Freestyle: Burning Man’s can-do spirit

Aug. 28, 2013 | 0 Comments

This photo about sums up what Burning Man is about for me: human expression, taken to the extreme. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

This photo about sums up what Burning Man is about for me: human expression, taken to the extreme. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

BY ELIZABETH KIESZKOWSKI / ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com

Just wow, wow, wow, people! I’ve been thinking hard about how to describe the joy, difficulty and satisfaction that comes with taking part in Burning Man. It all comes down to this: I think the combined spirit of competence and kindness that infuses this event is a window into our human potential, in all of its flamboyance, contradictions and … bigness.

The “secret” of Burning Man is that it starts out like a disaster, with harsh conditions, unforgiving requirements and distant goals, and becomes a paradise (of sorts), with endless parties, ubiquitous art and in-your-face happiness. It should never succeed – and yet it does, in such grand fashion that increasing numbers of people from all around the world clamor to participate.

In order to participate – which is one of the rules of Burning Man, and yes, there are definitely rules — you must be prepared to spend, travel, drive for hours, wait in line, endure all of the requirements, and then share kindnesses, creative ideas and even hugs with uncounted people. And yet, people want to do this thing, just for the opportunity to encounter others who are bringing their best game to the playa too.

This reinforces my optimism that we humans can continue to find pleasant solutions to our problems — even the big ones.

At Burning Man, people create and share freely - just because they can. There are "wow" moments at every turn. For example: These solar

At Burning Man, people create and share freely – just because they can. There are “wow” moments at every turn. For example: These solar “trees” in the desert are powered by individual panels and use no outside energy. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

Burning Man, I’ve discovered, inspires you to become more friendly, cooperative, tolerant and competent. Embracing those qualities enhances your experience, and in “the real world,” it enhances your quality of life. Try it!

THERE’S PLENTY to tell you, but it’s been a difficult few days. We left for the playa from my old hometown of Chico, Calif. on Sunday, Aug. 25 – much later than we hoped, because it took time to pump up our bicycle tires, say goodbye to my homies and pack our small pickup truck like it was a game of Tetris. (Intentional Hawaii reference alert: I haven’t seen Henk Rogers on the playa yet, but the camp he belongs to, Tetreon, is once again big and bright out here.)

The first five hours of what should have been about a seven-hour, evening-to-night drive were fine, but the trip turned into a 15-hour endurance test when an accident on the rural road leading to Black Rock City and an alleged missing-child alert at the gates of Burning Man (so I’m told, as this wasn’t verified) created an immense, slow-moving traffic jam. It took us 17 hours to get into the event.

Despite an hours-long wait to get into Burning Man's Black Rock City, good things start happening right away. This man in traffic next to us began playing a handmade instrument, and the chiming sounds were lovely. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

Despite an hours-long wait to get into Burning Man’s Black Rock City, good things start happening right away. This man in traffic next to us began playing a handmade instrument, and the chiming sounds were lovely. (Star-Advertiser photo by Elizabeth Kieszkowski)

I’m typing this outside, under very dark skies with music playing on all sides, because there is no Internet in my hexayurt. (That’s a yurt created from aluminum-coated insulation material, by the way.) I can see the LED palm trees at my camp, Decadent Oasis, glittering in front of me. The computer I’m using is about to go dead, so more observations from my tour of art projects and solar installations will have to wait.

But as an illustration of the exuberance and fulfilled potential I’m talking about, I do want to note that earlier on Tuesday, Aug. 27, I crowded onto a wheeled “frigate” with a few dozen solar-power enthusiasts, working solar crew members and friends and saw several examples of the contributions crews from all around the world make to Burning Man. The playa photos you see come from that wonderful desert experience. Impressive, right?

Regional Burning Man groups assemble crews to bring burnable art to the playa, working on their projects year round. On Monday, Aug. 26, they held a public tour. Read up on all of the effigies and see the “Tour de CORE” happenings here.
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Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at ekieszkowski@staradvertiser.com or follow her on Twitter.

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