Some people think Burning Man is magical. Not just good, excellent
fun, but life-altering magic. I met one woman who said she felt like
it was the one time every year she got to be her true self. The vast
majority of the thirty or so folks I met were repeat offenders, with
some having a history of debauchery lasting over a decade. And of
those few first-timers I did find, they all wanted to come back next
year, except me. I was worried for a while that my inner child was
reason Burning Man doesn’t impress me as some kind of mecca of
tolerance and awesome is because it is really easy to be nice and
friendly when the likelihood of long-term conflict is low, and when
everyone has enough stuff. It’s easy to be open and relaxed around
someone who isn’t going to be around in a week. If you knew they were
going to be a part of your life for the next five years, you’d have to
be much more on guard about not saying anything offensive, and
carefully managing their perception of what might offend you. Think of
how when you’re meeting a boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents–if you
have any hope that your relationship will last, you will be on your
best behavior, and very, very careful around those potential in-laws. That it’s easy to be kind when you have enough stuff to live
comfortably, is a point so obvious it should go without my needing to
provide an example.
So. Believing, as I do, that the wildness of expression and unusual friendliness
of burners is due to the luxuries of transience and abundance–well, it’s like I just
unraveled the rainbow.
So rock on, Burning Man. You are a wild, wild party, but magic–you are not.