[Nicole Brydson is an artist and journalist from New York City. She can be found at nb.interchang.es.]
The burning question of the 2015 Burning Man Global Leadership Conference has finally been answered. How exactly did two-time presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich get to Burning Man?
“I drove,” he said.
“I’ll tell you what happened, I was in London and somebody tells me – I’m in London meeting with, um, uh, what’s his name? Julian Assange. And so he’s telling me about Almedalen Sweden and … so I go to this event in Sweden on an island, it’s called Almedalen.
“It’s like a celebration,” he continued, “it’s an elm festival, but beyond that, it’s where people merge with all sorts of political thinking and disciplines and they have this very civil discussion – so foreign to where I’m from – so I met Gustav Josefsson at Almedalen and Gustav told me about Burning Man” – the crowd roars – “so thank you! Here I am.”
A few hundred Burners from around the world cheered for Gustav, a community leader from Sweden, seated in the center of the Imperial Room of Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco’s Japantown neighborhood.
The presentation by the former congressman and mayor of Cleveland followed one by Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell on the strategy and goals of the organization as it strives to scale the culture of Burning Man in service of the next creative renaissance. Goodell shared that she will soon travel to Washington, DC to negotiate with Bureau of Land Management representatives and is positively hopeful about increasing the size of the population of Black Rock City beginning with the 2016 event.
Kucinich followed to discuss the theme of humanity as an interconnected and interdependent organism, the physics of which can be changed and progressively propelled through personal education, leadership and transformation, or alternatively set back in the face of a culture and climate of fear.
Most people are probably wondering if Kucinich really “got” Burning Man. So when he stepped across the line into Black Rock City for the first time in 2014, what exactly did he see?
“I saw the colors the textures the forms, that imaginarium that all of us hold within us, but don’t always get a chance to see a physical representation of the images and the fantasies that stream through our head about the world that could be – and suddenly I stood there and I saw a representation of it and I thought how miraculous how beautiful and how true.
“If you remember Keats, ‘beauty is truth, truth is beauty’ – the interchangeability of those principles – I saw it represented, and truth as equates to light. When you stand, when you move through the playa at night, you see how the darkness is illuminated in so many different ways, you start to think about how each person has the ability to bring their own awareness into the world, their own consciousness and to let that light of awareness penetrate the darkness in what is so beautiful, and I saw the potential of that physically represented. We all have this yearning for transformation; we all have this yearning for transcendence. I think that each one of us lives if only for a moment to experience that.”
During his half hour on the stage, Kucinich shared personal stories, including his eight principles of making change happen locally as he relayed an excerpt from his forthcoming book about challenges he faced as a politician.
“Envision the alternative outcome,” he advised. “If we are to be architects of a new world, you better have the plans in your back pocket.”
Kucinich’s must do list for organizing change, in his own words:
- Know your subject, research, research, research
- Envision the alternative outcome
- Create a concrete plan, your roadmap
- Enlist the help of people who are like-minded
- Work your plan
- Be relentless, cheerfully.
“All the world loves a cheerful relentlessness,” he added.
As he wrapped up his question and answer session, a moved Kucinich shared that, “I sure am interested in working with all of you because I think that what you’re involved in is really creating a world that is not just worth living in, but that everyone loves to live in, and that really is what it’s about, its about connecting with a deeper sense of joy.”
As Kucinich’s stage time was winding down the most burning and obvious question of the morning was finally shouted out by Burning Man co-founder Crimson Rose – when would he be running for president? After all, a pile of Kucinich campaign pins and bumper stickers had been sitting at the registration table.
“Check please,” he quipped.
“I’m involved,” Kucinich continued delicately, “as we all are. It’s about being involved in our community in our country, in the world, and I would advise all of you who are looking for candidates: our first obligation is be as presidents of our own lives, and to show people that empire of self can become something that can merge with others who achieve a kind of self sufficiency and an ability to be able to function without a state,” he paused, seemingly in awe of his own statement. “Wow.”
“So rather than being accused of not answering that question, no comment.”
Watch the video of the speech: