Final day, pull up the stakes. I'll be honest and say The Burn wasn't at all as spectacular as I expected it to be. It was visually sectacular (more an exploding man than a burning one), but I always fixate on the yahoos drunk on their beer and hallucinogens, yelping like football fans. I know it's a problem of mine that I can't get over something like that, but that sort of thing always ruins things like this for me.
When I was in San Francisco for the unveiling of The Mann, and we drummed in a procession and gathered around The Mann for the pre-ritual ritual, there was an amazing energy in the air. And then The Mann's arms raised above his head, and the rush that went through the crowd gave me a chill. It was one of those electric silences where you can feel the vacuum from the gasps of all 500 people watching. Having never witnessed Burning Mann myself, I thought that might be the energy of Burning Mann right there, the fabled intensity that you have to witness to experience. But I have to say I didn't see anything like that at the actual Burn. Who knows, maybe it's just me, or maybe it's the old phenomenon that ruins any movie that you've heard enough high praise about.
I can't tell if the mood around here has returned to something like normal, or if it just seems normal after all this madness. It feels like normalness. Thank god it's a nice cool cloudy day and we can just wallow in the vibe and lazily listen to Radio Free Burning Man do it's impersonation of NPR (wryread is off the air).
I managed to make it through Burning Mann without so much as a toke of pot, and without a stem of mushroom, or a scrap of LSD or extacy. Everyone here has been hitting the drugs hard, and I have to say something about it bugs me. It's an unquestioned thing, their drug use, like they have to do it. It's ironic, because a lot of people say drugs "broadens their mind" and help their critical thinking, but they seem to apply no critical thinking to their decision to use drugs. And I couldn't be more sure that pot kills people's ambition, so my new maxim is "Marijuana: crippling the underground for years now."
Of course all this makes me feel like a curmugeon. And besides, it's hard to stay up late for the real craziness if you're not chemically altered. I get demolished by sleepiness by 2am every night, and then I wake up to all the people still awake from their acid, full of adventure stories. It's a tough one.
Anyway, we have craploads of work ahead. We have to take down everything, pack it up, clean everything to "leave no trace" (as the motto is around here), and start our merry carivan back civilization's way. It's already 12:30p, so I predict a late night of work. Smart are the CyberCamp people who showed up Thursday and left early today.
But Burning Mann overall has been fun. Not the blowout I was expecting -- it was hardly even a party for me -- but it is definately something I'd consider a mandatory experience every year. More than anything else, this has been true to the BMan cliche of "a radical experiment in community living," both socially and structurally, and in my opinion it has way more weight than any of the utopian writings, because this shit is real. This happened. We created a fractured analog of mainstream society, and demonstrated a little more of what is possible. And I think everyone learned better how to live within a community, as their role as a citizen was tangible. And of course everyone learned massive amounts about themselves.
Sorry for the lackluster entry, I'm tired, probably dehydrated, desperately need a shower, my nose is full of "nose taters", and it's starting to get hot.
ps- just to liven up the entry a bit, I'll go through the origin of the phrase "nose taters", which are the massive snot clumps everyone gets out here. The three Burning Mann slogans are "piss clear", which is a comment on the absence of yellow in your piss if you're well hydrated; "leave no trace", which means leave absolutely no garbage behind; and "no spectators". This last was proclaimed in a large sign at center camp last year, and someone blotted out a few letters so the sign read "nose taters". Nice one.
Okay, it's a few hours later, and we're breaking camp. Things are coming down slowly but surely, as is the pace of the desert. It's a blessedly cloudy day, so the work is a bit less painful than it could be. But still everyone's sore from various desert injuries, everyone's dehydrated, and everyone's looking forward to home. A week can be a long time.
One thing I have to say I learned a lot about out here is how to work with people. So much of my usual work is done alone in a room, and my contact with other people is limited to just showing them a finished product. But out here I had to work with people. That's part of the philosophy of the whole experience, that you can get way more done together than alone. Only with a division of labor could we build a city. So: with the radio station there was no way I could do it alone. So I'd try and get other people to contribute, and slowly try and get other people to do the important jobs. And it worked, people were willing and eager to help. Which was the point where the whole thing was working. And it taught me one thing I hope I'll always remember, which was that people are much more willing to listen to you if they see you're working at least as hard as they are. It seems to me now that the way to lead is to work the hardest. When I see it written it seems really basic, but it's new to me. Or maybe I'm just punch drunk from the desert.
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