MAGAZINE

Why Festivals Are Your Chance to Party...with a Purpose

Photo by: Galen Oakes
by Jenna Sessions | @JtheSesh Thu September 24, 2015 | 12:00 AM

To quote a friend of mine, “Festivals are fabulous.” They are about connecting, growing, learning, playing, laughing, music, love, the earth, and tossing off the burdens of society. But...why? Is there a deeper point to flocking to barren lands and remote environments to experience these precious, temporary communities? Are we running away from something, or towards something? Are we stimulating our minds or numbing them? Do we seek knowledge or are we avoiding responsibility? How can we find and maintain intention in our recreational environments to mindfully contribute to the community at home? Asking ourselves why we festival is crucial to ensure that we are partying with purpose.

Burning Man 2015 Galen Oakes   51 Of 168

Photo by: Galen Oakes

It’s tempting to gloss over opportunities to learn in favor of seeing your favorite artist pound out beats with two hundred of your new closest friends while rocketing to the moon. However, I offer a perspective that encourages just the slightest bit of responsibility. Let’s party – and also find something more. Consider the temples that are often present at festivals. These places of learning or healing are the difference between festivals and raves. At festival temples, we sacrifice parts of ourselves that no longer serve us and learn how to grow past our weaknesses. I’ve seen talks about meditation, artificial intelligence, permaculture, the science of psychedelics, and myriad other topics designed to inspire and improve. 

Wanderlust Festival Squaw Valley 2015 Neil Gandhi Dance

All of these progressive festival offerings put us festies in a unique position. We are aware of issues that our predecessors were not – things like climate change, carbon footprints, and better ways to take care of ourselves and each other. The festival community is on the front lines of educating and arming our generation with the tools we need to enact change. The Polish Ambassador, for example, is a fervent proponent of the permaculture movement, which is gaining momentum as we begin to understand the overwhelming benefits of creating an interconnected and self-sustaining food and resource system. Waste management with the “pack it in, pack it out” mentality encourages focus on packaging, which turns attention toward petroleum products. Festival food vendors often offer vegan and vegetarian fare with messaging around the environmental impact of eating animals. There are lots of ways to help change the world for the better through what we learn at festivals. It just takes mindful participation, and yes, a little bit of brake pumping to pace ourselves and open our minds during these furious festivities.

Symbiosis 2015 Galen Oakes   1 Of 50

Photo by: Galen Oakes

One of the most exciting aspects about festivals is the built-in sense of community. Within these communities, we support and take care of one another; we shed our egos, become vulnerable, share wisdom, and lift each other up. This year at Burning Man I had the chance to deeply interact with two girls who are ten years younger than I am. Instead of being threatened (as I might have been in our youth-obsessed culture), I tried to be brave enough to share some of what I've learned in the past ten years with love and support. Both girls gave me more inspiration and gratitude for our time together than I ever could have imagined. It was incredibly special.

Arise Festival 2015 Juliana Bernstein   35

Festivals also provide opportunities to build a true global community. Two friends of mine, Mackenzie Hizon and Josh “Yoshi” Hizon, conducted interviews during their ninth Burning Man this year for a documentary around what it’s like to attend Burning Man from countries like China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea for the first time. Just imagine being at an event like Burning Man for the first time as someone coming from these cultural perspectives! Mackenzie talked with me about how creating projects like these reinvigorates veteran burners to see the magic of life again. This renewed passion is a gift that will carry over into all aspects of our lives beyond the burn. The two younger girls I mentioned earlier were traveling from Scotland and Wales and when we returned to the city, they stayed in our home. In festivals and beyond, find time to ground yourself and carry community connections back with you. You never know what project or possibility will arise from those relationships.

Wanderlust Festival Squaw Valley 2015 Ali Kaukas Together Crowd

In every experience, think about the intention for it. Whether it’s a yoga class or utilizing Mother Nature’s medicines, let’s tune into what our hearts need, to what our skills can bring to those around us, and what we need to learn. We can take what we learn under the shimmering sun and bring it back under the fluorescent lighting. When we come home and turn on the faucet, we can remember how precious every drop was in the scorching desert. What is inside our products? How will they affect our planet? When we were in the desert, food was fuel to survive. Now that we are no longer in such intense physical circumstances, what do we actually need? We lifted each other up and opened our hearts. How can we similarly support each other back in our day-to-day lives? How can we continue to set aside the ego and see all our brothers and sisters as fellow travelers on city streets?

If we take the time to learn and grow as individuals at festivals, we become passionate visionaries for the future. Combined with the power of a global community and the ability to craft a sustainable, progressive culture filled with people who understand and appreciate each other, we will be unstoppable.