A Doppelgangers View of Burning Man

12 09 2015

In my 2015 adventure in Black Rock City I was approached daily and sometimes multiple times a day by people claiming I looked exactly like their best friend or somebody they met in Rome or if I was Steve or Bob or one time Jordan or some other familiar face from that person’s past. It was sort of cool. I have a chameleon’s face I suppose and people think I am other people. It is not the worse way to start a conversation. People automatically feel comfortable with you. They keep telling you about their friend and make jokes to you as if you’ll understand because you look like a person they know who knows the joke. I would often hang out for hours with these people simply because I was a constant reminder of somebody else. Hopefully, they will one day approach others and claim that those people look like this outrageously cool guy they met at Burning Man. I can only hope one day I’ll be the base of the doppelganger comparison but either way, it’s all good.

And in this way, I found my first playa name of Doppelganger. Attempts in the past at calling myself things like ‘Sparkly Sparkles’ or ‘Sparkly Underpants’ or ‘Sparkly Von Sparkles Delux Con Chorizo’ seemed to not exactly fit anything other than my desire to produce sparklyness in some form or another. The names didn’t have a story behind them. They didn’t relate to interactions I had with other people. I am so proud of my doppelganger status and the comfort that was instantly felt by others due to nothing I had to do with. Thank you universe:)

It is often hard to describe what takes place at Burning Man without going into a deep, rabid conversation that veers easily into tangents of tangents leading to euphoric, connecting moments coupled with extreme discomfort and exhausting pauses all while witnessing and sharing moments and space with others while watching giant, flaming pianos being catapulted hundreds of feet into the air and across the desert. I guess in a way, that sort of sums it up. Okay writing over. Burning Man 2015 done!

There are 70-80,000 people at Burning Man all hanging out in a dust filled, alkaline lake bed of the past. There is no way to avoid the dust. You eat it, you drink it, you sleep in it, it’s all over your pillow and inside your sleeping bag no matter how hard you try to get it off, you breath it, you wipe your butt with it, it’s on the clean clothes you put on, it’s on every inch of your body, it makes your hair stand up to resemble a video game character. Part of being in a good space at Burning Man is coming to terms that there is nothing you can do about the dust. It’s not exactly dirty, it’s just all encompassing and, well, dusty. The desert has multiple days on end of this dust blowing around veraciously in white out storms. It is all too eager to cover you in a few inches of dust. This year there were about four days where you couldn’t see but 10-20 feet in front of you. It was an empowering feeling to be wandering around on your bike and unless you were already riding with someone around you, at any moment somebody on a bike, walking, or in an art car could come into your field of vision. You didn’t know where you were riding in this environment. You could end up anywhere in the grand expanse of the desert. At night this was especially troubling because it was pitch black in an open desert that is usually lit up with lights, flame throwers, fire dancers, art displays, lasers, etc. like the movie Tron taking place inside of a type of Disneyland electric light parade show meets pyro-spectacular firework event. To not see lights at night here out on the desert is a truly unique experience and a testament to the extreme nature of the environment dwarfing any influence that human beings might have on this place. To be riding a bike around in this situation with your goggles and bandana tightly wound around your face was mesmerizing to suddenly have come into your field of vision an immaculate lit temple or an art car/sound car emitting lasers and playing some of the most wonderful electronica music produced. To park the bike and dance in this environment of swirling wind and dust was an extremely powerful experience (finding your bike later was another story). It is a pure human experience. In the shamanic world magic is considered any event where will is directly applied. This situation is what makes being human so special. There is no other reason to be out in this desert in these dust storms and harsh environments other than being willful in your self-expression and celebration. I am more attached to what it means to be part of this species. It is a magical experience that needs no explanation but just participation and action.

Things that survive in the desert are an extremely adaptable bunch. They can go weeks, even months, without water or food and they are some of the most willful life forms on the planet. It is in this harshness that Burning Man creates itself and draws its participants. Much how taking a psychedelic drug such as mushrooms or lsd can lead to a 6 to 8 hr period where the world and your mind is presented in a different way to you, the week out in the desert is a week long of that. The desert will squash you if you don’t take it seriously and open your mind up to the necessities of what is demanded of you out there. Things like getting enough sleep, eating and drinking consistently, being balanced in your mind altering substance use and whatever you put in your body, and generally how well you take care of yourself will all demand an incredible display of balance and thought. It is one of the simple things about Burning Man that leaves such an impression on people. In our normal lives we often don’t have to worry about the bare necessities of your lives. We can get away with not taking care of ourselves and in a sense being functioning alcoholics or functioning not-taking-care-of-ourselves-ers. It creeps along until one day it is obvious we are not grounded and incredibly out of balance with our physical and mental health. We then usually either throw in the towel and say ‘fuck it’ or spend an enormous amount of time and resources trying to correct this unbalanced lifestyle. Living this way for that week in the desert will destroy you and make you go the way most other things have gone in the desert, towards extinction. It’s too bad our normal lives are not so easily observable and able to be pitted against such drastic consequences as what would happen out in the harsh desert if we were to be unbalanced/ungrounded in our daily pursuits. Hence is the default world (normal life) I suppose. It is set up to make us easily not notice what is happening all around us and to us. It can often take a vigilant effort to get past this point and see what is really there vs being at Black Rock City and it smacking you in the face.

