We’ve arrived. It’s 2020 and we are literally all fucking our own burns (a common phrase burners use in snarky satire, though it’s generally more of a term of endearment.) But here we are, 2020, “The Multiverse” is here, and all of our burns are fucked. For a good reason, too. Everything extracurricular SHOULD be on hold while the world (achem, excuse me, AMERICA) get’s it’s act together. It’s embarrassing we’ve let it get on this far out of hand, this toxic hold that congress has held over it’s citizens. It’s the perfect storm of a revolution. Almost as if someone or something was behind it all?
It’s honestly everything we could have ever dreamed about as far as apocalyptic criteria goes. We are smack dab in the middle of a shit-show reality fan-fare fuck fest of egos. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. And if you’re an artist, you’re trying to figure out how the fuck we are supposed to make any light of this all? Are we allowed to make light? Is light needed? Or maybe, we need to sit with the darkness for a while?
By now, we’ve probably all found our “safe spaces”… whatever “that” means for you. You’ve found your own weird coping mechanisms, what works & what doesn’t. You’ve learned what you can live with, and what’s a deal breaker (some are learning faster than others). Maybe it’s your mate, your best friend, or your mother that, has been your lifeline. Maybe it’s your theme camp of best friends group chat on Facebook that is keeping your chin up during the epic flood (I hear Elon is building an ark that doubles as a submarine). “Just keep treading water”
Or maybe, it’s good humor keeping you sane during this “what’s supposed to just be a phase” flu season of pandemic greatness. Maybe it’s your dog, or your job keeping you alive? Maybe it’s alcohol and Instagram that passes your time and offers you a sense of temporarily relief from the ratchet outside. Some of you are kayaking; nature is how you escape. Others are wallowing in shame and self-defeat, knowing better, but searching for a deeper rock bottom. It’s the “I really should recycle this jar, but I just can’t even give a fuck right now” general consensus that’s gnawing at our insides. Pick your poison; you’re not alone.
Usually, it’s some fantastic cocktail combo of heaven and hell that’s just tasty enough to continue to sip, nay, savor, to make it all palatable. Still the side effects cannot be ignored forever. The iceberg is dead ahead. We can’t keep eating bullshit for dinner any more. We are all thirsty for security, and at the same time justice; hungry for truth, or something remotely palatable to feel worthy of our own existence. We all want the truth, but at what expense?
So, are you leaning into your vices, or standing up to them?
I would bet that we all are leaning HARD into our coping mechanisms right about now. Whether that’s battling work, the deer in your garden, or depression. We are all out here trying to find something to live for, let alone something to die for. And to do this, we heave learned to turn to the gurus that have come before us, as we look for answers. What the FUCK are we supposed to be doing on this rock? “What can we do to help the world be a better place?” When I ask myself that question, I keep getting led back to the same thing. It starts with you. It all starts with you.
We are supposed to be doing?… The answer: ourselves. Ding Ding DING! Taking care of OURSELVES is our first priority, let alone governing our networks; it’s a full time job. If you take care of yourself properly, then the “governing of our neighborhoods” tends to shake out in the logistics, which you can observe with the study case of Black Rock City. A place where everyone takes care of themselves, while also having communal and civic responsibility to take care of others to fall back on.
Ahh, Burners, not only did we draw the map, get the permit, and bring the dance party; we also have a handbook. We have written the playbook: The Ten Principles – a brief but detailed guide to taking care of YOUR shit.
Let’s review the stuff.
1. Decomodification – No more cultural exploitation of stuff
2. Immediacy – Live in the NOW stuff
3. Participation – Take part in the stuff that interests you
4. Self Reliance – Take care of your own stuff
5. Self Expression – Strut your stuff
6. Leave No Trace – Leave no stuff behind
7. Civic Responsibility – Get involved with law and order stuff
8. Gifting – Give stuff away when you can
9. Communal Effort – Help out with stuff
10. Radical Inclusion – Anyone can participate in this stuff
11. Consent – ALWAYS with this stuff
12. Take it Outside – spread this stuff around – just DO SOMETHING!
Some principles are easier to learn and interpret and we can innately attribute value to it such as: Gifting – the art of giving freely with nothing in return. Who would have thought there was value in giving something away? That’s an easy one to start with if you’re looking for a way to bring a bit of the burner spirit into your life. What can you afford to give away? Challenge: Give something away that is unexpected, and see what happens. (Don’t forget to pay attention to the ripples, or not.)
Let’s take the principle of: Inclusion – we all know how it feels to notice someone on the outskirts and bring them into community. We know how it felt to be left out and lost; alone. Let’s challenge each there to look around and pay attention to what needs it. I invite you to consider: “When was the last time you did something inclusive, or forced yourself to participate in something that made you uncomfortable?” Here we are, feeling uncomfortable about being uncomfortable again. SIT WITH IT. Ask it questions. Work through it. When we continue to ignore what so obviously needs attention, it gets worse. That’s Karma.
Self-expression and self-reliance are obvious principles in concept, but not easy, and sometimes scary to embody. There is times to explore the inner soul workings of expression and of preparedness in life, which can take years to skim.
We may never master them completely, but the more I look at the principles and try to tackle them personally, the more I realize just how much work there is to do if you just look around your neighborhood. Before you look outside, start inside, and some of us, some of us need a program.
So, What step are you on? Let’s work ‘em. Together if you like?
So pick one… Have you mastered your leaving no trace habits (always a daily practice)? When I ask myself “am I truly acting upon my civic responsibility?” the answer is generally “well you can always do more”. And God forbid we look at immediacy these days it’s practically slapping us in the face constantly. I can’t look away. Do I have enough money and food to eat today? Do I have a roof over my head? “Yes”. Ok. That is more than sufficient and I should be grateful for another day. Coming from someone who has been a life-long habitual planner and slave to calendars and lists, it is foreign territory to not have a schedule to worry about as a crutch for my insatiable need to be productive. To do MORE. Communal effort calls… and while it’s sometimes difficult to interpret what it’s saying, and it’s calling your name right now to get out into the street and DO something that makes the world, ever-so-slightly a better place. Please. “We need all hands on deck for setting up camp. This means you.”
People are jumping in with unexpected skills. This is where creativity and out of the box thinking is a welcome sport. On the decomodification front, a phenomenon is happening in the most obscure ways all over the interwebs. Leave it to the alt TikTok kids to start creating accounts like “OfficialPurell” and “BurgerKingMerchandize” to fuck with the system and take the power back from advertisers trying to capitalize on the creativity of our youth. “Shame on you for thinking you can dupe us for so long” Commodification: the world we live in depends on it. But it doesn’t have to rule our every decision. If you are commodifying, because let’s face it, we’re all capitalists like it or not, then take a look at where you are spending your money. Are we investing in a better world? Trash is a serious matter in this reality, and you better be able to pack out your own.
“You vote with your wallet. Your dollar bill is your ballot ” – Wookie Foot
Thinking and acting local with intention and mindful environmental responsibility has never been more front and center. The time to take a stand for justice and equality has never been more available. It’s almost as if… as if the 2012 Mayan prophecies are all coming to fruition, slowly and painfully. Let that sink in as we switch gears into: The Multiverse and take everything we have learned from Black Rock City and apply it for real; as needed.
