(c) 2008 Julian Smith
Finally got around to posting my photos of Burning Man. I was there for four days this year, my first time. It was a crazy experience, one that I had pretty mixed feelings about.
On the one hand, Burning Man is an incredible spectacle, like nothing I've ever seen. The sheer effort involved-- all voluntary--is mind-bending. Imagine creating a completely self-contained city of 50,000 from scratch, complete with streets, police force--hell, a damn DMV--in a place that makes Death Valley look lush and inviting. And erasing it utterly afterward, like it was never there.
There's amazing art, art cars like you've never seen, and the no-cash, no-advertising vibe is overwhelmingly positive. People are just so happy to be there. (That's understandable, considering the time, effort and money it takes just to show up.) It's pure fun and self-expression. For a week, absolutely anything goes, as long as it doesn't infringe on anyone else's happiness (and isn't overtly illegal when the wrong law enforcement officials are watching).
On the other hand--at the same time--it's utterly ridiculous. Maybe it's that deep Puritan-roots aversion to hedonism we seem to have bred into us as Americans. But I often found myself thinking: this isn't the big green world-changing event it's billed as. It's just a big drug-fueled excuse to dress up and act stupid in the middle of nowhere, one that generates 28,000 tons of carbon between people getting and playing there.
What's wrong with that? Nothing at all. (Except for the carbon.) You just have to be in the mood, I guess, and for a few personal reasons, I wasn't always. Then I'd step outside of things for a moment and look around and think, Jesus, get me the hell out of here. It doesn't help that the environment couldn't be any more uncomfortable: searing heat, tongue-cracking dryness, talcum-fine playa dust up to your ankles that gets into everything.
I'm glad I went. Would I go again? Maybe, with some better planning. I'd arrive later, go with a big group of friends, and this time I'd know a bit more what to expect.