Posts in millennials

June 30th, 2011  |  Filed under Afield in the World

Pen Pals

I have a pen pal.

We’ve never met. Not in person, anyway. Well, not in the flesh, I mean. I find it hard to define what constitutes “in person” lately. It seems like a good bit of my person is having an out-of-body experience in a virtual world. And that’s where I met my pen pal.

We’re both Burners, of course. That’s how it started.

We met by the Internet’s water cooler, reading the same Burning Man posts and feeling giddy about summer coming on. Soon, we were sharing photos, little windows into each other’s days just 600 pixels wide.

That’s actually a pretty wide window into someone’s life, if it’s open and the blinds are drawn. Human beings are pretty vast, but we’re also vivid. A lot of light gets through even a tiny aperture, and our sensors are pretty sensitive.

Burners are not special in this way, but maybe we just tend to focus on the same scenes. It’s a startlingly immediate connection, a confluence of perspective, meeting a fellow Burner in the wild.

Not that I met my pen pal in the “default world” at all. I’m not ready to extend that burnerism to the Internet. That’s a little too @GreatDismal a vision of the future.

But wherever we are, screen names and avatars, we’re still living the principles, making normal moments into works of art and giving them to each other. Just because we can’t feel them doesn’t mean they aren’t there, and vice versa.

We can’t be all virtual, though. Our bodies have mass, and the enormous gravity of our eventual meeting at Burning Man exerts a powerful force.

“Will you be my pen pal?”, I asked in a direct message.

She said her heart skipped a beat when she read that. Strong stuff.

And now we make letters and send them to each other. It takes five days for them to traverse the west coast of the United States from south to north, and five again from north to south.

It’s incredible how, in 2011, this still-modern marvel feels like such a long wait. Read more »

June 1st, 2011  |  Filed under Spirituality

What Time Is It?

Photo: mkgraph

A rite of passage is an act of growing up, and I don’t just mean maturing; I mean getting older. Time, at least from our ordinary, human perspective, only moves forward.

As rites of passage go, our week at Burning Man is pretty long. That’s a lot of time to reflect, a lot of days to fill with activity. Where should we go next? What should we do? For a ritual, this Burning Man thing seems kind of unstructured. Now that we’re here, are we just supposed to wander around?

Of course, the ritual does have a structure; it’s just more complex than the structure of, say, a Caribbean cruise, where some guy in shorts and a white sun visor tells you what to do all day.

There’s the burning of the Man on Saturday night, of course, and the Temple the next night. But those are all the way at the end.

What about this morning, now that we’ve finally got the tennis balls on our tent stakes and the pink fur zip-tied to our handlebars?

I guess we’ll look in the What-Where-When Guide… Read more »

December 29th, 2010  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Ripe

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

The first drink I ever legally bought myself was a $7 airplane beer on the flight to Burning Man 2008. It was my first time. The theme was The American Dream, and as far as I could tell, this was it. Happy 21st birthday to me.

Diesel, my lover and associate, was in the seat beside me. She had more than something to do with getting me into this. We shared a blood brother, Harry; he and I played in a band together, and he was coming, too. There was also Val, AKA Human, another friend of theirs, whom I was just getting to know. But Vivid was the one who brought this all together. To the extent that going to Burning Man was any one person’s idea, it was his.

PHOTO: Jon Mitchell

Vivid hailed from Mendo, and he was in with the Phat Cat Lounge, a wild younger-brother camp to the Skinny Kitty Teahouse, which appeared to be a venerable outfit. He had the plan. Diesel and I would fly out to Oakland from Boston, where he, Val, and Harry would pick us up, and we’d strap our bags to the roof of his Subaru and take a midnight drive into the hills. The next day, we would buy supplies and try not to forget anything. Then, the day after, we’d go to Burning Man.

Read more »

December 10th, 2010  |  Filed under Spirituality

Power Rangers

Photo: Rygg Larsen

Who are the Millennial Burners, those who came of age alongside Burning Man itself? Is their experience different in any fundamental way from that of the X-ers and Boomers who joined the party at the same time? Is there a distinction at all?

In some ways, Burning Man is such a radical thing that it doesn’t matter who you are while you’re there. Your story starts at chapter 1 when you ring that bell and roll in the dust for the first time.

I don’t care what year it is or how old you are; your first arrival at Burning Man was, is, or will be weird. If you have been to Burning Man, or if your buddy has, chances are you’ve heard the playa compared to the moon or Mars. The playa has been that way for about 10,000 years, since Lake Lahontan dried up, and it has been the site of Burning Man for the 20-odd years since it earned its capital B and M. The place itself is so breathtaking, you won’t recognize the planet on which you live.

Read more »

November 22nd, 2010  |  Filed under Tales From The Playa

Epic Proportions

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

Photo: ADLERPRODUCTIONS.COM

Burning Man is the best adult playground ever devised, a vast testing ground for one’s resourcefulness, imagination, and sense of adventure, managing to amuse 50,000 or so tech-addled, sleep-deprived, uncomfortable Moderns for up to a week or longer, while keeping them active, eating less, constantly testing their limits, morals, and comfort zones, and providing them with a social arrangement of managed freedom within limits acceptable to the paying participant.

It’s even more fun than college.

This was my sentiment on Thursday night of Burning Man 2010, as I sat by myself on the benches outside the Temple, aiming my dying headlamp into my little, red, dust-coated notebook. It was Metropolis, the biggest burn ever. In fact, it was my second biggest burn ever. The American Dream, 2008′s Thompsonian seizure of that mythological, materialistic nirvana for our own twisted purposes, was my first time.

When they first burnt the man on Baker Beach, I was negative one year old.

I think it’s safe to say that Burning Man has changed a few times since then.

Photo: Mischa Steiner

I would submit 2007 as the year Burning Man bloomed into its present incarnation. Veteran Burners had become increasingly fed up with what one participant called the “alterna-Disney” transformation of the festival, and The Green Man saw this come to a head in a… let’s call it a counterproductive way. Read more about it, if you like. My first burn was the year after that. Read more »