Posts in evolution

June 3rd, 2010  |  Filed under Metropol

Fire in the Heart of Black Rock City

[MachineGun Lily (aka Lily Rasel) works on Burning Man's Government Relations, Legal Affairs and External Relations Teams, and (because Burners are nothing if not versatile) lays out the Black Rock City plan in CAD. An accomplished fire performer, she publishes Kindle Magazine, and will attend UC Berkeley's Boalt Law School in the Fall of 2010. This post is part of the Metropol Blog Series.]

With the ability to control and harness its energy, both physical and spiritual, humans see fire differently than the rest of the animal kingdom.  We do not run away from it, but often gravitate towards and congregate around it.  We use it as a tool, and some of us like to use it as a toy.  We see it as both dangerous and comforting, painful and powerful.  But what is it that draws us to flames like moths to a lantern?  What is it that makes us, as Burners, surround ourselves with it, play with it, and revere it as we do in Black Rock City?

The truth is, humans have had a close relationship with fire for many hundreds of thousands of years, over a million years by the count of some scientists.  Some even speculate that harnessing fire and using it to cook food may have been key to our evolution.  Not only were we able to eat a wider variety of foods made softer and safer after cooking and potentially gain more rich protein from cooked meat, we had more time to spend together as people, preparing meals and eating them around the warm fire.

As our earlier selves sat around the protective flames in the dark night, we began to share ideas, stories, and art.  We drew on caves and invented language to communicate the burning complex ideas trapped in our brains, all while enjoying the warmth of what we once feared and fled from like the rest of the animal kingdom.  We began to ritualize the use of fire, like the forests around us, in cycles of life, death, and rebirth.  Fire is a primal element of our nature as humans, and perhaps that is one of the reasons it is so celebrated in Black Rock City.

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October 2nd, 2009  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Changes

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

temple zone copy2For a lot of people, Burning Man is a transformational experience.

Your outlook changes. Your experience of the world changes. The way you relate to other people, and the place they hold in your life, changes.

Stories of transformations are everywhere.

There is the business executive who, after attending his first Burn, decided that the life he was leading really wasn’t the right one for him, so he chucked his job and his status and went on the road for a year and a half, trying to decide what to do next with his life. (This story is not apocryphal; ; I am not making it up. True, I can’t use the names, but you can probably understand the reasons why.)

There is the young woman who went to Burning Man after graduating from college and decided, “Oh yes, this is for me, this is how I want to develop my life, these are the areas where I want to grow.” So she moved to San Francisco, to be in  position to volunteer for the organization. She’s still here.

And then there are the smaller, maybe less dramatic things that happen to you during the event, the ones that you try to take back from the playa with you. The experiences you didn’t know you needed to have until you actually had them. Somehow, you met and had a truly significant and helpful conversation with a person who was going through something a lot like what you’re going through. You found new words to describe your situation, and in the process, discovered more clearly how you were feeling about it. And how exactly did it happen that this was the person you were stranded with in a sandstorm? How exactly did that awesome conversation start?

It’s lost in the haze, but the aftereffects have lingered.

Tell us about how you’ve changed since the time in the desert, and how you got to where you are now.

temple write copy

June 16th, 2009  |  Filed under Culture (Art & Music)

The Evolution of Man

I first met the MAN when he was still on the hay bales. Oh how he loved those hay bales.

Back in those days he was almost standing on the playa with the rest of us. There were no arching staircases, no MAN BASES, no contraptions to turn him, no snarky clowns in porticos, no pavilions or groves or observatories, no nothing but HIM atop a pyramid of highly flammable hay bale possibility.

Sure, I’d heard the MAN’s story, repeated incessantly by my friend who was an acolyte who’d known him for several years prior. My friend told me how the MAN was just a BOY on Baker Beach, born from the fertile loins of Larry and Jerry and how, at that tender age HE was raised and how HE drew the lucky few to him who happened to be there on that fortuitous day: punks, drunk ascetics and hippies, lackeys and MAN CURIOUS revelers. It was evidently the Solstice way back when there was the first MAN RISE.

I’d heard about his rebellious youth, how word of his Burning Sensation spread around San Francisco like an out of control fire in 1906, and how those big bonfires on the beach started to draw intellectuals and village idiots, artists, dangerous free rangers, musicians and assorted crazies to him for that toast and roast kind of inspiration celebration fruition rebellion. When that first little MAN stood there surveying all those around him, he realized that his ruckus dared to free some of those minds from self imposed prisons. HE saw the delight in their faces and it was good.

Stewart Harvey full burn on Baker Beach 1989

Stewart Harvey full burn on Baker Beach 1989

Each year the YOUNG MAN became more and more popular in spite of himself and around him developed a scene, a happening, a gathering, a CATHARSIS if you will. He was a fire burning, burning bright, growing each year in stature and reputation.

I’d also heard the legend of that fateful year when he outgrew his humble beginnings because he was becoming too dangerous, too much of a rebel and a renegade. Yes, HE was kicked off the beach for being a BAD BOY. The authorities needed to get that MAN out of their jurisdiction and banish him from the fair City of St. Francis, before his flame grew too big for them to contain.

Fortunately though, by the time the powers that be decided to try to extinguish him, the MAN had drawn around him an intimate circle of ideological ruffians who appreciated the MAN’s braggadocio because they too were young, dumb and full of … ideas. They were swarthy pirates searching for the new Temporary Autonomous Zone, they were masters and mistresses of Cacophony, the Saints of Stupid, the clever Evans, all Lawless researchers of Survival, Eaters of Souls, the Shiva who believed that the metaphor of life swirled around creation and destruction and they wanted that MAN to join them in a Zone out on the fringes of society where there could be a true few days of autonomy and madness.

How delightfully Post Apocalyptic it was.

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