It couldn’t get any clearer. Burning Man’s Caveat put out a great article (Burning Man Culture in the Time of the Plague) about the Multi-verse that we have literally manifested for ourselves and that we are now currently building. REAL TIME. Taking the burn “out into the world” without a playa to even look forward to, kind of puts a whole new spin on the realities of this life that we spend so much energy building for ourselves. What if the default would could be different? What’s if there isn’t this make believe alternative reality, but instead, that world is the default?
Right now, I am so fortune that my life is literally turned into a theme camp. My car has become a stage. My clothes are my costumed representation of justice and freedom. The food I eat represents what I want to put into my body… and, yes, I really need to work on my civic responsibility, so that I can assure that everyone in my neighborhood and in this country has the right to a quality life, just as I have.
We owe it to all of those who have died in the face of privileged injustice. We owe it to our ancestors, to put this world back together again, properly.
“We are going to need a bigger temple”
Burning Man Podcast: https://burningman.org/live/
A friend of mine shared this graphic novel of the death rate of the highest causes of death since January, and it is truley alarming:
This is only another reminder of the seriousness of the state of the world it is that we live… this multiverse is complex, and there are many unknown territories to explore, channels to swim, and battlegrounds to cross before we can celebrate our pilgrimage again as burners. Until then, we must yes, bring our burner flare out into the world, but continue to do so with the love and tact and compassion and this revolution needs right now. Our attention to detail. Our humor. Our work ethic. Our kindness and generosity. Those qualities are needed now more than ever. We are all rangers, and we are all here to help. We are all comfortable with the uncomfortable, and it’s time to buckle our seatbelt.
We are not through the finish line with this Pandemic… no, we are crossing this dessert. All of us. It might take many generations, but we are not turning back to the old way of things “working” just fine. Fine is not fine at all any longer. We are not giving in to slavery and warfare and military state intimidation tactics anymore.
Maybe you’re a perfect human being body, who has already mastered all of these steps in a past life and now have one of those convenient holier-than-thou righteous badges proudly on your arm… I beg of you, to please, help teach the world these ways. We must take these principles, these concepts, and gift them freely to anyone and all who are ready leave this toxic relationship for good.
It’s a lot to pack in, and it’s the lightest I’ve ever packed for this burn, now that this burn it’s my LIFE. I never thought that I would miss the dust SO much.
I wonder, does the dust miss us when we are gone?
Dear Burning Man,
We are at a ground-breaking point in history where what we wan’t doesn’t exactly pair up with what we need. Our communities need us more than ever right now, and it is our civic responsibility to do what is right for the greater good of humanity, as burners. We have the resources, and now it is time to act. Many of us are already acting, and it’s incredible to see what the outcome of such synergy can create.
As madly in love with the Black Rock Desert and all of it’s citizens that I am, I think it necessary for us to consider pressing pause on Black Rock City for one year. Even “IF” the “ban” is lifted next month, it is still obvious we are in crisis, and have been for years. The world needs our burner love, compassion and expertise right now more than ever, not just because of our resources and our ability to get shit done and connect the dots, but mostly to serve as a good examples of HOW to take care of people. ALL people, not just ourselves.
What’s if we took all of this energy and talent and put it into bolstering the civic common good? “If” Burning Man is cancelled and we instead use this as an opportunity to make a very large PR statement about what our values are as burners, think of the impact that could have on the world. If Burning Man could publicly encourage it’s citizens to take our resources, skills, and efforts and put it into our local communities, Burners Without Borders style, we could literally revolutionize the world.
Already theme camps have made this decision to pull out of this year’s burn based on the hit that their communities are taking. A plethora of regionals have already taken the step of canceling this year’s engagements. People in our community from across the globe are struggling financially more than ever and they need our help. Let’s support OUR people (and all people) in crisis now.
Nobody wants to go back to that desert to heal and celebrate more than this burner right now, but I know in my heart what the right thing to do is. Black Rock City is my FAVORITE city in the world. It will always be there for us. And we will always be citizens, but now is the time to act bigger than just our Mecca. WE have to help the world HEAL, not just ourselves, but every person. That’s what radical inclusion, civic responsibility and gifting is all about, after all.
It’s time to make a statement, and a very loud one. Let’s take our money and put it where our mouth is, and show the whole world what these principles are really about.
Until we meet again, stay strong and healthy,
EDIT: Burning Man did decide indeed not to go back to the Black Rock Desert this year. Instead of course, we are attending “The Multiverse”, and doing just what is talked about above, which is bringing BRC to the world. Thank you CEO Marion Goodell for your decision making, passion, and your message:
First we have to forgive each other.
And then, we must forgive ourselves.
As someone who although was raised Jew-ish, always felt spiritually connected to all faiths, you might be surprised to know that while I do many Jewish things, I am not all that religious. I was raised reform, some of my family is orthodox, much of my work is in a conservative Jewish context, my prayerful nature is certainly Jewish, but I have always been a rail rider… a paradox. How can I be Jewish, and also be…. performing burlesque, singing Kiran to Hindu gods, or, god forbid, eating bacon? I don’t belong fully to any of the laws, and yet I am still a summation of all that I have learned and come to known as comforting in the realm of prayer and spirit. I consider myself to be pretty attuned to all the ways the spirit works, nondenominationally, as far as being human is concerned.
So when a few weeks ago I had this sense of dread come over me… I was baffled by this unexplainable heavily grieving of loss. Nothing showed overtly obvious as a reason…My love and work has been steady, I’m not PSMing, Mercury isn’t still in retrograde if you consider that important… granted, we live in an age where I fail to see how it’s possible for anybody not to be constantly depressed about this morbid state of the union… affairs… our planet…all that we have created. It’s a boat-load of good and bad. That aside… I checked in with myself, and though I felt balanced and healthy within, still, there was great sadness.
As people come and go in and out of our lives, is to be expected, and we ourselves undergo new phases of ourselves – old parts dying off, new parts growing – some things forever stay relevant, perhaps like faith, spirit, creativity. The real reality and secret is that EVERYTHING is temporary; we are always learning the process and when we master the process, then it changes. If you haven’t yet noticed, it has become clear to many that attachment is where pain grows. Specifically, unhealthy attachment.
I mentioned I currently work at a conservative synagogue in the Bay Area, and last week a man came in grappling with his mortality. With tears in his eyes he said he has two-four months to live and just wants to make it easy on his family. My tears began to flow with him and we hugged and talked…grief is a process, not a destination or something to avoid. And even when it’s not your own grief, it is still overt and demands attention; always better not to be done alone.
Then, in a staff meeting on Thursday, my Rabbi did a short teaching, and it hit me like lightening… he explained that this weekend is Tisha B’Av! The Jewish day of mourning. What is that about?
