I’m known as the Sheriff of Black Rock City, Sheriff-by-Consensus. That is, if you think I represent what you would have as a Sheriff in our town, forget the real police now, if I represent what YOU would choose for Sheriff of our town, then you vote for me by saying “Howdy Sheriff” whenever you see me. If everyone says “Howdy Sheriff” when I walk by, then I am Sheriff. Until that happens I’ll just keep doing my job, and that job is to blow peoples minds.

What – you thought I was going to arrest people? Well that’s the gist of me being jaded. Being Sheriff was supposed to be fun, We made up the city, we can make up the public servants. But this year I had trouble communicating this simple paradigm shift. Probably its just me and my moods, maybe I’ve just been going too long, but it feels like something drastic has changed. I know every year it is different and I have celebrated that difference. But even with all the growth some basic community values persisted and even expanded.

This last year, I felt like I was around people acting ordinary. By that I mean that they didn’t seem to be aware that social communion at BM is EXTRAordinary. It’s not about how you dress or what you do, but for me it is about what you bring to the event, spiritually, artistically, etc. I come to BM to be challenged, or more accurately, to have my own personal limitations challenged. When I see another artist taking their art further than I could possibly have imagined then I am stretched. I stumble over the limits I have placed on my own thinking, acknowledge them, and then expand. That’s scary and rich and life changing.

But 2001 I was never scared, I could have sleepwalked through the whole event. This isn’t said to blame anyone. The point is that when I first came, you had to be awake. There were 5000 people stoned out of their minds with flame throwers, so if trouble was rolling down the street, everyone was awake, aware, and as a result ALIVE. No one was paternally caring for us, we had to do it, each of us, for ourselves. Personal responsibility made BM strong. Without danger, BM shares more and more with shopping malls (OK, it still is an extravagantly adorned shopping mall, and you can’t buy anything, but none-the-less there is no need for personal responsibility in a mall and last year little need for the same at BM).

OK, I’m Jaded, its me, no one did anything wrong, things change, but I wish I could make BM “spiritually dangerous” again. I wish by shear force of personality I could create a spiritual catharsis for 26,000 people, but I haven’t. The hidden invisible mysteries of BM were taught to me through modeling. Early on I was surrounded by thousands of old timers just doing their thing. I learned by watching (monkey see, monkey do). How do the few old timers left model to the ravenous horde? Very little in the outside world prepares you for the intangibles of BM. Maybe they are lost forever.

by The Great Quentini
Sheriff-by-Consensus, Black Rock City

About the author: Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa

Tales From the Playa are dreams and memories of events that took place at Burning Man, as told by participants. Submit your story here.