Rumors that during Burning Man you experience a transcendence in humanity, have ignited in me an incredible curiosity and attraction that seem like a siren’s call to my heart. I first found out about Burning Man about two years ago. I was very much touched by the almost divine respect that artists such as Chris Weiss or Adam Lambert would relate of the experience. It was then when the dream to be part of the Burning Man was born. However, the more I researched the event, the more I became confused with not understanding what actually happens there. It wasn’t until this morning, August 28, 2012 when I read Seth Stevenson’s article in Slate “Why Would Anyone Go to Burning Man?” that I finally got a clear picture of the magic people experience there. Actually I got more than a picture… even though I am currently in Saarland, Germany thousands of miles away, today I experienced the spirit of humanity during Burning Man.
I took a short nap this afternoon and I dreamt that my husband and I went to the Burning Man. Neither of us has done drugs or been drunk. Our sexual experiences beyond each other are negligible. So in my dream, when we were checking in at the event we both were a bit nervous and uncertain about what to expect. However with faith on the ten principles of the burning man, we held hands and walked in. Then it was like Magic, like Disneyland but 10,000 times better. There was a feeling of complete freedom. Patrick, my husband dressed in his Elvis Rock n’ Roll marathon outfit and I dressed with white sheets in the shape of butterfly wings that I painted with my favorite colors and designs. I love to paint and so during that week I did what I love most… I painted: what I saw, how I felt, what would cross my mind then and there. When someone would walk by and would like the painting…. either I would give it to them or we would paint together. I also painted my body and would walk with nothing else on but paint. It was beautiful and full of color and life.
Then the final night of the festival arrived. I had painted a very special painting to hang on the temple to let it burn as a symbol of the soon departure and death of this paradise of unconditional love and freedom. This painting represented all the incredible idealism and complete freedom that a human being can experience without fear of rejection, judgement or fear itself. With each step I took towards the temple, my heart seemed to be breaking with bigger pieces. When I looked down at the painting one last time before hanging it, I was startled and breathless to realize that it was in fact a self-portrait. I froze! My eyes were cemented on my face on canvas. “Here I am ready to die” the canvas said. “I can’t exist in the real world out there. The rules and norms of everyday society would lead to nothing but pain and suffering. Rationality, intelligence, and “good” judgement drive the interaction of humanity in the everyday life. The ways of the soul, of feelings and instincts, have a very low survival rate out there…. many break not only of body but of mind and soul.
Judgment and pressure are very tough and torturous. Better to burn this side of you and go back to everyday life without any distracting nonsense, ready to make money and succeed. Let it go. It was good for one week. Now it is time to die in the humanity of the burning man and go back to the real world.” Tears were cascading from my eyes as I realized I had no other choice but to hang the painting and walk away. Had I not prepared the painting as a departing symbol of the experience? Yes! So now the time had come. As I was hanging the painting, I heard someone scream behind me “Stop! Don’t burn it. Can you give it to me instead?!” I turned around to see who had said that, but there where many people standing around waiting for the fire to start and I could not tell where the voice came from. “I like it, please can I have it?” To the right of me there was a silhouette coming forward. Hmm… I took a deep breath to realize what was happening.
Wait, who is this person? What does this mean? Is this just someone who likes the painting and wants to keep it as a souvenir? Or is this God’s way of sending me a message that I don’t need to die. Maybe this idealistic way of being has a chance to be part of the real world out there? If this person likes the painting and nothing more…. well I could just give it to them as I did the others. However this painting is not like the others. This is me. The “unconditional love” and “let’s make the world a better place” idealistic part of me. Would this other human being take care of it?
Would the best part of me be safe in their hands? Or should I say no and let it burn in peace giving closure to this magical experience? Then at least I know and can control what happens to it and that it is over. Hmmm No! I will give it away and let it be what it is. If someone else likes it. It’s theirs. Let hope, love and trust be. I turned around, unhung the painting and walked toward the silhouette. When we were a few feet away from each other, I froze. “Patrick! It’s you!” I could not move. Patrick said “yes, please let me have it? I’ll take good care of it! I will treasure it!” I started crying. Patrick walked forward and held me in a tight embrace. Through tears and sobs I said “But Patrick, this way of being is so difficult out there! It has brought us so much trouble. We get hurt all the time. I don’t like to see us in pain.” “ I know” he said, “but it is the best part of who we are. If we don’t strive to live life with it… is life even worth it?” At this point the painting was on the floor as we were both sobbing and holding each other. Then the heat from the flames behind us was getting very intense as the burning of the Temple had begun. Patrick and I looked at each other, we held hands and walked back to join the rest of the crowd. After a few feet I remembered “Patrick the painting!” We looked back to the spot where we had been, but the painting was gone. We stared at each other and then I woke up.
As I woke up I realized I was crying. I am not sure if these were tears of joy or sadness, but I did not care. If this is not the spirit of the burning man I don’t know what is. Talk about the spirit of humanity and the universe having no barriers or limits.
by Monica Hilt