I leave in one hour for my twelfth trip to Burning Man. What does the desert hold on journey number twelve?
I still have much to learn. Burning Man is a social crucible whose main business is people: how to greet strangers, how to pick up lovers, how to calm angry friends, and how to work within a group. Participants practice these social skills all week so it can be hard to get away from people and yourself.
I camp this year with Greg as part of a group of 8: myself, Greg, John, Tom, Jason, Dennis, Rob, and Mike. We make three couples and two wingnuts. We’re assembling several 20’ x 10’ quonset shade huts under which we pitch tents. We take turns cooking dinner for the group. Before the gates open for general admission on Sunday, we’re gluing LED strip lights to the exterior geometric panels of a giant white sheep bus. I’m setting up my five Platonic Solids across the street in the Comfort + Joy courtyard.
Or at least that is the plan. I leave in one hour and feel nervous. I rather stay home with the small predictable routines of my apartment. So much can go wrong out there! Burning Man is a caldron of chaos, both external from dust storms, high winds, and extreme heat, and internal from sickness, lost gear, broken essentials, break-ups, and exhaustion. Yes, Burning Man is fun, but also it is work.
I want to work on a few things this year:
Do more with less: Playa culture races to brighter, bigger, and blinkier for structures, outfits, and sound stages. I’d like to excuse myself from this technical arms race by realizing I have enough.
Help set up and take down: the fun may actually be the community construction of art projects and shelters bookended at the end of the week by group disassembly. Instead of denigrating construction as busy work, I’d like to integrate the assembling process into an ennobling part of the festival.
Stay with friends: there are over 70,000 people out there in the desert all trying to impress. I have some of the world’s greatest, smartest, dearest, and kindest friends. I want to spend time with my friends instead of the roving, raving masses of strangers. Heck, we have a magic sheep bus home for roaming the playa.
Be honest: communicate well and voice my needs. Speak forthrightly and simply.
Be patient and flexible: this festival is in part a one-week vacation, not the ultimate arena in which everything must get done. Growth and adventure will continue when I get back.
Be giving: Give my time, my possessions, my knowledge, and my kindness.
Be kind: no need for sarcasm or crassness. This is about love.