Monday, May 19, 2008

Art imitates life imitates art

We watched a documentary about the Burning Man festival that happens in a Nevada desert at the end of August. I'd heard of it before, of course, but I had a misconception of it. I just thought it was unorganized, anarchic hedonism, which I would find frightening. It definitely has a Mad Max/Road Warrior look to it. But it turns out, it is not that at all. (The hedonism is there, yes, but that wasn't the scary part. It was the idea of people packing weapons in a lawless environ that scares me -- I am no libertarian) It is an art event where there are no spectators, participants are screened to make sure their contributions are big enough/worthy enough/etc. (qualifying as radical self-expression), and they do have rules such as no firearms and no dogs, no burning your art without permission, and the fundamental rule of "leave no trace". If anything does get left behind, it is rounded up by the crew after the event, so to leave the area as though untouched. People come together and build a magnificent city of incredibly creative dwellings (even temples!) and art, live in it self-reliantly for a week (or more, depending on the level of involvement), then climax it with the ritual of burning the man structure (towering 70 feet in the air), and dismantle or ritually destroy the rest. Learn more about the event at their official website and on wiki.

Here's a video someone made (contains nudity) and do check out more of the video selections that pop up after this one plays:


This is an event that, at one time, I would have longed to attend. These days though, I know very well that I could not physically endure this event. 8 days camping in the desert, plus all the work. I have become too much of an air-conditioned couch spud, so I have to live these things vicariously.

Burning Man has inspired several regional events, including a local one called Burning Flipside, which happens next weekend. Another tribal, no spectators, leave no trace event that ends with a burning.

The festival leaves no trace, and that is a concept that I carried with me for most of my life as a personal philosophy. Nobody can actually leave no trace or impact, especially environmentally, but I wanted to leave nothing behind, as though I had passed through as inside a tourist bus, not even a memory. My father died when I was not yet 14, I was an only child, my mother died in 1993, and my relatives that know me are getting up in years, in poor health, or mostly already gone. I am childfree as well, so it all ends with me, and maybe earlier on I was glad of that although I still have no regrets about not passing on DNA (and gawd knows there are enough humans on this planet!).

If MrB is here post-me, he will move on. When I die, my junk will go to Goodwill and my photos in the trash, but I'm now, at this stage in life, thinking I would like to be remembered well instead of not at all. I want my friends to feel that I did right by them, helped them out when they needed it, and that I didn't disappoint them or break promises. I have a couple of good stories and I hope they made people laugh or cry or whatever. At the end, the woman will burn and the ashes will leave no trace, but others can still take something intangible with them.

5 comments:

Utah Savage said...

You sound like you could be my twin in so many way. I know people who go to Burning man every year. it is, I suppose, their form of a religion. Sounds altogether like my wild youthful beatnik/hippie days, only we were a trashy bunch and cleaned up nothing. Now I stay sequestered for my safety and comfort and the safety and comfort of the rest of mankind. I applaud what they do and smile happily as my swamp-cooler hums comfortingly.

Blueberry said...

I did my share of stuff in the 60s and 70s. No Burning Man back then, but we had rock festivals and almost never-ending parties. My mother was in on it too, so I wasn't even rebelling. I rebelled later and in different ways than most.

enigma4ever said...

I did all my stuff way back..70's...and little 80s///but it is so nice knowing what is going on and learning more....I am a quiet person...but concerts and music were my weakness...but now I just like CDs....that is enough...funny how things change..

enigma4ever said...

BTW I meant to say thank you for blogging on this..I learned alot...

Blueberry said...

I've always been a music nut. It drives my life, but in lots of different directions. I don't even make music my own music, just a follower and listener.