For those that aren’t familiar, on this day in 2019, Saturday, August 10, at sundown marked the Jewish day known as Tisha B’av. Known as the 9th of the Jewish month of Av, and it has a reputation of being the saddest day of the year. It usually occurs in July or August, and the Gregorian date switches around, it marks the culmination of a three week period of mourning. Twenty-four hours dedicated to the communal mourning of disastrous events that have all occurred on this day throughout history. I thought I would name a few, the first one written in the Bible, our oldest rendering of time, states:
“ …On the ninth of Av it was decreed that our fathers should not enter the Promised Land”. –Mishnah Ta’anit 4:6
…And it was decided the Jews had to wonder the dessert for 40 more years (or something of that nature, I didn’t go to synagogue tonight, because clearly I am not the best Jew. I like to keep my options open… but I instead, worked on this blog post, and dug deeper)
Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, both of which were destroyed on the ninth of Av (the first by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E.; the second by the Romans in 70 C.E.). On this day the many other tragedies occurred, notably the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from England in 1290. Some connect the day to Kristallnacht, which began on the 9th of November, or to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Perhaps a stretch, but worth noting. Some other dates include:
- The First Crusade officially commenced on August 15, 1096 (Av 24, AM 4856)
- The Jews were expelled from England on July 18, 1290
- The Jews were expelled from France on July 22, 1306
- The Jews were expelled from Spain on July 31, 1492
- Germany entered World War I on August 1–2, 1914
- On August 2, 1941, SS commander Heinrich Himmler received approval from the Nazi Party for “The Final Solution.” As a result, the Holocaust began.
And then, a little further research thanks to my friend Moxie proved to show that :
- 1871 – Chicago Fire 370 dead
- 1989 – San Francisco Earthquake
- 1992 – Hurricane Andrew
- 1972 – NYC heat wave – 891 dead
And the beat goes on. Really, no matter which way you look at it, people are constantly in a cycle of grieving. It’s unavoidable. And yet, here we are, continuing to walk forward in our lives as if nothing is wrong.
Luckily, traditions have developed observations in which to help people deal with these emotions. The jews sit shiva for seven days when someone dies. Many custums have particular rituals with which to honor the dead. #DayoftheDead
Central to the observance of this Tisha B’Av period is fasting. I also found it interesting that during this three week period of mourning preceding the 9th of Av, weddings and other parties are not permitted, and people refrain from cutting their hair or having sexual relations. From the first to the ninth of Av, it is customary to refrain from eating meat or drinking wine and from wearing new clothing. All of these actions are considered a luxury and inappropriate for a time of mourning. Visiting cemeteries is highly encouraged to tighten the sadness. Uniquely on Tisha B’Av, Torah study, meant to be joyful, is not permitted. Some parts of the Bible or Talmud are allowed, like Job or Jeremiah.
Bottom line, the community grieves together.
Now, whatever your ritual or history or beliefs may be… we all feel pain. And we all crave to be understood. Which begs the question:
What DO we do with all this pain? More and more comes every day.
I’ve learned that first, you have to process it and acknowledge it. And then you forgive it. You forgive BOTH sides of the story… you forgive others, and then you forgive yourself.
It’s not easy to admit the truth, especially when some of it has been blocked out potentially. And sometimes, we need a little help doing that. Usually this is easier said than done, and that’s why we developed these communal places to grieve and morn, where it is done in a group setting, facilitated even sometimes. In our communities.
That is exactly what the Temple at Burning Man is designed to do. Organically. No religion. No priest. Just community.
This year, I’m ramping up for my fifth Burning Man, and my mother who recently was told about the Temple at Burnin Man, informed me that she is ready to make the pilgrimage.. NEXT YEAR. “Wow, I thought… just when I was thinking maybe I should do something else with my time…”. And yet, why did she want to go all of a sudden?
To my surprise, because someone explained to her the grieving process that happens at Burning Man, at many of the various temples in fact. It’s such an important piece of the journey that is so often overlooked, and something I am greatly looking forward to spending some time at this year. And someday, maybe I can even bring my momma to this sacred place, one that is different every year.
It’s worth mentioning that “the” temple isn’t the only temple at burning man; in fact there are several. I’m honored to be working with this team a bit this year on the playa called Bee Divine . This honey-combed shape temple at Burning Man will guide people into embodying the Divine Feminine through ritual and holding space. “The art piece developed into a large-scale interactive temple that would hold interactive ritual theater,” said creator, Elizabeth Huebner. ” I wanted to create a beautiful temple, but I also wanted to explore how we can choose to create sacred experiences through the use of our own will and imagination.”
In an effort to create sacred space and hold myself accountable for something meaninful, I’ll be working a shift at the Bee Divine and leading my Israeli-inspired Lotus Flower Forgiveness Movement Meditation Ritual at this hive at 7:00 am on Friday morning at Sunrise (location TBA). In the meantime, no #FOMO, If you have something you need to let go of, no time like the present to metamorphosize! #beedivine #callitin #justaskhow
In the name of letting go, I am also really excited to be bringing my first piece of true art this year to the burn, introducing: GRACE …. the cutest baby fire you’ve always wanted! Come, help me feed her, keep her warm, keep her dry, and burn bright all week long. Participants will be invited to help keep the baby alive throughout the week by feeding her wood chips and ascribing an intention to each bite they deliver to her furnace.
You can come find Grace mostly around Center Camp and Pandora’s Bike and Fix it Shoppe at Rod’s Road and 4:30 …. Also we will be at the EL Diablo lighting ceremony Monday Sundown at Center Camp that Crimson Rose leads and possibly even at the main Man Burn event, if the baby can hang! Remember… doing sacred should also be silly… that’s the key to working your way through challenging times. Make it special.
I want to say a special thank you to my lovely friend and playmate TJ Lee for taking my idea and helping make it a reality! Also want to thank Dan Brown for suggesting I make my “fire on wheels” idea into a baby carriage when we were watching the man burn last year …. the world works in mysterious ways! Sometimes you watch it burn from the front row, sometimes you watch it burn from the back row, but it’s all about who you’re standing with that matters.
If I’ve learned one thing about the art of attachment (or lack there of), it is that the more you love, the more you will grieve, it is that simple. Budda knew it. The more you want something, the more it will hurt when it’s gone. And so we make choices based on how much we are willing to risk our hearts. Keep this in mind as you move forward day to day; how much of yourself you give away and in exchange for what.
I encourage you to not shy away from that which you love, but rather, love with a healthy intention and with compassion. You never know when someone is grieving, and THEY themselves might not even know it either. But love and grief are real, it is physical, it’s emotional, and it’s going to happen.
It’s time to start dealing with it. And please know, that you are never alone. Reach out anytime, I always make myself available when it’s important.
New Album called Sermony | Ceremony Coming Soon in 2020!
When someone asks you “what’s your favorite city”, you can bet your bottom dollar that anybody who has ever been to Burning Man undoubtedly will come out with “Black Rock City, is my favorite city”. Anyone who disagrees, I’m guessing that it USED to be their favorite city, and then the cultural direction shifted. Now what?
Oh, how we let our cities define us. The culture we create is directly and deeply interwoven with each city’s unique personality, as in any culture or group of people. We used to have our culture and communities be the focal point from which to dictate our whole lives and interactions. Ceremonies and celebrations were timed by the moon and nature’s seasonal flow. Our communities WERE our education systems, our entertainment forms, and the workforce. WE were the ECONOMY… the economy didn’t define us.
Fast forward to 2019, we couldn’t be further away from that model of life. They say that a tribe usually consists of about 256 people. That’s how many people one person actively keep track of, sincerely. 5,000 is the friends limit on Facebook, and to be honest I don’t know who most of you are anyway. Staying in touch has become so impersonal, we tend to fill up our cups with meaningless banter and scroll-past memes mores than genuine human interaction, whereas at Burning Man, it’s quite the opposite. The emphasis is on the human interaction and not so much on their credibility (who you are and where you’re from). The truly ironic thing about living in the Bay Area, which so happens to be the headquarters of the Burning Man office and social climate, is that we’re surrounded by all this culture, but there’s very little real community. There’s no village, no hub, no center camp for which to commune. And that’s making it really difficult for millennials (and everyone else dare I say) to make friends and have a life outside of work, let alone raise children.
