The end of the “Burning Man” event in the Black Rock Desert is signaled by the actual “burning” of the “Man.” Three stories high, when the “man” is burning, it is a sight to behold. First the “man made of sticks” is honored by being lit up fully. Then, there is a grand fireworks display. Finally, the man is set on fire, and he burns to the ground. The ritual is important. It means that “Burning Man”, as the event of that year, is ending. Sadly, it is now time for everyone to pack up and go home. At “Burning Man”, when the event is over, it is truly and fully “over”. Participants are told that they must pack up absolutely everything and “leave no trace”… at least no discernable physical trace”. (This is actually one of the 10 principles) But what of the experience that lives on in the memory of the participants? As I mentioned in my previous blog, (see previous blog)….people are deeply affected and “changed” internally by participating in Burning Man. Virtually all of the people I talked to came back from “Burning Man” with a new sense of the possibility of connecting with people in a heart centered and authentic way. Additionally, people seem to feel really good about themselves. People have a renewed sense of inner “empowerment” after “Burning Man”, as well as the motivation to continue to create “art” in whatever form that art might take.. My question is, how can we, any of us, bring this incredible Burning Man “ethos” to bear in the real world…the world that is so much more competitive, materialistic, and mean spirited and cruel than the “Burning Man” Utopia. After all, the “real world” is where we have to live, don’t we?….well maybe. Or…how about if we keep a man burning within each of us throughout the year? I’ve been thinking about a few ways we might be able to do that.
The first way is pretty obvious. “Burning Man” organizers are pretty savvy about the intensity of the experience, so there are many “after” parties and opportunities to “decompress” after “Burning Man”. In addition, many people who attend are repeat attenders, or “burners” as they are called. In point of fact, attendance of “Burning Man” has grown over the years, so that it is now attended by 68 thousand people…from virtually all over the world. This says to me that events such as “Burning Man” are an answer to a discernable, global “spiritual thirst”…that keeps on growing.
So, there is the first answer to keeping that flame burning….go back to “Burning Man”!…attend the related events.!
Another way to “keep the man burning” would be to just take the principles and contemplate them…and consider how it might be possible to “live” these principles all the time. Lets take” Radical self reliance”, for example. How often does each of us think we can’t figure something out…It’s too hard, we may tell ourselves , or….I don’t understand. I know I often say these things to myself….and then I pause a moment to actually “figure” it out…and it feels really good! Lately I’ve tried to challenge myself more, and challenge the insidious sterreotype of the helpless female (that I have apparently internalized) Now, how about “radical self expression”?…..I wonder how often we see ourselves as someone who is not “creative”, or not “artistic”. What kind of bullshit is that? Just checking out pictures and videos of the clothing , art and music of Burning Man, (keep in mind, I’ve never been there)…convinces me of the amazing creativity made possible by the unleashed and uninhibited human mind and spirit. So how about unleashing your inner artist once in while?
The principle of “radical inclusion” seems to me the most challenging of all. If I take a good hard look at myself, I can find instances where I have dismissed someone who seemed so different from me that he/she was…what…threatening???.. I’m shamed to say this….but its true. This is the inner work that know I’m not alone in having to do.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that the “Burning Man” ethos is not something that need only be brought out only for one week every year. It is possible to begin to incorporate these ideas into our everyday life…if we want to. I’m not saying its easy, because, face it, the “default” world can be kind of cool. I love my high tech communication gadgets, my TV, my “safe” friends and family…all the stuff that I know and can reliably depend on.
But I also know, its not enough. Its not enough, for me at least, to stay inside the cocoon of my familiar world. I want more. I want to expand and to dare to know myself at a deeper level. I want to try and understand and embrace people that seem “strange”. I want to explore my “outer edges” in a harsh and challenging environment. My intention is to attend Burning Man next year, and in the meantime…take some time to contemplate and live the principles every day.