What Metropolis Taught Me

Posted: September 19, 2010 in Burning Man 2010
"Home" by Michael Christian - HDR photo by Hunter Luisi

"Home" by Michael Christian - HDR photo by Hunter Luisi

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Burning Man was much different than I imagined. Of course. How could it be otherwise? But what it left me with, how it changed me, can barely be put into words, which won’t stop me from trying my very best.

I thought I was going to get laid. I’ll be up front about that. I thought BM was going to allow me to satisfy my own desires. I thought I was going to be able to get what I wanted. But the playa is not about satisfying your own needs. What is the playa about?

My first stab is that the playa is about impermanence. The city rises and falls in 7 days, or about 3 months, depending on when you start counting. The man stands for 2 weeks and burns in 15 minutes. People are not supposed to live on the desert.

The playa has her own plan for your shit. As soon as we arrived I started losing shit. Some of it I got back later; some of it was gone forever.

This lead me to a sense of non-attachment. It’s just stuff. We are attached to a sense of control in the default world. We experience this illusion of control mostly because generations of us have dedicated our lives to building an artificial system on top of the system of nature, an artificial system we fight to uphold because it gives us an illusory sense of mastery over a chaotic and unpredictable natural world. Oh, there’s a skyscraper — a city built vertically in the clouds. Oh, there’s an airplane, it defies gravity.  Oh, there’s an economic system, built on the unnatural ideas of infinite growth and infinite waste (to say nothing of plundering the wealth of the ages).

There is no controlling the natural world (which is itself an illusion). There is also no need to fear the natural world. We humans have preoccupied ourselves for thousands of generations with building layer upon layer of circuitous, self-referential abstraction. We have been building a labryinth behind us as we tunnel deeper and deeper into narcissistic illusion, not realizing that we are constructing our own prison as we go, and forgetting that that which we are afraid of, that which we are really trying to escape, will always be with us, since it is part of us. We will never be able to divide ourselves away from it.

That is why the wilderness restores us and frightens us. It strips away the labryinth of abstraction we think of as the “real” world and reveals to us our selves, without the masks and costumes. It makes it easier for us to see ourselves as we truly are and harder for us to drown out the inner voice that speaks to us constantly of our true fears.

The playa showed me the true natural way of living. The true natural way of life is giving up our attempts to hide, and releasing our fear of reality. When we can stand true, fearless and open-hearted, in the presence and full glory of that which we most fear, then we will be free, and nothing in this wicked illusion will be able to threaten our peace, ever again.

This is what I learned at Burning Man: that the world is so full of beauty, brightness, openness, and forgiveness, and so totally accepting of us, that none of us need do anything but from total fearless love, ever again.

I want to meet others on this path. I want to build fearless  communities with economic systems that aren’t broken. I want to connect with those seeking a better way, and invite them to build a city with me, where fear has no home and love is abundant.

That is why I am here.  I am playa hanjin, the playa navigator, and I am here to navigate this bright future.


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