I want my “Cheers” damnit. I want my village. My vibe tribe. I want my center camp at which to commune twice a day. I want to build a new city, and one that doesn’t have to go away after ten days.
Co-creating, the ultimate mission, is our lot in life. At Burning Man, everything is in a constant state of creation; of evolution. Art, is how you create culture and evolve it. Inventing new concepts and revisiting the old. Rewriting the rules as we see fit. Why not? If gravity changed, wouldn’t you adjust as best you could? One could say that the same thing is happening with evolution itself…it’s moving faster than we can document or understand, and possibly moving us back towards old ways of life. That is hard to suppress or make sense of for some of us. Sure, some people would prefer to stay ignorant and “asleep”, while the rest of us, are slowly waking you up. Which life are you living?
It’s no secret, Burning Man is on the forefront of creating and defining culture, in a new sense. Like a quantum particle, always changing, always desecrating and then recreating itself different and better; we have continued to ebb and flow with the changing dynamic that is human existence. Now, our mission is to change the culture.
So what exactly does it mean to change the culture? To push the envelope of precipice? To actively seek out the new and refine it, while still relating to the old…. It’s quite a lot to carry, that’s for sure. Especially when met with so much resistance.
The Ten Principles of Burning Man have helped us understand what it means to be a part of a culture and to change it. That can look like simply participating, actively or showing up, even for the messy part. It can mean being self-reliant and self-expressive, even at the expense of being misunderstood . It means taking chances where no one said it was possible; isn’t that what we are all here to do?
Speaking of the impossible, in the Bay Area community, many reflect upon the somewhat recently shattered communities: Ghost Ship and Paradise Fire. Here we saw very vibrant cohabitation brought down to nothing but ash. The community took action. A few months later, FEMA “stepped in” to ASK some of the active Burners Without Borders leaders and for advice. “What do we do?” they asked. With no money and no resources. “Help.” There’s more to that story I don’t know all the details, but it sets the stage for our collective power and wisdom that could be the change many of us are seeking, if we are brave enough to face it. When there is a task to do, Burners can figure it out and get it done; and then light it on fire if need be.
It’s a delicate place to be. Abiding by our principles, we have to be careful not to exclude anybody or anything. Where does that leave us when people mess up or disagree? Perhaps it’s possible to shift what change looks like:
Let’s take the Tenderloin district in San Francisco’s downtown. Some say the Tenderloin got it’s name because street dwellers and slingers used to bribe the San Francisco police department with steaks and other cuts of meat in order for them to keep their mouths shut and turn a blind eye. (How do you even fact check this? I didn’t; it’s too funny)
Today, walking through the Tenderloin is like walking through the worst horror movie ever written. It’s a living nightmare. I was driving through the streets a few weeks ago and I saw a lively dark skinned man shaking a paint can vigorously with a large group around him. I looked closer, expecting to see him huffing paint, but as the moment passed I could see he was indeed spray painting on the wall behind him, telling stories to go with the motions. People gathered round and listened with interest and desire for human interaction written on their faces and I thought to myself, “THAT is how you change the culture. With art. You rewrite the stories with new lessons, and the art is what allows people to HEAR those messages”
So what if Burning Man is holding the spray can, or the paint brush? What if it’s our turn to rewrite this story of love and kindness and truth? What if we could teach the world how to live together in peace in tribes? How to share and learn from each other and live with art and fun as our focus instead of fear and anger.
Burning Man is no stranger to art. But how do we harness the art? What ARE we trying to say? Personally, what are the conversations we need to have in our lives to deal with our criticisms and understand the other side? We cannot keep going down this anti-global-warming rabbit hole for a second longer.
If I have learned a few things about my time with Burning Man and developing my own leadership skills around community organizing, I can say this: Don’t start the fight if you’re not willing to be the bigger person. Don’t let the need to be right over shadow the desire to get along.
“Being offended should always be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of it,” Said Jamie Dewolf of Tourettes Without Regrets, the legendary variety show in Oakland, CA.
And I am here, to piss you off. To challenge you. In order to push the envelope, we must first open it!
My grandfather always told me, “we’re not arguing, we are brainstorming”.
So, let the brainstorms begin. And the action to follow. Tell me, what are you purveying?
The first time I rolled up to Burning Man in 2013, fresh off the festival circuit, I arrived at 6 AM, after being on the road for three days and in line for 10 hours, it got real. I jumped out of the car and the first thing I said to this stranger was: “I really like your necklace“ shyly, just trying to drum up conversation. He looked at me and said “UGH fine take it.“ And handed me the necklace, exasperated. Two strangers offered me some chocolates, I politely declined, and then promptly I hopped on my bike and rode towards “The Man” like I was supposed to. The first thing I encountered? A scene of people, full blown working out with barbells and equipment in front of these giant BELIEVE letters, as the sun was rising; I knew that this wasn’t just a party or an experience to be taken lightly. This was evolution in motion.
-Burning Man 2013: Da Vinci’s Workshop-
A group of body builders pumping iron at sunrise by this Believe sign .
Letters by by: Laura Kimpton with Jeff Schomberg
This year, 2018, the art was unlike anything I’d ever fathomed. There was the iSheep, a roaming pack of sheep, that if you were nice to them they would let you ride them. If you didn’t ask consent, they were mean sheep, and would yell at you, so I am told. Could never find those buggers.
-iSheep by: Bardia Saeedi, DC Regional Artists-
from: Alexandria, VA
IF you were lucky enough to find “The Pole”, a random lite up pole, and you were lucky enough to know just the right way to shake your head, you would see the most incredible faces within the motion of your eyeballs. WHAT!? ETIPADO as it was called is a mysterious strobing pole. It displays images captured from an antique camera, but the secret to viewing them must be discovered.
-Said pole Installation titled ETIPADO: Extremely Tall Image Processing And Display Object-
by: Grant Patterson from: San Francisco, CA
Meanwhile, THESE poles were also amazing…and much easier to see. Made of 11,000 hanging LEDs in a volumetric field, these concentric pathways of light interpret movement and sound, mimicked shadows in a visual form throughout.
-Galactic Meadows- by Spectral Form out of SF-
I found out the rainbow runway arches were ACTUALLY demonstrating the speed of sound, and that art cars could actually hook up to the runway with a software that Robot Heart developed and play their set. Then the music that plays shows the wave frequencies that are displayed in lights down the whole the row.
Then there was the polar bear made out of white car hoods, advocating polar bear environmental safety. “Singularity” was the house, in a birdcage, in a house, inside a birdcage inside a house, and it was burned in the name of dispelling depression and honoring those that have suffered. “Let U.S Prey” was made out of pennies, nickles and dimes, 27,000 coins to be exact, or so I heard.
-Let U.S. Prey by: Mr and Mrs Ferguson-
from: Alameda, CA
Burning Man really is like a beautiful train wreck that you can’t stop watching, even though you know it might not end well. Boop. Maybe it’s not as big of a crash as expected, but worth watching none the less. Even those overturn that have chosen not to return after burning for how ever many years, are still watching, because they know the magic of Black Rock City. This year, even Skirllex was amazing #shocking. You really never know with this place…
The drone light show coming from Amsterdam was an absolutely mind-blowing performative artwork at the interface between technology, science, and art. “Franchise Freedom” exposed the tension between individual freedom and safety in numbers, and was choreographed to music composed and played by Joep Beving. The patterned movements of the 600 drones apparently were based on the patterns of bird flights. I saw a hand beckoning the crowd to approach the Mayan Warrior. Perhaps I was just hallucinating?
