They say a journey can signify a quest - a rediscovering of oneself, and a celebration an affirmation - of life in general, and every experience - proof of being. All of these were grandly unified in relativistic resonance as I rode my bicycle on the open playa at Black Rock City, circa 2012. Amidst the blinding periodic dust storms and arid heat of each of all six days I was there, "It" came to me, seeped into my psyche, like a desert wave of wind and dust indiscernibly forming dunes and impressions on my parched mind, as if an empty canvas. Not unlike the empty expanse of the playa, I was ready, open, and willing, to create, and yet unaware.
Black Rock City does something to you. Physically it challenges you, tasks your body's limits and tolerance. Some say an experience is made more memorable when tasked by a certain degree of hardship. Mentally, it transforms you - given the seemingly unlimited potential of you, the freedom to be, without limits. How else can it not otherwise. The dusty playa gives you a fresh perspective of yourself, albeit a blurry impression to which all vision is averted towards within. When everything is a blur, what lies beyond leaves everything to the imagination - of what is real. And given this newfound power to be, you start to feel invincible and express yourself in ways you thought impossible in the world back outside. You become daring, challenge yourself, and in the process, you become reacquainted with the real you. You play more playfully, you laugh harder, you dance more freely…
It is not merely in the self expression of dress and attire, and actions, your deliberateness and decissions themselves change and become alien to your past, yet familiar, and become non-linear. The open playa is by definition non-linear in scope, dimension, geometry, and degree of freedom. Time too becomes non-existent, an afterthought to the immediacy of the now. My first time on a bike ride to the open playa is probably the most memorable of any moment. How seemingly mundane, an action so mediocre in its simplicity and repetition prior, that nary a thought was given to its weight and gravity. I forged on into the choking cloud of dusty expanse, with goggles firmly in placed and scarf mask donned, feeling uncomfortable in its unfamiliarity. And…one by one…blurry images come into focus, like fractal concoctions made tangible and real with increasing beauty and wonderment upon closer inspection. What a veritable cornucopia of truly amazing creative artifacts of the imagination, from other creative minds, they came into focus and disappeared behind me only to avert my attention to the next one, and then the next one…
I didn’t stop to take a closer look at any of them, I just kept going. I didn’t want to interrupt my momentum…I didn’t want to interrupt the flood of excitement befalling my very eyes and imagination. The more I saw, the more I wanted. It was a visual drug that came wave upon wave of deliriousness. Sometimes, the dust cloud would part, and I could see beyond to the landscape, the mountains, the horizon…and I felt grounded by infinity! The other truly amazing thing was my path was not dictated by lines, lanes, or a path, but was only propelled this way or that by…by golly, by my very whim, or so it seemed. Indeed a whim could very well be too limiting. I was guided literally by the wind. My bicycle and I danced with the dust devils and clouds that day. My direction was not dictated by any means by any of my motor skills or awareness, but could very well have been due to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle…or maybe even go on to say it was partly due to a similar random processes of the singularity that caused the Big Bang itself! Ha!!
For many, Burning Man certainly is a grand party and celebration, of friends, loved ones, and even of meeting new wonderful people. I thought I was to finally break free of my shell, become a true people person, and embrace the social freedom that surrounded me amongst such wonderful happy friends and acquaintances. I am not naturally social, am genuinely shy most of the time, and feel like an outsider most of the time - lacking certain social graces and conversation skills. Thus, I gradually realized that I was internalizing a lot, looking within, and getting reacquainted with myself, discovering and embracing this very fact, and wanting and needing a lot of time to enjoy my own company. It became of sorts, a solitary experience, yet framed and buffeted by such glorious people. How lucky I thought, to be able to become aware of this in a non-negative manner, and to not be judged or ridiculed, and feel perfectly at home at my camp. What a blessing indeed. What warm feelings towards my fellow campmates as I watched and experienced the laughter and love that was explicitly obvious all around, together with the coexistence of feelings of loneliness was perfectly okay and acceptable. I never felt more at ease, and accepting if it.
I did not stay for the big burn of the man itself. They say don’t come to Burning Man with goals and expectations. I did want to drum at the main big burn, but there were more drummers than they needed, and I along with a host of my other fellow drummers were turned away. But I didn’t let it bother me, as there were so many other experiences that were new and exciting that it was merely a drop in the bucket of amazeballs. There were also so many things I wanted to do in hindsight but didn’t or was unable to - the winds just didn’t take me there.
So like those before who have befallen to the curse of Burning Man, I’m starting to plan the next one just as I got back. I’m beginning to realize that it is an experience that lasts long after you’ve returned – indeed it could very well be a yearlong affliction, with planning and the anticipation part of the performance art that it is. I wouldn’t call it a lifestyle, since so much of its externals are absent from the “real” world. It exists in the mind, forever etched and engraved, perhaps. It may very well be unexplainable, and this was a personal attempt on my part. Or perhaps, it may fade into oblivion, the epiphanies could dissolve into the mundane grind of linear grid-lock everyday living. Unfortunate as that would seemingly be, people change, have the capacity to change, and have the freedom of will to do so…or even to not. It is what I take back from the open playa, a personal lesson from Black Rock City.