The Soul of Burning Man is Freedom…

Quinn (aka Ghost Dancer) is Burning Man’s Nevada Properties Manager, which includes the year-round oversight of Burning Man’s Ranch (our staging and production facility), located north of the event site. Apropos of this year’s Art Theme, Fertility 2.0, we’d like to share this wonderful piece he wrote:

"Free!" Photograph by Betty Emirzian, 2009

Beyond judgments and dogma, Burning Man is at its core simply a stage of opportunity for people of all the world’s cultures to come together for a single week of the year to explore, exchange and express ourselves without the shackles of fear within an arena free of judgment, free of repression, free of self denial in an open free environment which supports and encourages that very intention.

For 7 short days; some 50,000 human beings join together in peaceful self expression, passionate self exploration and joyful giving of themselves to their fellow man without expectation of return or personal gain. This organic stage of opportunity for potential enlightened self experience is unique in the world and it happens but for a single week right here in our small sleepy little town of Gerlach.

Long ago the Constitution of the United States was drafted, many wars have been fought and many lives tragically sacrificed to protect your unalienable Right to Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness and the Right to “freely express yourself” while doing no harm to others. Yet there are many who would deny you these Rights or who simply choose to live life in a self-imposed prison of conditioned fear while sitting brain dead in front of the Television vegetating on what Paris Hilton’s wearing today.

Not the Burner…

These human beings of ecstatic spirit and a lust for creative living who discover and attend the Burning Man event are not content to just sit and watch TV nor passively accept whatever soulless doctrine is currently being spoon fed by the media. No my friends, Burners are in my observation the Peaceful Warriors of today’s potential humanity who are inspired by confronting the lifeless face of the mundane, and who burn within to awaken and live life to the fullest with an open fearless heart passionately driven to create and explore meaningful and lasting relationships with their fellow man in harmony with the natural world which supports us all.

As the gate opens and the people join together to spontaneously create Black Rock City, each and every ongoing moment is a completely unique creative expression unlike the moment before or after it, each person is more clearly seen and accepted for who they truly are through the process of contributing their individual perspective while simultaneously giving birth to more and more beauty and art inspiring deeper and deeper self reflection for both the individual and the collective experience. Basically it’s freedom of expression giving birth to greater levels of freedom of expression and mutual respect as a result, for 7 days and nights.

At least that’s how I see it.
You may call me a dreamer, I hope some day you’ll join me…

Thank you, Quinn!

I disagree with your festive holiday wishes!

Photo by Javichu el jefe (creative commons license)

This isn’t about Burning Man. 

I tend to get depressed around the holidays.  Last year, I sent the following message to the Media Mecca email list, in the hope that if someone else was getting depressed around the holidays, it would help.  It was well received. 

So now I’m putting it here, to strike back at a season that demands we smile when our hearts might be breaking.  I hope it’s helpful. 

— Caveat

***

“Happy holidays,” you say?  “Merry Christmas?”  “Have a great New Year?”

Wrong!

You couldn’t be more wrong.

You couldn’t be more wrong if you used creationism as an excuse to deny global warming.  You couldn’t be more wrong if you said the Bush tax cuts would help acai berries cure cancer.  You couldn’t be more wrong if you said the War in Iraq is filled with hot single girls just waiting for your call.

Lies.  All of them.  Lies.

This month’s holidays are not festive, whatever the propaganda machine at the Mall of America tells you.  Don’t listen to CBS!  Do not believe the internet.

Believe your eyes.  Believe your soul.  This is the darkest time of the year.

Literally and figuratively, the darkest time of the year.

I am going to speak up, now, on behalf of those of for whom “holiday” is synonymous with “blues.” (more…)

Remembering Captain Jim

I was saddened to read on the Tuna Guys Facebook Page:

long time burner, Captain Jim Peterson of Tuna Guys is lost at sea. On 12/12 his boat capsized. The 2 other deck hands were rescued and they will be OK. The search for Capt. Jim has been suspended by the Coast Guard. A memorial fund has been established to help his family. Those of you who wish to donate can do so here.

