Burning Man: A Respite from the World

Hello Again Burners and Future Burners. I’ve been away for a while getting a torn rotator cuff repaired, which kept me off the computer for all but the most absolutely necessary purposes. But my recovery has progressed to the point that whatever minor pain it causes me to type will do no harm to the surgery. And I was further inspired to write a new post by a dinner guest who was a first-time Burner in 2014. An Iraq veteran, he works a number of jobs up here in the Lake Tahoe ski resorts, but can only afford to live in a tent (how can we allow that to happen to vets who have served in war zones!).

The pleasure both Lashes and I took in hearing this young man’s reaction to the Burn, and his commitment to return next year and for the foreseeable future, was a stark reminder of the wonderment we both felt during our first year (2005 for me, 2006 for Lashes), and how we continue to feel that sense of amazement at the experience that is Burning Man. We’re now approaching our 10th year of attending the festival (and our 48th wedding anniversary), and while there have been better and slightly worse experiences at Burning Man for us over the years, we have never felt anything less than renewed by attending.

In fact, this year, we experienced one of our most unforgettable and special moments at Burning Man: being selected as two of the team of eight lamplighters to carry the fire cauldron from center camp out to the man burn.  (Thanks to “Small Transgressions” for the use of the photo of our group carrying the cauldron to the man.)

15208739651_41d5643fa6_nSo after ruminating about our discussions of Burning Man with our dinner guest, I began writing this blog post with the PBS station in the background – playing a special on Peter, Paul and Mary. That music, which was the soundtrack of college and our early married years, reminded me that one of the reasons I love Burning Man is that – while not by nature a “hippie” – I’ve always been an idealist and a seeker of peace and harmony in the world.

No place has reached as close to my ideal as Burning Man, where “radical inclusion,” “welcome home,” and hugs from and for everyone put a twist on life that is the total antithesis to the crazy, violent, racist and politically stagnant world we live in. It is, in fact, our respite from that world, where people of various persuasions, income levels, and life goals put their differences aside and spend the week living together as a loving, peaceful community. Who could not feel renewed seeing people allowing themselves to be so vulnerable yet remaining unexploited.

Where else can you drink at a bar standing beside and loving people who are free to express themselves – sexually and otherwise – without the expectation of a battle for intellectual superiority based on their beliefs, choices or natures. Feeling welcome at all times and in every place on the playa is a massive relief from a life walking on eggshells, wondering who will next be offended by something you’ve said or done.

I can think of no better word to describe our time at Burning Man as once again calling it a respite from the world of spinning politicians, argumentative commentators, controlled newscasters and friends and family who feel the need to take sides on every issue. Once a year, all I need is a hug. One is always available on the playa.

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