This was my 7th year returning home to Black Rock City.
This is my 7th tale trying to capture a piece of what makes it so special for me...

Burning Man 2004 - city of gods

The act of declaring yourself an artist is a bold one. You are saying, “I consciously alter my environment. I shape the world. I create.”

This is a massive stance to take.
Because we are expected to walk a well worn path of consuming. So much of society depends on it.

Yet, so much of being a human being is contrary to this path.
I think the grand battle of being human is forcing yourself to live an active life. I don’t mean physically active, I mean ACTIVE vs. PASSIVE.

So many of our societal systems are designed for us to be passive. No ruler or corporation wants to deal with active decision makers.

And, in case there is confusion, “choosing” what brand to buy is NOT active living.

This scerario does not bode well for the artist. Unfortunately, the artist does not fit well in a society that prefers passivity.
(side note: I would argue that “the artist” is not a type of person, but simply the state that EVERY person gets to when they are actively living.)

So is there anywhere where the artist (or state of being an artist) is welcome and at home?

See: Black Rock City.

Things are different in Black Rock City.
By design, Burning Man asks us to live actively.

As the tickets say,

You are expected to be active.
You are expected to choose a conscious path.
You are expected to alter the environment with your laughter, sculpture, or song.

This concept is much bigger than you might think.
It is this that makes us free.
It is this that makes us gods.

Of course, don’t grow a beard and put on a flowy robe right away. There are many types of gods.
Gods of creation.
Gods of mischief.
Gods of wine.
Gods of dancing.
Gods of sex.
Gods of fire.
Gods of destruction.

On the playa, we all summon our divine nature and steer our world actively in the direction we want it to go.

I want more smiles in the world.
I want more dancing.
I want more fist-pounding beats.
I want longer hugs.
I want more kisses.

Now substitude “I created” for “I want” and you define the path of a Playa god (aka “a participant.”)

Some people/gods/artists want more fire. Some want more chaos. Some want consensual violence.
Fine. Those aren’t on my list, but there is room in Olympus for all the gods’ whims. (except maybe “Toby, god of killing everyone around him.”)

As gods, we have an innate need to GIVE. It’s what gods do. They shape worlds and share their gifts.

Some gods share their beauty. Some share their chariots. Some share fresh tuna. Some just dress like gods and goddesses to remind us of who we are. But all shape the world. All create. All impact their environment.
(Even the drunks with bullhorns.)

Black Rock City is the cumulative effect of 30,000 gods shaping our temporary desert world.
And somehow it works.
And somehow it transforms.
And somehow it feeds the gods inside us.


And, eventually….
We realize that we are gods in the “real” world, too.
Our power may be diminished away from our true home, and we may be jeered by heathens, but we still have the ability to live actively.

We still have the ability to alter our worlds.

And if we can hold on to that lesson,
even a little bit,
then there is hope for each of us…
and our planet.