You know, I think Burning Man will be a one time adventure for me. However, it was well worth the time and money to have gone and seen it. I’m sure it is one of those things that everyone takes a different point of view on. Like when 10 people see an ink blot and no two people call it the same thing. Just something different for everyone.

Maybe that is what makes it so hard to describe. And that is what everyone wants that hasn’t seen it. A description. They want the single hardest thing to do about burning man, to describe it. No one asks simple questions like, “How many colored dinosaur eggs were there?” Or “Did you enjoy the letters to the dead written all over the crazy humming box in the middle of the desert?” or maybe “So what was it like to dance on top of the mega-chicken?”. No, they want to know what the whole sha-bang was all about.

Well I will try to sum it up. Burning man was what happens when the creative forces of mankind are unleashed by adults with the means, will, and provisions to create whatever they can think of.

There, I’ve said it.

But lets get into the nitty gritty of it all. What was it really like? What is it? What goes on there? And why did we all go?

Burning Man itself is an event held in the deserts of Nevada. The desert where it is held specifically a dried lake bed which is called the “playa”, which is another way of saying “beach.” The playa is dry cracked dusty soil. It has a basic quality (as opposed to acidic). The dust is very fine and lightly colored so that it flies up into the air on the slightest wind and makes the days prone to giant dust storms. The best way to simulate this as I’ve been told, is to empty a vacuum cleaner bag in front of a fan on high. Stand in front of that for a continuous hour and you’ll look like you’ve been on the playa. The area where burning man takes place is also known as Black Rock City. And it is indeed a city. 40k strong.

So all these people migrate out to BRC (Black Rock City) and make a fence in a five mile radius circle. Then the “city” is assembled inside of this circle. At the start, there is nothing there. No remnants of the last year’s Burning Man, nothing. It is an empty desert. This is because at the end of each Burning Man, everything is removed. And I do mean everything. All things are packed up and hauled out, including the fence, which is used to collect trash that has blown away. In fact a core theme of BRC is to leave no trace. You cannot dump your water upon the playa and you cannot leave any trash anywhere. Glitter is frowned upon because it would scatter. Feather boas are forbidden because they leave feathers about which are hard to pick up. The Playa comes with its own set of slang. All this loose trash that is free is called MOOP. Matter-out-of-Place. And everyone works together to pick it up and when we leave, hopefully the desert will look as if nothing of this sort ever happened there.

The desert itself had beautiful weather this year. I’m happy to report that on the way into BRC a few raindrops actually fell. That was the only moisture during the event that rained out of the sky. Humidity was a mean 15% and temperatures in the day were around 90. At night it was around 60. Constant 10-15 mph breeze out of the West and only five to seven really severe dust storms the whole time. They averaged around 40 minutes each. All in all perfect, if not very dirty conditions.

In the very center of this large circle is the man and his platform. He marks the middle. Now imagine if you would that he were the hub of a clock. From 3 o clock to 9 o clock would form the city itself. Camps are set up in this space. There are LOTs of camps. Each camp generally has a theme. Lots of people in a single camp usually know one another. The camps start about a quarter mile away from the man and form the 3-9 semi circle. This buffer between the camps and the man is known as “deep playa”. Behind the man and outside of this large semi circle is also deep playa but it is less organized. The 3/6/9 corridors leading to the man are marked by lamp posts which hang old fashioned oil lamps that are lit each night. Perhaps I’m not 100% accurate but on the ground this is how it felt. I found this map to aid my description.

Now the people that come to burning man come for many reasons seemingly. Mostly I believe they come to party. And party hard. However, a lot of people also seem to come to inspire and others to serve. I guess inspiring people is a service in and of itself. The inspiring ones and serving ones rub off on others and the whole event has a “give to others” feel to it. For instance, many of the camps offer themes or services. One man I met had a large cabana set up where he was offering to wash people’s hair for them. Another person was offering foot massages. You could get booze just about anyplace. Sometimes people would play you music or dance for you. There were advice booths, kissing booths, and even spanking booths! Now the interesting thing about these seemingly mundane services is that in the desert their worth is amplified by the fact that you cannot buy anything. That is right. No commercialism is another major theme. The ONLY things for sale are ice and coffee. That is it. You cannot buy water, booze, food, or anything else. So everyone gives what they can and a gift economy is born. Now take the man that was washing people’s hair. He had to tote all the water into his cabana from 150 miles away and wash hair with it, then has to pack it out. Can you imagine that? He must have true love for his community.

Some people do not give in service or in gift but in inspiration. These people come and they build or create art work to amuse us all. One of the central parts of the event is the art work that you can find just about everywhere. Hours and hours and hours are not enough to go through all the artwork offered. And it is amazing. Nothing like it anywhere else. It is tangible art mostly. Stuff made to be interacted with, touched, and felt. Its scale is massive. Its not like being in a museum and seeing a painting on a wall. No, this stuff is different. We’re standing there in 50mph wind in a white-out dust storm climbing into a human heart made of welded metal that is about 20ft high. It opens on one side and you can climb into it. We close the door and a fire lights in its center where an eternal flame has been rigged. Its interactive. All of it.

The air at the event vibrates constantly with music. Music everywhere. Huge sound systems surround ever part of burning man, even the empty deep playa. Thumping techno, bassy trance music, and even funk and rock and roll. Your ears are spared no quiet. This event unsilences the desert. The spirit of Burning Man allows no rest. No rest for any of the wicked. And it was a wicked event.

So are you starting to develop an understanding yet?