The Real Burning ManArticle by: Graham Berry|@Festival_Writer
Tue August 21, 2018 | 11:00 AM
Every festie who has yet to visit Black Rock City has that one Burner friend. They literally won’t shut up about it. In fact, every other event they attend is a pale comparison to their dust-covered memories of Burning Man and they take every opportunity to remind you. The tendency for Burners to harp on with waxing nostalgia and “one time at Burning Man” stories is a key source of lore surrounding Black Rock City. All those memories weave a narrative of this Shangri La in the dust that appears and vanishes without a trace, while mainstream publications frequently put the focus on the fun being had, while other tales detail the quest for collective survival. Whether by a choice to focus on one element over or another, or just through poor storytelling these accounts don’t always get all the details right and sometimes they fail to capture a clear glimpse at what Burning Man is actually about. A lot of stories paint Burning Man against a backdrop of thundering sound camps, hedonistic lifestyles and alien spirituality, leading some to wonder what’s the real Burning Man?
Well, you might be surprised to learn that it’s seldom what ordinary folks expect to find. Perhaps that’s because the flashier bits that so frequently permeate stories about Burning Man aren’t always a true reflection of the intentions people have when they choose to become a citizen in Black Rock City. Or perhaps those elements get washed away in the flow of wonderous and weird experiences that occur there. Whatever the reason, Burners know that beyond the lore, the revelry, and streams of neon that streak through the dust at night, there ultimately is just so much more to the magic of Burning Man.
Here are a few exemplary theme camps that represent the pinnacle truth of what Burning Man is all about.
Technical Innovation: Sextant and the Phage
Any gearheads or science enthusiast will tell you within ten minutes of being in Black Rock City, there certainly is no shortage of innovative potential on the playa. Sextant is a camp renown throughout Burner culture for the crackle and whir that reverberates off their signature towering Tesla Coil. Another collective of innovators, the Phage hosts talks about a number of science-related topics and their famous art car Dr. Brainlove is a geometric model of a camp members brain, which in design and lighting required the collaboration of eight teams and twelve neuroscientists. Now that’s a project with brains!
Community Action: Burners Without Borders
A lot of people focus on the art and all the action that happens on the playa, so it’s easy to miss what Burners are doing in “the default world”. Check out discussions at Burners Without Borders on Land Stewardship and hear the latest on the Fly Ranch Project. Learn about the potent efforts that Burner businesses are making in collaboration with BWB, as 501(3)c’s in their local communities. Then, when crisis strikes these folks apply all the wherewithal you learn at Burning Man to help solve the problems we face in our communities, including infrastructure rebuilding in Puerto Rico, hurricane relief in Texas and forest fires in California. Frequently, that means showing up at the drop of a hat, building a temporary space to shelter and care for people, and teaching others what it takes to survive when the weather isn’t so fair. For an honest look at the impact Burners want to make beyond the trash fence, Burners Without Borders is a living example of Burner ethos when it becomes Burner action.
Environmentalism: Earth Guardians
Not everyone fully gets the idea of MOOP at first and even fewer can carry the banner of ‘Leave No Trace’ from an instructional standpoint. That’s why the champions at Earth Guardians are so important at Burning Man. These folks tackle every day to uphold a commitment to a minimal carbon footprint and the protection of the local ecosystem. Within Black Rock City, they manage MOOP patrols, recycling and representing a conscience and the evangelists for the environmental ethos of the community. Outside the city, they patrol nearby hot springs to protect and learn about some of the local treasures in the Nevada desert.
Spiritual Therapy: Hello, We Love You
For many, Burning Man is a space for healing. Whether it’s the ancient winds that blow over the dried lakebed of alkaline charged dust or the timeless sunsets that paint the sky, there’s just something about the spiritual therapy that one gets from participation in Black Rock City. To really explore the edges of this medicinal frontier head to Camp Hello, We Love You where you will receive the gift of a precisely calibrated 432Hz ‘soundbath’ with gongs, bowls, chimes and more from within the miracle comfort of an air-conditioned dome. What’s a soundbath? Well, let’s just say the air conditioning will bring you back to life, but the soundbath may have you looking at it in a whole new way.
Sex Education + Consent: And Then There’s Only Love and Bureau of Erotic Discourse
Subs, Doms and Switches agree: consent is always key. Check out sex-positive education about sexual consent among adults on and off playa from the kinky folks at the Bureau of Erotic Discourse. At camp And Then There’s Only Love, the world famous Orgy Dome offers similar workshops and instruction. Both have a focus on clear, unambiguous consent. And once you’ve equipped all that knowledge you can mosey over to the Hug Deli to give your new communication skills a try.
A Good Hug: Pink Heart
Speaking of hugs, one of the most outspoken voices at Burning Man, Halcyon, is something of a professional hugger so it stands to reason that his camp Pink Heart, in addition to being a prime example of intention built into culture in Black Rock City, would also offer a wealth of instructional help, Burner advice, guidance on the principles and (you guessed it!) hugs. Known on their website as ‘a lighthouse for body and soul’, camp Pink Heart is a beacon to the sort of person who finds themselves occasionally shook by the absence of connection in our lives today. As a collective of unabashed, albeit respectful huggers, Pink Heart serves up a hug for every person and occasion you might encounter on the playa. Don’t miss a chance to take one home!