I’ve recently been traveling around the U.S. talking to people in open forums about Burning Man’s philosophy and culture, and periodically I’m going to post about some of the questions people have raised and some of the discussions that have been had.
The first thing I think needs to be said was brought up by an impassioned man who had been active in several local Regional events, but never been to Black Rock City.
What he wanted to know, what he wanted validated, was: “I’m really a Burner, right? I’m not less of a Burner than people who go to BRC?”
And look, there’s no committee that decides this. There’s no equivalent of a Burner Pope who issues encyclicals on something like this. Burning Man culture does not permit an authority who can validate you, either to yourself or others. And to the extent people set themselves up as such authorities, they can be mocked.
But … but … I do have a personal opinion on that, which I told him. And it’s one I’ll gladly defend anywhere, any time. And that is:
People who “burn” where they live, but don’t go to Black Rock City, are much better Burners than people who go to Black Rock City, but don’t burn where they live.
This is, I think, basic to what Burning Man actually is. As I’ve written elsewhere, “The premise of festivals like Woodstock and Coachella is that “You had to be there to experience it!” The premise of Burning Man is: “I can do this myself!”
My opinion doesn’t mean more than anyone else’s, but I think that reasonably, at this point in Burning Man’s evolution, this is as fundamentally true as it gets.
Top photo: “Identity Awareness” by Shane Pitzer (photo by Christopher Robin Blum)