Pause

So, I have been trying to come up with ways to tell you about the rest of my Burning Man experience. I can’t explain it, but I’m really struggling with the words. I have never felt so bereft of words and so full of writing material at the same time.

I’m having a hard time because my experience is really more than just a story about a bunch of zany, mostly-white, people whooping it up in the desert. Sure, there was the trip down there, the set up, the partying, the meeting of people, the dancing, the staying up all night, the witnessing of art, the burning of things, the hugging goodbye, the tear down and the drive home… but then there were the good feelings that just sort of oozed out from some balled up part of my brain and into my bloodstream when I got home. (And here is the part where I just want to flog myself for even typing that because, before I left, I promised myself I wouldn’t describe my experience with incredibly cliche phrases like “Burning Man experience” and “started when I got home”.)

This whole writing process has been even further complicated by the fact that one of my camp mates just posted that her younger brother died in a car accident this Saturday. It’s surreal. It’s almost impossible for me to comprehend that someone I shared an unforgettable week in the dirt and the sun with is now experiencing something so unexpectedly devastating. It’s sort of hard to conjure up the zaniness of the trip when all I can think about is her and what she must be feeling right now.

The outpouring of love for her and her family has been amazing. So many people have responded to her, offering up their prayers and their good thoughts and their support. Even though she has been dealt this terrible shock, it is so comforting to know she is surrounded by so much love.

I am more moved by this than normal. I think it has everything to do with my experience at Burning Man.

This is one of the bits of fallout from Burning Man: you find yourself surrounded by this instant just-add-water-community and you can’t help but have your empathy for your fellow human renewed (more flogging here for more inarticulate cliches). The whole reason I went to Burning Man (I’ll explain more about this in another post) was to brush off these feelings of jealousy and rage I was having towards people who seemed to be “living an easy life” and to reestablish my connection to our commonality, our collective struggle, and our collective triumphs.

It worked.

My campmate is a person who I only really got to know aboard a school bus for two days… but I established a kinship with her that was otherwise impossible for me before this trip. I feel deeply saddened for her loss and I find myself wanting to extend myself to her and other friends in ways I didn’t know I could before.

For many reasons (not the least of which is that I want to finally want to answer the question: How was Burning Man?) I am tempted to just sum the whole thing up with a couple of sentences about feeling freer and not having so much judgement, and be done with it. But I can’t. Besides the fact that I loathe neat and tidy summations about deeply moving experiences, there is the
inherent dishonor I would do to this whole thing by not spelling out both the good and the bad. Before I left, I wanted to collect honest and practical anecdotes about what to expect. I now want to churn this experience into something as useful and as practical (and inspiring) as the stories I was told.

I also don’t want to add to the nebulous-speak, you-had-to-have-been-there-to-know-what-i’m-talking-about type stuff that further “proves” the argument that Burners are all spaced out hippies who speak in surfer-dude sentence fragments.

It’ll be worth it, even if it takes a while, to write it ALL down.