At sunrise on Tuesday morning, some circus friends I know presented a performance art piece called: “Straight No Chaser – The Great Straight Escape” … An escape artist was hanging upside down from a hot air balloon near the temple, and she did it!
-Strait No Chaser : The Great Strait Escape by: LadyBEAST and GatorDox-
from: Oakland, CA
This ridiculous city has taught me more about freedom, and about who I never would’ve thought I would become, over the past four years. I’ve showered with total strangers in a completely non-sexualize way and felt so empowered afterwards #carcuswash. I’ve eaten ribs and salmon a top of a giant glowing pirate ship at five in the morning while Crystal Method the artist danced beside me. #pearlnecklace I’ve had more synchronistic and unexpected magical experiences in the middle of nowhere in one week then probably in my whole life before burning man combined. #ttitd
-Still trying to locate the project name-
This was a circus of light up wheels, that had traveled fixe desserts, and was destined for Black Rock City. Every night 15 volunteers committed 4+ hours of their time to walk these wheels to the larger inner playa installation and dance in loincloths for onlookers! What a spectacle! I still don’t know what to call it.
Speaking of names, one day, while hanging at my camp, the Pandora Bike and Fix it Shoppe bar, a women came up and when I asked what her name was, she said she didn’t have a playa name. My co-bartender, “Bish” said while she poured the girl a drink “Well silverbell, it’ll come when you’re ready”. The girl and I both looked at each other and I said “That’s it! That’s your name!” She said she liked it, and then I reached down and pulled off the bracelet of silver bells I had just put on minutes earlier, that I hadn’t worn in years, and promptly handed her the bracelet, deeming her Silverbell. And that’s how the they get you… before you know it, you’re covered in dust and loving it.
Oh yes, I have fallen in love with the dust… just the smell of it turns me on. This strong, smooth and sultry salt bed dust gets into everything, and yet I still can’t get enough of it. It’s in the air you breathe it’s in the food you eat and it’s definitely in the places you sleep and play and worship and dance and shit and cry and bathe… It becomes a part of you. It connects you to everything else through the vibrations that you can literally see the music waves pulsating through a dust storm. In the morning light you can see the dust kicking up off of art car wheels as they roll five miles an hour across the playa, spiraling out into fractals; it’s really a sight for sore eyes. #goggles.
This dust reminds me of sugar and every other white powder that’s worth indulging in, it serves a purpose and an important one at that. This dusty powder is a way of life; it is a medicine. And while it may not be the most logical, rational or economical “medicine” you’ve ever heard of, once you’ve tried this Kool-Aid, you’re going to want to go deeper. Down whichever rabbit hole you choose! There’s lots to explore. Even sober ones, it’s true.
This year, as I was biking Sunday pre-event, alone, across the playa under the stars, night one of my 2018 adventure, I realized that I was laughing, and crying, and singing and dancing, sweating and breathing heavy, and jumping WHILE riding my bike, all at once, and I couldn’t help but think “this is the closest to a religious experience as anyone in this day and age will ever get.” In that moment I felt invincible and ecstatic, like I hadn’t felt since I was a little girl. I felt like my true self, finally come into perfect alignment. How long can it last?
-The Alter of Intention-
by: Daniel Strickland, Vinicius Luz, M.Emoto Institute, Brazilian Burners
from: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Two weeks later, in the throughs of decompression and after burn withdraw, I still think that it’s worth every bit of energy and sacrifice, though a harder pill to swallow in my grumpy state. If you’ve never gone from hell to heaven and back again in two week’s time, it’s impossible to fathom the gravity of the circumstances. If you haven’t at least considered quitting your job and going to Burning Man, than this might not be for you.
Is it worth it? Absolutely. And I’ve lost 15 pounds! Burning Man is truly the pilgrimage of many lifetimes that I waited way too long to take. Black Rock City is forever etched onto my heart and pulses through my veins, daily, calling me to return home as soon as possible. 360 days we must wait. But the burn doesn’t just stop there, you know…. #openseasame
One of the most important facets of deeming yourself a burner is taking these principles that you operate under out into the world, pre and post burn. Otherwise, what is the point? Many of us struggle with the dreaded “exclusiveness” and “waste of resources” dilemma. Believe me, us burners are well aware of the discrepancies and issues within our community that are all over the news. “With all that money spend on a 747 we could have fed hundreds of starving children”, is an absolutely valid argument that many of us within and outside the organization have voiced and battled with each other concerning, but it’s really not up for ANYONE to decide whether or not something is art. The point is, we are out there, pushing the envelope in a very raw and real way. We build a community from scratch, and with that comes all kinds of pulses. The challenge with any community, and especially one of this force, is that you have the best of humanity, and also the worst of humanity, all under one roof. I do want to point out that radically inclusive doesn’t mean you have to include the rapist or the thief; but discovering who these people are is the hard part, as people are good at hiding in a crowd.
As you’ll see within any city, you’ll find just about everything you look for. Bars, yoga studios, dance parties, parades, restaurants, balloon rides, roller skating rinks, temples, you name it, it’s at Black Rock City. Funnily enough, this year AND last year I had my megaphone stolen right out of my bag on burn night, when I wasn’t looking. It’s a small price to pay for a week of fulfilling magic, but still, it is a reality we are facing as a community. Just because you’re in an utopian society doesn’t mean you don’t still have to watch your back.
***WANTED: Silver megaphone, small frame, connected to swell rainbow water bottle inside a hemp-laced carrying case. REWARD IF FOUND***
One night an obviously disheveled woman came in to my camp. She asked if she could buy a drink which we explained to her there was no money used at Burning Man once you arrive. I asked her how she got there and she explained that her boyfriend had brought her she never heard of Burning Man she had never heard of the 10 principles and she wasn’t sure where she was going to sleep that night as her boyfriend had kicked her out and left her. She disappeared before I could get a ranger, after she realized she was most certainly out of her element. It was a tragic story and situation that really hurt my heart. But that’s what happens, you get all walks of life.
Every year the playa energy changes, physically, emotionally, spirituality, and weather wise of course. This year, the pulse was running hot, in my opinion. The virgin burners were prepared, the veterans seemed patient, lines were shorter than ever, and the flow was smooth, mostly until Wednesday night. I could feel a very direct shift in attitude once the city went from the week long committed artists and city builders to the weekend warriors who just show up to party. It’s an interesting observation to attend to.
Still, it’s important to recognize that what you chose to pay attention to is what you will find at the burn. If you want to stay cranky at entitled assholes all week long, than that’s what you’ll see. I choose to focus on the art, music and friendships that we built. The best part about Black Rock City is the intensity of which things happen. Time speeds up. Emotions are heightened. Strength gets stronger. Weaknesses become glaringly obvious. Anything you haven’t dealt with in your immediate force field will rear it’s little head and say “you better check this right now or we’re gonna ruin your burn”. Happens every year, even to the best of us. The burn you want and the burn you need are never the same thing. Usually they balance each other out.
