Sunrise over the Playa is a magical experience. After hours of darkness in which the desert turns into a maze of blinking LEDs and a sea of music, with neon-lit figures dancing the cold away, everyone welcomes the first rays of sunlight with a sense of awe and thankfulness. We’ve survived yet another night at Burning Man. The soundtrack played by the art cars changes to greet the sun; shaddow dancers transform into tired yet beautiful creatures wearing the marks of adventures on the Playa. Where did all the glitter come from? Furs and coats are shed, heart-shaped sunglasses donned, left-over granola bars shared, and a mutant vehicle with friendly fairies handing out ice cream pops up out of nowhere. The world feels fresh and new, if a little dusty. Cycling back to one’s camp at 8am in the morning, stopping to marvel at another art piece that wasn’t there yesterday, Burning Man unfolds in all its beauty and possibility. A giant playground for everyone with an open mind and a child’s heart.
Here's a video I shot from the top of an art car on Thursday Morning - the song is "Time", by Pachanga Boys.
Someone said, “Calling Burning Man a festival is like calling the sun a lightbulb”. I think there's some truth in that. Burning Man is not a festival - a festival is about consumption, of music, food, merchandise. Burning Man is about contributing, about exchanging, gifting, about going with the flow and seeing where it takes you. No line-ups, no over-priced food carts, no wrist bands. Just great music everywhere, art that makes your jaw drop, chance events, and thousands of Burners who shed their real life identity to explore a more loving, crazy, open, radical version of themselves. It’s an experiment in alternative society - what the world could be like if we chose to be a little less selfish and a little more open minded, a world in which our job, race, sexual orientation and age wouldn’t matter. That’s what makes people fall in love with this place, and that’s why first time Burners are greeted with “Welcome home!” and a hug when they arrive.
This year was my second “Burn”. I don’t claim to be an expert, and, in fact, I only begin to realize how little I know about the world of Burning Man. What I took away this year was that no Burn is like the other. Each year is totally different. A new experience unfolds depending on whom you go with, whom you camp with, what you want to learn, see and do. Burning Man can be a week-long drug-fueled rave, or an introspect experience with hours of meditation, yoga and lots of vegan food. Between both ends of the spectrum, there are uncountable variations. The Burn that is right for you at this point in your life will find you.
I could write more about the idea and the principles behind Burning Man, the wonderful creative pieces I saw, the music I heard, the gifts I received, the crazy coincidences that happened every day. However, none of that will transport what this week really is about. It’s such a personal experience that posting pictures, and videos, only captures the surface of it. Also, there are a lot of these already out there, by people much more talented in their medium than I am. If you're interested, check out The Atlantic's pictures, watch this GoPro drop from a drone onto the dancefloor, or look at some art featured in this Guardian article.
What I took away from my seven days on the Playa are the people I met - people such as Alex, Horny, Glitterballs, Thatcher and Genie. They, and their stories, are the best gifts anyone could have given to me on the Playa. If I had to define what Burning Man is about, I'd say in it's essence it's about human relationships. The relationship we have with ourselves, our "normal" lives, our environment, and with others. The Burn really is a fast forward button for any friendship, both in the best and the worst sense. It’s emotionally challenging and tiring, but makes that week in the desert so incredibly rewarding that thousands of people, including myself, travel half-way around the world to be part of it once more.