Captain Jim

 

Few people embodied the Burning Man spirit to me like Captain Jim & The Tuna Guys. I met him my first year on the playa (1998) and have made a point to connect every year since. The only meat I’ve eaten since going vegetarian was tuna caught by Jim & his crew. I am grateful to have been so blessed by his gifts and spirit.

I recorded a tribute to Jim during  my weekly podcast.

 

 

 


Recorded live during Hug Nation, Dec. 13, 2011.
**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.” **

The Demon’s Face

He had the best burn ever

The playa was rough and even with my flashlight it was too dark to see the bumps in front of my wheels.  Every jolt was a surprise, and instead of relaxing into the ride it made me stare at the ground even harder, as though I could pierce the darkness by concentrating. 

That’s how I almost missed the flaming altar, and the cluster of people around it.  I nearly biked right into them.  They were whispering to each other and nearly missed me too: one of a million near collisions that happen at Burning Man every day, averted at the last minute as I veered off to the east and hit my breaks, coming to a bumpy stop. 

I turned and shone my flashlight on their backs.  There were maybe seven people huddled around an altar with a small flame, and behind them were three large towers.  Maybe climbable.  Either they’d appeared out of nowhere, or I had. 

I love the deep playa.  I love it when something appears there, like a dream.  I was going deeper tonight.  All the way in.  But first … I wanted to see what I’d nearly knocked over, concentrating on the darkness so much I’d missed the light. (more…)

Is an Oasis of Silence Possible?

Really? At Burning Man, is this even possible? A group of artists building Otic Oasis seem to think so.

Gregg Fleishman's design for Otic Oasis
3D render of Gregg Fleishman's design for Otic Oasis

Our experimental city provides us many things, but a huge gap in the structure of our temporary home are places for silence. It is rather funny isn’t it. Our city sits in the Black Rock Desert, a 400 square mile expanse of quite literately nothingness and during the week of the festival you’d be hard pressed to find a space of silence.

Otic Oasis is not your usually variety of “death to sound camps” grumpy harrumphing “Burning Man was better back in the day” project. Instead the reason I’m compelled by this project is its understanding of the need for both sound and silence. The creators behind Otic are calling for balance, creating a project that supports and expands the diversity of our city. They see that both environments are needed; the frenetic energy of the art, fire, people and music; and the silent spaces for reflection, grounding and pause. (more…)

Initiations and Salutations

I’ve always liked the Burma Shave sign that reads something along the lines of, “It isn’t that Burning Man is getting smaller, it is that you are getting bigger”

My dear fellow blogger, Mr. C. Magister has proposed a question regarding this year’s theme I believe is fairly summarized as: Are we truly a movement that even can partake in ritual due to our penchant for chaos?. I would not claim to be an expert on such things, and yes, Burning Man may be nothing more than a huge party in the desert, however, with all deference to my colleague in psychic crime up here, I would like to take the liberty to suggest that I suspect there is more to this Burning Man thing we’ve created than meets the eye. I don’t believe that ritual implies orderliness, but rather I believe that the Rites of Passage is more a concept of a transition from one state of being to another.

Getting there 98
You never forget your first burn whether you return again to the playa or not. It makes an impression. When Mr. LH quotes the works of Arnold van Gennep and Raoul Vaneigem in this year’s theme, is it possible that those two tomes read together suggest, as in Rites of Passage, the movement from one status, through separation, transition and reincorporation, into another state of being and as Mr Vaneigem elucidates, on the whys and results of such a revolution of being.

Being a relative late comer and having arrived in a very Nebulous year, the longer I attend the less of a late bloomer I become and the more I appreciate the wild wind up to leaving for Black Rock City. But I remember being a tender neophyte full of anticipation. A veritable pre-initiate.