They say “the playa provides” bla bla bla… I say, YOU provide, for yourself and for your community. Almost every time I indeed needed something, it was right there, all I had to do was voice my desire aloud. I came as self prepared as possible, and then went out of my way to help others because that’s what you do with communal effort and civic responsibility. It’s a team effort, when it comes to building a city, running it, and then also tearing it down, it requires everyones help. If you don’t give, you won’t get. Everything is temporary here, and that’s part of the magic.
-Galaxia Temple 2018-
By the incredible Temple Crew
Speaking of magic, or the unexplainable, the Temple comes to mind. Never before in my four years of Burning have I felt a connection to the temple. I would go, stop in, look around and leave feeling sad for others and underwhelmed for myself. I didn’t get it. But everything changed this year.
This year I took my broken ass heart to the temple and gave it away… by that I mean, I took a paper flower for every man who has broken my heart and released it into the spiral abyss of flame. Apparently I wasn’t the only one on this train of though, as the temple was FILLED with wedding dresses, old letters from ex lovers and notes to abusive partners saying “we will no longer stand for this treatment”. “Fuck your narcissism” and “Fuck cancer” It was so powerful, you could feel the thickness of tension, and when it burned on Sunday night, I could also feel the release. The vortex was undeniable, and some of us swore that Larry was even there, in the dust. Check out this video of the dirt devil tornado that surprised us all towards the end of the temple burn. I learned that at Burning Man people call these tornados “ancestors”.
Now I’d like to remind those who don’t know that the “theme” of “burning man” this year was iRobot, which didn’t please my tastebuds at all, initially. In response I chose to moonlight as Dorothy the Burning Man iRobot, who was created thanks to the Radicals Brining Back Ritual campaign, and she was sent to Burning Man to protest robots. Sponsored by the Anti Bot Coalition, the ABC didn’t end up having to protest in the end, when it seemed to be that the humans were a bigger part of the problem than the bots, however I felt like my mission was a valid one. “Who are these robots, and why are they taking over my burn? I miss Radical Ritual…”
-Fractal the Turtle and The Nonsense Man and a Robot @ The Man 2018-
In the end, iRobot did turn out to have a very certain charm, and certainly put the tech folk to work. Thank you Silicon Valley. These are our hard earned tax dollars at work here folks.
As a lady who comes from the land of Oz, I used to think tornados were terrifying; these ones are ADORABLE. People chase them around, they carry dust and sparks and ashes with them sometimes. There truly is something for everyone at Burning Man, and these ancestors are for me. It was love at first sight.
As in love with this aspect of the burn that I am, there are others that chose not to attend the massive fires, ever. For some, it’s too crowded. Others, too painful. And it’s my responsibly to accept that and support their decision, as much as it doesn’t make sense to me. Everyone is there for a particular reason and season… no judgement. No blame. No shame. As long as your participating best as you can, then you are welcome
I chose to spend my pre-burn doing placement for my camp (Pandora’s bike and fix it Shoppe), working for the Artery (the art placement department, where we also do artist hospitality and give art tours for the mobility challenged) as well as performing several shows too, at center camp, theme camps and beyond. Learning about the art was invaluable, and being able to share with others “oh yeah, THAT hut is called LISTEN and you can go broadcast your heart beat through the speakers” was so special. I sacrificed sleep for sunrises and moments with FAMILY that I will cherish forever. I learned SO much, and most of all what I took away from this year’s burn was that all you can do is “Let it go”. Memories can live on, but the emotion and attachment to all things material and even surreal, we must let it go. And it felt REAL damn GOOD to let shit go. I had a lot of shit. I feel 800 times lighter. I feel like myself again, and I am so grateful for all the souls I encountered that made sure to tell me that I was on track and in alignment. THANK YOU. You know who you are.
-In Every Lifetime I Will Find You by: Michael Benisty, Love and Unity-
from: Brooklyn, NY
I learned the first year I went, in 2013, not to come to something of this magnitude with our your BEST FRIENDS around you. You’re going to want them there. And every year, I leave the burn thinking “God, I totally have to bring my mom to this.” Maybe next year ma?
Now, if you THINK You can’t make it to Burning Man, you know your options, right? First of all, set an intention to go, take off work, and TRY to get a ticket. Pay attention. See what happens. If it comes easy, then it’s a go, and if there’s resistance, LISTEN. Next year will be better anyway!
Second mission: find a regional, or start your own if you must, even if it’s in your backyard. Build something. Burn. It. Do something weird. Dress up. Go out. Start conversations. Be YOU.
Third, check out Burners Without Borders, or just start researching the burn culture in general an see where it takes you. Pick a principle and dive in unpacking it. People make all sorts of sacrifices to attend a burn. I always say “some people choose football, some people play golf, some join a gym… I choose to burn”. It’s become a way of life, like having breakfast, or playing tennis. The sacrifices I’ve made always are outweighed by the benefits. And every single day I think, “how can I turn the default world into a real life burn?” Maybe it already is… but one person can’t play THIS game. It takes a communal effort. If the world is your burn, what’s your next move? Be bold. No apologies. Go after what you believe in. And don’t ever let anybody tell you how to live your life. Especially burners, if it doesn’t jive with your soul.
-Taken at the Morris Burner Hostle in Reno, August, 2018-
Burning Man started as a social experiment, and continues to unfold and evolve at it’s own pace and stride. Sure, there are organizations and the organization itself, but nobody is in the captain chair saying “this is who we are booking and this is the kind of art we are going to make”. Nope. That’s up to US. And that’s where WE need to take the power and make it something we can be proud of. I’m talking about functional art. Art that serves a purpose and makes the city or world a better place. For instance, I’d like to see an art installation grant for composting and decorative bathroom for deep playa, that are burned at the end of the week (waste removed). Or maybe a water fill-up oasis in the middle of the dessert, with water goddesses reciting poetry, filling up your hearts and your drink vessels at once. I’m not sure if/when I’ll have the resources to do such activities, but it’s fun to fantasize.
(I haven’t even gotten started on the art car scene… To be continued…)
City-wise, San Francisco and Reno are both already doing a stellar job of incorporating burner art and functions into their city, and so I challenge you to look around at your community and your city of choice. Where is the need? What are the needs? What are your resources? And how can we turn this shit up a notch. Because the dial is going to keep moving, it’s just a matter of which direction.
Buckle up buttercup. And burn bright friends.
Until next year….
-MissConcompact the Unicorn Barbie! “Put ‘er in your pocket”-
Burning Man 2018 dang came and went.
It’s been a good run, time and play well spent
The gate was on point and the greeters greeting blow for blow
With so many more virgins there was lots of room to grow
Watching the sunrise never gets cold
with your new best friends but especially the old.
The dance floors were banging, the fires, oh so lit
“Hey can I borrow some self reliance a bit?”
I brought a band of newbies and they did just fine…
(except one of them) leaving no trace, most of the time.
We all get a bit sloppy sometimes, it’s true
but it’s our civic responsibility to take care of ALL our moop.
So I’ll look after you, you look after me, too
as this cultural utopia blooms into an interfuse
That connects us to our art, our heart, also our dark
and is there no safer way to explore this part?
Surrounded by radical self whatever you call it
making it a point to give freely, no wallet.
It’s an exchange of wonder, magical by design empowerment…
Show me your tricks and I’ll show you mine, with consent.
