When I started going to Burning Man, almost 20 years ago, its place in culture was different.
It was underground. It was secret. It was taboo.
Now it is a part of cultural mainstream with frequent TV mentions and Buzzfeed lists of “Top Celebs at this year’s Burn”
20 years ago you could read everything publicly written about it in an hour and still have no idea what it was.
Now there are over 5 million Burning Man videos on YouTube. (Of course, you could watch them all and still have no idea what it is.)
20 years ago digital photography was brand new and nobody had cell phones. You could walk around naked and be confident nobody would see it in the default world.
Now people post to Instagram all week long. Your corndog fellatio escapade could be a viral sensation before Burn Night. Privacy is *not* one of the Ten Principles.
20 years ago, admitting to going to Burning Man was career suicide.
Now, so many respectable people have gone to (and praised) the event, that participating can be a badge of honor – if not a hiring requirement.
20 years later Burning Man plays a much different role in our culture. And I believe it has never been more important.
Radical Self Expression is no longer a decadence. It is now critical activism.
We are the seed banks of culture – preserving diverse thinking and creativity.
As a cultural ice age takes its grip – we must persevere. We must keep the fires going.
We must maintain our humanity by expressing our creativity. It is our creative expression that makes us more than greedy, over-groomed monkeys.
I’m talking about true creative expression. Authentic expression.
That which may not be appreciated by the mainstream.
Because it is in these fringe nether regions where the transformational ideas take root. Outside-the-box thinking will only thrive when people are supported when they stray outside the status quo.
And we may be entering an era when radical thought is ridiculed and persecuted.
But a bloodline and a culture both need to avoid inbreeding to stay healthy. “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” said Albert Einstein. So, without a healthy culture of non-traditional thought, we are doomed to stagnate in our woes.
Making art has never been so important. Living artistically has never been more courageous.
Now is when we step into our warrior roles.
Fighting is more than throwing rocks and carrying signs. It is staying weird, open-hearted and deviant – while the status quo is trying to crush you.