Wednesday, September 15, 2010
So first stop on Noah's world tour was a dried up lake bed in the middle-of-nowhere Nevada for a week-long festival called Burning Man. I knew Burning Man was going to be a electronica music infused art festival SLASH party in the desert, but I really had no clue what kind of hippie freakfest I was getting myself into. Note that I use the term "hippie freakfest" in the most endearing way possible, because it really was an amazing, unique and magical week on what us burners call the playa.
The most common conversation I think I had over the festival week was discussing with other burners how impossible it is to describe Burning Man to someone who has never been. It's a bit like trying to describe Las Vegas to someone who has never even seen a casino. Maybe you will succeed in giving them the mental impression of one of the hotels, but they could not grasp the sheer overwhelming experience that is the Vegas strip.
Like Vegas, the mere sight of the Burning Man playa is simply outside the bounds of a single person's imagination. Not only do you have no point of reference, but even if you did, the playa is a collaborative effort of 50,000+ artistic and creative minds. Around every corner is another small piece of creative genius that is part of a greater whole. So using words to describe BM is a joke, and photographs are a bit like showing someone pictures of a bunch of rocks and dirt and trees and telling them to imagine the mountain from which these pictures were taken. So everyone comes up with their own way to describe the playa, but my favorite comes from my new friend Frank the Hippie, who describes it as "Disneyland on the moon."
Besides the visual and aural stimulus (I've never enjoyed a better week of music in my life), there's a whole communal element to the festival. EVERYTHING is free, EVERYONE is open and friendly and kind and honest and contributing to the overall experience. It's hard to talk any more about this stuff without sounding flakey, so I'll stop there. My one "criticism" is that Burning Man is a bit of a dream. A beautiful dream, but a dream still. It's easy to be open and giving and mindful and selfless for a week, when you are partying in the desert and surrounded by 50,000 others doing the same. But how we act in our everyday lives off the playa is where the rubber meets the road.
There's a lot more that could be said about the festival, someone could probably write a book (actually, a quick search on Amazon shows there are quite a few). But I've already said 4 paragraphs of absolutely nothing, so I'll stop there. If camping in a dusty desert without a shower for a week is down your alley at all, it's something you must check out.