Whatever intention you put into the effigy or temple
let it unfold, truth be told, baby steps, keep it simple
Usually the burn you want isn’t the thing you need,
but if you pay attention to the lessons and processing
With our reflections can grow what’s been unfurled
as we take these teachings from the burn into the real world.
So thanks for playing. Better luck next year’s turn.
And if you don’t mind, would y’all quit fucking my burn?
-Burning Man 2018 iRobot pre Temple Burn #Pandora-
Burners Without Borders, the non profit social justice faction of the Burning Man community, is a huge part of what makes being a burner a GREAT thing in our world. Most of you are familiar with the ten principles that are guidelines to participating in this culture with compassion. This time of year, gifting, radical inclusion, immediacy and communal effort are all a big part of taking care of our community, while we also have some fun!
Being homeless in the winter could be compared to camping at Black Rock in the cold, except often those who are homeless don’t know where to get food or warmth because they don’t have a neighbor with a big pot of chili and a fire to share. Their coat and socks may be wet and there’s no way to get them dry. There are many little items things this that we can donate and give directly to the homeless, like camping gear, clean and dry socksc meals, coats, hats and gloves, to help ease the difficulties of winter in the Midwest.
Guess what? The Midwest regional burn INTERFUSE is having a kick-off party in Kansas City in January and the event is called IGNITION! At the event happening on January 20th, at Prohibition Hall in Kansas City we are collecting these items listed below to help those in need. Save the date and start planning what you can give.
Here is a complete list of what we are collecting:
Fall & winter clothing – coats, jackets, pants, long sleeve shirts, flannel, coveralls, shoes/boots, socks, undies (these need to be new), gloves, scarves, hats, handwarmers, tarps, blankets, sleeping bags and bed rolls.
Toiletries – toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, soap, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, chapstick, tp, lady items – travel sizes work well.
Food items – anything individual serving – oatmeal packets, hot chocolate packets, granola bars, peanut butter, fruit cups, cup of soup, etc.
Another idea: You can keep these types of items in your car along with bottled water and give them out to people that they meet as well who might be in need. Being a burner isn’t just about GOING to a burn, but it’s about taking our beloved principles and kindness out into the world and spreading that love to those around us.
One point of sensitivity is to always be very gentle and when offering these items. Never assume that anybody needs anything, but rather, just suggest that you are there handing out items to anyone around, and let the recipient pick what they want to take, with dignity.
Thank you for accepting this mission, and BWB looks forward to seeing you at the Ignition event in January. Make sure you join the Interfuse facebook page to stay up to date and participate in our Midwest Burners BWB group: Burners without Borders heartland working group.
If all of this burner jargon isn’t making much sense, check out the Burning Man website and see where you can get involved!
For more information on the Ignition collection drive, please contact Amber Andkazi at Pogothepit1@yahoo.com.
When the August 2016 “1,000-Year-Flood“ hit the state of Louisiana, no one could have known the extent of the damage that 29 inches of rain in 48 hours would do. Rivers crested, water backup up, and in turn thousands of people were left homeless, with little to no end in sight to correct the mass amount of wreckage.
More than $8 million dollars and two months later, 20 out of the 64 hit parishes in Louisiana are still under a state of emergency, and one particular town, Denham Springs, still has a very long way to go. Standing water continues to surrounds some buildings. Caskets that were unearthed are slowly being reburied. Grocery stores are still trying to reopen. It’s a huge work in progress for the community, and their cry for help was heard by few.
Enter, the Life Church in Walker, La, who has opened their arms and doors to help with the cleanup, and community support. Not only did the Life Church offer their sanctuary and building as a temporary place of refuge for flood victims, but they also immediately turned their gym into a distribution center, and for several months this community made it their mission to distribute and facilitate the distribution of all kinds of food, goods, clothing and appliances.
As fate would have it, a group of Burning Man activists, we will call them ‘burners’, also heard the call that there was work to do in Louisiana, and thus began a symbiotic relationship between a Burning Man Project volunteer group: Burners Without Borders Louisiana Flood Relief and the Walker Life Church. Burners Without Borders (BWB) started as an off-shoot of the Burning Man global community in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, and recently joined into the new 501c3 Burning Man Project. Different projects and chapters often pop up in times of need or crisis to do volunteer work in whatever capacity they are needed in various cities. This particular group, made up of mostly Louisiana and Illinois burners gathered in Walker, LA at the Life Church to put together a team and go out into the field. The likelihood of all of these specific people coming together was very special, especially considering that there is a .001% chance of this type of catastrophe happening, hence which it was named the “1,000-Year-Flood”.
The Life Church took to the BWB Louisiana Flood Relief community instantly, both groups priding themselves on being radically inclusive and self-reliant. Burner volunteers staying at the Church took to helping Denham Springs community members with specific projects, such as cleaning up abandoned homes, hanging insulation, cleaning up lots and other projects.
Additionally, an affiliated mardi gras group out of New Orleans called Krewe Ulysses began cooking 200+ meals every Sunday using the Life Church’s commercial kitchen. Krewe Ulysses and other burners then would go out ‘into the field’ to distribute these meals and other supplies such as baby food, diapers, bottled water, and any other requests from those in need. Relationships were formed, and this work became very meaningful, for everyone involved.
“Part of our job includes just talking to the people, helping them process and tell their story, so that they feel better emotionally…because they know they are cared for more than they even knew”, said Daniel Cappy, the founding logistics coordinator of the Burners Without Borders Louisiana flood relief project.
In particular, two neighborhoods had the most devastation, that being Magnolia Spings and Eastover. Specifically the challenges that community members faced included house demolishing, removing debris, and ensuring that FEMA would be scheduled to haul away said debris before it turned hazardous. Taking care of their families was another added challenge un top of all the rebuilding.
The biggest challenge: unattended piles of debris which often contain black mold and other dangerous materials that increase in toxicity after sitting for too long. Often the residents would take to burning the piles in order to remove them, which led to even worse air quality and pollution in the neighborhoods. “It truly looks like a refuge camp,” said Nikki, a Burner volunteer.
Life Church community member Duran estimates that about 35% of the work has been done as far as getting ‘back to normal’.
“I remember when the rain began…there was shock everywhere. People running for their lives with clothes on their back. It came almost like a monster. The rain went in circles, tributaries began to over flow and there was no downstream to match the upstream. The Mississippi river had been at it’s crest since June, so there was nowhere for the water to go. The divider walls on the interstate that the government just installed kept the water backed up,” said Duran during an interview at Life Church. Duran thinks that the underlying problem not being addressed by authorities is the drainage system in Baton Rouge.
“You don’t get over this in a month or two,” Duran says, disheartened. “People are trying to get back to normal and it’s going to take at least a year, and that’s pushing it.” Duran got lucky in that he says he learned a lot from Katrina. Not everyone paid as close attention.
Danielle from Eastwood had her new-born daughter taken away after the storm hit because she didn’t have a proper home in which to keep the young child. The child is now in critical condition in the hospital, and Danielle is not allowed to stay with her. While raising her other children and living with friends/family, she along with the Life Church and Burners Without Borders crew, made it a priority to clear the old wreckage in her lot and make space for the new FEMA trailer to come in.
Miss Tina, another flood victim story, woke up in the middle of the flood with the water surrounding her bed up to the mattress and no one had come to get her. She lost her life’s work, her car and her house in the storm. To be eligible for her new FEMA trailer, she herself had to crawl up in the trees to cut down branches with a hand saw in order to meet regulations. All that work and she’s still waiting on her trailer.
