Next year marks the 20th summer of the Burning Man festival, a celebration of raw creative expression and temporary autonomous community during the weekI have never been to Burningman, and I just spent several hours browsing the website. I am fascinated by the tension between the structures and the freedoms that make it up.
before Labor Day. For one week, a city of tents, RVs, and geodeisic domes is created by over 40,000 people on an ancient lakebed (the "playa"). No money is exchanged; people pack in their own supplies, and share. The result is a mix between a frat party, a commune, a playground, and an art museum.
Burning Man isn't a model for a sustainable alternative society. Instead, it offers an experience of new possibilities, a look at what lies beyond our normal limits of experience and expression. The lessons of Burning Man are about empowering the individual, with the intention of creating a community based on both self-reliance and trust of others. Individuals expressing themselves fully, in needs, desires, thoughts, and fears, create a strong base for a powerful collective. I experienced this in the final days of the festival, once I trusted myself more in seeking out what I really wanted. I got silly with strangers. I explored new art forms. I walked in solitude across the vast playa on a self-directed mission to pick up scattered trash. I asked questions that seemed irrelevant, gave away random gifts from my bag, rode my bicycle naked, and offered to assist a struggling juggler.
Coming back into larger society, I want to carry these lessons with me. If I see someone doing something interesting, I can ask them to teach me. If I see something that needs to be done, I can do it. If I'm lonely, I can find someone to play with me. If I'm curious, I can step forward and experience more.