August 3, 2018

Burning Man


First held 32 years ago in 1986 on Baker Beach in San Francisco, Burning Man is an annual event that is held in the western United States...far away from the maddening crowd and far away from the far away at a place where you need a map to know that you’re lost...at a place called Black Rock City...it’s a temporary city that’s erected in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada...sounds like the kind of place where if you’re unlucky, you might run into Nevada Smith or Nick Adams so you better be packing a piece...if you know where Reno is at (the biggest little city in the world...so they say), it’s approximately 100 miles north-northeast of there out in some anonymous god forsaken desert...the event which is usually held in the late summer has been described by its promoters as an ‘experiment in community and art’ and it attracts many a free spirit...the kind that just seem to drift around the country in their fixed up vans...selling incense, or candles, or homemade jewelry and trinkets...with no home to call home...their home is no home...there are 10 principles set forth which are the guidelines of the whole idea...they are radical inclusion, which means anyone is invited to Burning Man (well, anybody who can afford it--more about that later)...gifting, where attendees are encouraged to give gifts to other attendees...self-reliance, which is pretty self-explanatory, decommodification, which basically means using cash as little as possible although I don’t know if credit cards count..., communal effort... meaning helping each other out, self-expression which is usually the easiest one to follow, which is found mostly in the art where creativity takes center stage, many original artworks are taken to the festival and displayed, and there is music, performances, and ‘street theatre’, civic responsibility, meaning being a good citizen while at the event, participation... not just observing, immediacy, which means making a real connection with other people there; a soul to soul embrace of all that is beautiful man... and leaving no trace which basically means cleaning up after yourself and even trying to make things better than when you found them...ideals that are ideally ideal...the event takes its name from its climax which is the symbolic ritual burning of a large wooden effigy...known as "the Man" that traditionally occurs on the Saturday evening of the event...I believe last year one person got so caught up in the spirit, he threw himself into the fire...the effigy launches into wild flames, orange and red that leap into the dark night and rip the sky apart with a fury and the flames can be seen in other universes...recently, the rich have taken a liking to this festival and that’s a sure kiss of death to the real vibe...most of them who are content to hang out with the ‘real people, the bohemians’ or at least the ones that can afford to go now...it’s no different than when rich people would hang out in the cafes of Paris so they could be around the artists that they admired so much...and maybe for just a little bit while they sipped their cafe au laits and munched on their croissants and talked art, they could feel like they were part of the scene...and the artists put up with them because sometimes the rich guy would buy a painting or two from them...well, these modern day wannabes often engage in ‘glamping’ which for the uninitiated, is a made up word that means ‘glamourous camping’ which annoys many of the ‘regulars’...what started off as a free event that drew less than 100 people has now grown into a monster that plunders and roams the countryside like a crazed Frankenstein and attracts up to 70,000 people and a one day ticket now can cost over $420...kinda prices out a lot of the the real free spirits who were probably behind its success and its true spirit in the first place...you’ve got to sell a lot of incense to pay for that...like with most things, it sounds to me like it started out as a fun event with good intentions but has morphed into something else altogether.

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