By Brittany Doohan, special to Xpress
Being a first timer at Burning Man, I had certain expectations from what I’ve seen in pictures, videos, blogs and some events around San Francisco. Boobs and penises – check. Costumes, music art and dust – check.
Some people may stereotype the week-long event as a big hippie drug fest. While you do get a variety of personalities on the playa, the nickname for the desert, you also get a variety of ideas and creativity. Burning Man is a melting pot. It is a place where ideas are executed without societal limitation, love is expressed without hesitation, and helping out your neighbor is the heart of the community.
Call them hippies, but I think a lot of people in the world could learn from the 48,000 strong “burner” community, that started with 20 people in 1986 at Baker Beach in San Francisco. The Burning Man statue was only 8 feet when the festival started, and now it towers 50 feet high in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, which is transformed to Black Rock City for the celebration. The community gathering moved here in 1990, according to the event’s official website.
Burners call returning to the event “going home” for a reason. Before even entering the gates, people jumped up immediately to lend a hand to push broken down RV’s. While I walked the streets of BRC, people smiled at me, said hello and picked up trash wherever they saw it. Artists gave away gifts, people shared their food and welcomed me into their camps with open arms. There were bars, coffee shops, a DMV–Department of Mutant Vehicles–and a post office, yet the only things sold at Burning Man were coffee and ice.
But want a beer? It may cost a hug. Need a massage? It may cost a beer. The giving spirit of the BRC community was contagious. Imagine what the world would be like if we just brought a little Burning Man spirit into daily life?
People at Burning Man talk to you, listen to you and embrace you. They share ideas without greed or selfishness because making money is not the goal. Most of the people that I met were engineers who put their ideas to work to create amazing things. How else do you explain the successful completion of mutant metal octopus art car that moves all its tentacles, shoots fire and is safe for people to ride on? In my opinion, these people are just kindhearted and giving geniuses.
Burning Man is just as much about art as it is about community. Creativity surges through the playa like a lightning bolt.
The only way to really understand Burning Man is to go with an open mind to get the most out of it.
It is something you feel. Along side the amazing art, bass bumping music, temples of meditation, fireworks and dust, Burning Man is one hell of a party for the mind, body and spirit.