And in the same way, the mental component of burning man is no different. It’s interesting to note that with taking care of yourself in the above ways it leads to tasks and a process that is very calming. You realize there is much more going on with your day instead of being in your normal life and going through the motions and not having health or wellness at the forefront. It is grounding to have to think about how you’ll best be able to go about your day and be healthy. And once you are in this healthy place the mental and vulnerability component comes into play. Also much like a powerful mind altering substance, whatever is inside of you WILL come out during this extreme and stimulating week. We keep up our guards for usually the first day or few days as we are adjusting to this new world. There can be an obsession with, “what am I doing here” or “how is this really benefiting my life being so uncomfortable and having similar mundane conversations with people I don’t know, about where I’m from?” You scuttle around, meander, wonder how you’ll make it another 6 days and often get very lonely in this very densely populated, stimulating city.

There is a phase going on here that can go unnoticed as it comes into fruition. You realize you are there and vulnerable. The environment brings it out in you. Your own thoughts bring it out in you. You start really talking to people and having patience for the first 5-10 minutes of conversations, which at first come across as mundane. You then realize you’ve been talking to somebody for an hour or two or three and then you go ride bikes together and climb on pieces of art, try to find people you might know in other camps, stop off at a dance party where you can’t help but move. You might take a substance that really alters your view of your life even more, the lights could all start to blur together, you start seeing, or think you start seeing shooting stars, you feel uncomfortable but it somehow is okay which leads to an amazing level of comfort and the likes of which you’ve rarely felt. Then sunset or sunrise starts to happen. You feel amazing sources of connection happening all around you. You are at the whim of nature and things you can’t see. The energy leading up to and after those moments is intoxicatingly beautiful. People around you are happy. They are full of energy. What are we doing here in this desert! What the fuck is going on here! Holy shit. Haha. It is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. You see the mountains all around you. You might find yourself in deep playa looking at the stars or the millions of lights on the horizon from the event. You might meat somebody out by the lonely trash fence who blows your mind with the things they choose to talk about. You constantly hear the thump of tribal beats. It has been 6-10 hrs or so since you felt like being in pain from being at burning man, now you can’t imagine how you ever felt that way. What changed? And all along you might be forgetting to eat, to drink, to sleep, and doing the many survival things that the desert demands of you. It creeps up on you in your good time and could lead you to a very bad place if continually ignored. This connection with survival in the midst of total bliss is the grand balancing act of burning man. Be mindful. Take a moment and think about your health. The process starts all over again or it doesn’t start again at all but just keeps going. There is no sense of doing “this” to get “there” or experience “that”, it is all just wrapped up into the experience of being content with the energies you are experiencing and being at your best and connecting with people. In our normal lives it is easy to forget about this; easy to forget about submitting to nature; easy to forget about giving space and connecting with people. We think about traveling along planes of connecting as being linear. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But out there you ponder if this even makes sense. Isn’t the shortest distance between two points just a point? A point that we emit energy from? It can go in every direction and lead us to where we are suppose to go. Linear traveling suddenly seems to be wasteful and stressful and grounded in putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. Why do we put so much pressure on our lives? Why do we constantly think in terms of “if this, than that?” Why can’t it be, “if this then this?” The energy of our lives is easily squandered with constant comparison and a level of “either/or” thinking that can take us over. What would happen if we dropped the comparisons, dropped the either/or thinking and just learned to be whatever it is we feel we are and weren’t afraid of going in any direction while simultaneously going in another? Empowering!

The week of Burning Man is a week that projectile vomits forth adaptation. The amount of connecting with people, connecting with yourself, connecting with nature, that goes on is equivalent to a much larger time frame in our normal lives. We are forced to confront ourselves, our place in the world, and our own existence. We are forced to relate to others, be one with others, and recognize the similarities all of us humans face as one entity of the same species. We all deal with the same emotions and feelings and fears and happiness. There is an enormous amount to relate to with one another and that sense of awesome connection speaks to us evolutionarily as we are social creatures who thrive with one another and fall when we put ourselves into our own version of solitary confinement. I’ve never had so much meaningful connection and content filled conversation than I’ve had with the people at burning man. I’ve never realized how much I like sharing a cup of tea with someone. I’ve never realized how much that herbal tea has an affect on my health and what I put in my body directly relates to my body flourishing as compared to something like alcohol that depletes and is what I usually do when I spend time with people. How much am I keeping from others by engaging in something like alcohol, which limits the processes of my body. What I put in my body needs to be kept at therapeutic levels as often as I can because I want to be my best for myself and for those around me. The desert at Black Rock City has taught me so much. I feel like I just went for a ride in the collective consciousness rollercoaster. The amount of healing and realization and connection that happened over the last week and also last year is unparalleled to most other experience I’ve ever had. I have come across a tribe of people that are a beam of positive existential light. Life is mostly outside of your own head and how you connect with acting, feeling, living with others. The human will is magical.

2015-09-04 13.30.46

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