 Burning Man Honorarium Installation,“Timing is Everything – The 24×7 Time-Star”. We stopped by to take a few photos since we have know Charlie for years, and MonkeyBoy got to weld a little and I sat down and did a little filing.
We had a great time. Charlie’s cousin, Mary Gilbert, lives in San Francisco and helped put the weekend together. (more…)
It is so hard to explain how The Playa can change your life. For me, a huge part of it was finding a community of people who would support and encourage my creative impulses. In a world of voices that say, “pfffft” and roll their eyes at anything outside the norm, it can be downright transformative to be told, “YES! Be You… and do it LOUD.”
As we prepare for another magical year in the dust, thank you in advance for singing your heartsong, and encouraging me to sing mine.
Last year I hosted a talk about this topic in the middle of a Tuesday duststorm on the Playa:
**NOTE: I AM NOT AN OFFICIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF BURNING MAN. I am merely a Participant with a passion for the event, people, and principles of Burning Man. Half-baked ideas & views expressed aren’t necessarily those of the Burning Man organization.” **