Nebulous Entity by Larry Harvey
I like to think we are all at first beckoned by the Siren’s call of one of our more eccentric friend’s insistent beseechings of “You GOTTA check it out”. At the moment you make that preliminal decision to depart and traipse to some god forsaken dry lake bed of unforeseen consequence, the ritual of initiation begins and the journey there has been aptly explored by one or two of us up here and elsewhere. Plan, make, buy, load, get the hell out of dodge, leave your town behind to journey to somewhere unknown. It is just a roadtrip to make the celestial border jump from freeway to two lane to where the pavement ends and it is there that things become interesting.

You are off the road and right onto the Anteroom off the pavement where you begin splashing around in nihilist dust, then you approach the GATE, where one could conceivably imagine a magic portico of emperors where ‘“guardians of the threshold take on monumental proportions”. “Winged dragons. A sphinx, other monsters” are sometimes parked off by Will Call. It is a place where you don’t fuck with the people who fuck with you and if you do, you fail the test, you can’t pay the Stygian toll dumbass. Is this a ritual? I have no idea.

After GATE has impressed you with the fact that if you thought you were at some Kind Brother hippie vibe love circle jerk where we all sit around singing Kumbaya you were mistaken, and if you mess up you really *could* die, you drive into the Narthex where you learn your first rule is slow the fuck down as you receive your meditation on those Burma Shave signs. Then you are to the Greeters where you used to be pulled from your car if you were a virgin and lost your pants to be ass smacked several times then to have your provisions pilfered. Now I believe they ring a bell before pilfering your provisions. Welcome Home.

Once inside the City you realize that at every threshold there is another invitation to initiation.
(more…)

Hysterical Revolution!

To The Burning Faithful –
Senior officials in the Earthalujah church have informed me that my god-reaching pompadour collapsed midway through this sermon. This is like the Nike swoosh turning into a swastika – a total brand collapse. But we stand by the heartfelt hysteria in this week’s lesson. We must inject joy back into our activism, and you who erupt in dance and song every year in the desert are the prime example. See you on the playa! -Rev.

Reverend Billy’s Freakstorm #10
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As The Church of Earthalujah takes off for our European tour, Reverend Billy gets a lesson in hysterical revolution from British activists and his one-year-old daughter.

Laughing our way to Tomorrow

Yes, I know what this picture is, and yes I am aware of the irony in using it here.

You’ve probably never heard of Stefan Zweig.

I only discovered him recently.  He wrote this book, you see, back in 1942.  An autobiography.  It’s called The World of Yesterday.

All of a sudden, people out of nowhere were recommending it to me.  An old college professor.  A friend’s wife.  My mom.  My freaking mom asks me on the phone “Have you ever read Stefan Zweig’s autobiography?”

So I call up a local independent bookstore.

“Green Arcade books,” says the man on the other end of the phone.  “How can I help you?”

“Yes, hi.  I’m wondering if you have Stefan Zweig’s autobiography, The World of Yesterday?”

He responds immediately.  “You’re JOKING!”

I give this some thought.  “No, I’m pretty sure I’m not.”

“Okay,” he says.  “Yes.  I have The World of Yesterday.”

“Great.  How late are you open?”

He considers.  “I don’t know.”

“Well, you’ve been a great help.”

“There’s a poetry reading tonight,” he explains.  “I don’t know how long it’s going to go.”

Stefan Zweig would have loved Burning Man

The thing about Zweig is, he was once a world famous author.  You’ve probably never heard of him … I’d never heard of him … but he was published in all the big literary journals for almost half a century.  He was friends with Rilke and Rodin.  He knew Freud.  He knew Borgese.  He knew Yeats and Pirandello and Gorky and Ravel and Joyce and Anatole France.  He was kind of the pre-WWII Johnny Carson.  He was a big deal, is what I’m saying.  I kind of want to be him.

The thing is, he saw that whole world wiped away by the Nazis.  Gone.  Obliterated.

This had actually happened to him before.  (Yes, yes, I know:  I’ll get to Burning Man eventually.  Stay with me.)   (more…)