Duran, while he lost all of his clothes and possessions, he also is dealing with a legal battle, trying to get his car back from the repair shop that it was parked in when the storm hit. Since the shop was closed for weeks after the storm, the store is now trying to charge him an outrageous ‘storage fee’ for having keep the car during the flood. The politics so many are dealing with in order to get their lives back are increasingly difficult, which makes moving forward a huge challenge.
Many are still in hotels while they wait for their insurance checks, or for a new game plan if they didn’t have proper coverage. An elderly man, James, is another example of being a victim of an unfair circumstance. His whole trailer had black mold up to the water line. FEMA gave him $25,000 but the contractor he used took $15,000 of the money and then disappeared. He’s now living in a hotel and has been scared to move forward with the rest of his money, which still isn’t enough to fix all the damage.
Most people in Denham Springs and other counties think that FEMA and the Red Cross are not doing their jobs properly according to Duran. He explained that the most FEMA will give out is $33,000 to fix your home, and most houses need at least $100,000 to fix the damage that’s been done. The Red Cross appears to have people on the ground, but they are charging the government $8.50 a plate to feed thousands of people, according to the Life Church. That’s why the Life Church decided to feed people themselves, out of pocket. They got very lucky in missing the water, and are trying to give back what they can.
When the rain started on August 12th and didn’t stop for three days, the Life Church was very afraid. “The waters came up to within feet of our Church, but it didn’t flood,” said Paster Val of the Church, who is so grateful to have been able to provide a safe space for people to refuge.
The distribution center has just been closed in the last two weeks, and the needs of flood victims have shifted from personal items and food to specifically needing help rebuilding their homes. Burners Without Borders volunteers reported that there are not enough construction workers in the area to complete the amount of work there is to do in a timely fashion. There is only so much volunteering you can offer, and with the mortgage companies involved, licensed contractors must be employed to further repairs.
Bottom line, if people have the skills and are able to travel to Louisiana or the Carolinas, they are badly needed. At this point having a license to work construction is a strong asset, but not necessary. If you want more information on how to help with the flood relief, or to donate to Burners Without Borders Flood Relief, please contact Burners Without Borders Flood Relief at: Bwblouisiana@gmail.com
“Never think it can’t happen to you,” said Duran. “If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that it is so important to take care of your neighbors.”
Next year we’re going to have to start calling it by a different name because at this point, everyone whom was not there is sick of hearing about it and everyone whom was there can’t stop talking about it.. It was epic. It was introspective. It was dusty. It was definitely expensive. It was… a way of life.
When you’re dealing with a wild animal, it’s usually best not to look it directly in the eyes… Some storms you just have to wait out. Some parties too epic for pictures.
Yes, I made the pilgrimage this year. And, yes, it was worth every ridiculous trade-off.
Short parable: Going into Burning Man I decided to braid my hair, you know, like every other long haired chica on the playa; to keep it from knotting up, naturally. After two weeks of looking ‘fly’, not showering, and spending ten days in the dust, I’ve never combed out such a mess of knots. Ironically, I felt the burn and, just like my hair, I felt that the knots tied in the fabric of our unique burn culture needed a conditioning treatment of their own.
I debated posting this blog because I am somewhat ashamed of some of the things I have witnessed online and on the playa. If you’ve been keeping up with the burn word on the street, then you are aware there was plenty of drama to go around this year. I’ve watch what I’ve grown to call ‘my community’ appear to fall apart over some very specific issues. This has created a sense of self-doubt in my own choices, let alone in my faith in this community.
I spent much of this year at various burns weighing the two sides… Is the stress worth the comb-out? Does the carbon foot print outweigh the time, money and energy spent? Are the principles worth the autonomy we give up? Does radical inclusion justify the split in our community? Lastly, is deciding to shop at Wal-Mart over-ridden by the notion that we get to party seamlessly for a week in the middle of no where kicking dust?
The biggest question is are you proud to be a part of this scene?
I say, sheepishly, it was worth it. Every dollar, scrape, burn and bruise, missed deadline and job quit because of Burning Man was worth the epic nature of this event and I can’t get it out of my head! That moment when I looked around at the vast expanse and see nothing but art and smiles for miles, I KNEW in my heart it was worth it. No one can shut up about it, and the question at hand becomes “what’s next?”
We’ve certainly outgrown our roots at this point, and now the Burning Man Organization is expanding! How “fly” of them; it’s about time! I feel like I’ve been ready for this since before I knew what even was a burn. Now that the org has purchased a permanent location, Fly Ranch, what should be done with it?
I wonder just how many of us would quit our jobs at the drop of a top hat, depart the default world to arrive in Gerlach ready to colonize #forreal. To Settle. Prepared to work. Ready to practice what we preach. Ready to surrender. Ready to stand up for what we believe in. Ready to chop the dead ends and grow fresh roots. The land is there. The ten principles are in place. Are we ready to uphold them? Isn’t this what we all want – to live the burner life fully and permanently? Or perhaps it is just the ideal with which we are in love? Alas, the conundrum that comes with all serious relationships, “are we ready to commit?”
So far the org has not said much in terms of what Fly Ranch is supposed to be, and the word on the street is that they are open to the community’s vision (you can insert your own thoughts here).
I want to think that this community is one I can be proud to represent, and realistically, be okay loosing my hair over on a regular basis.
Should we quit our jobs yet?
Maybe volunteer with Burners without Burners? Burners without Borders is a grassroots, volunteer-driven, community leadership organization whose goal is to unlock the creativity of local communities to solve problems. (Which, I will add, I am headed to volunteer for a week in New Orleans next month).
What I desire most, is that I could head back to Black Rock City, TODAY, with all of the other die-hard sick-of-this-default-shit burner radicals and get settled on Fly Ranch as my heart imagines our community could be living. If we gave it a real effort to colonize and revolutionize the way we envision our lives, image what we could do for ourselves, and as a model for the world? I am unsure if it is time for that, yet, but I do know that I am ready. Are you? Should we? This is a group decision, not just for one or two people.
If it’s too soon for you personally that’s okay. The task at hand is clearly upon us; to spread what I believe is a common love and respect all around the world, including within our own community, but specifically outside of our inner circle, and to be proud of this energy.
We are a hefty network. Think of the global mouthpiece we could amplify should we chose to deliver an intentional message. What message is worth delivering, and how shall we say it? Perhaps we speak softly, with grace, radical inclusion and exquisite creativity; definitely not with exclusivity. Let us find the voice of the radical burner spirit that drew us all together in the first place.
I challenge us to a radical international game that Americans know by the name of telephone. Allow me to whisper something into your ear, and you into the ear of your neighbors, and so forth.
May we whisper words of creative kindness into our consciousness, let it permeate our lives and the lives of our community and remind us of our roots. May every action be an opportunity to spread some burner light with others. Let every grocery store encounter set the stage for intent and radical expressive interaction. Everyday put something moopy back in its place. :et civic responsibility realign the burner attitude we once sought with pride and inclusion.
Please continue to spread the magical dust on every level and know that our utopia is not as far away as we think, if we want it to be. The questions are, what role do you play, and how do we fully practice the art of burning? #loveyourburn #spreadit #missconcepttour
Burning Man 2016