Burning Man may be one of the largest and most misinterpreted celebrations in the world. To the outsider, this giant jubilee in the inhospitable Black Rock Desert is just a drunkfest full of drugs, naked people wearing masks and goggles and a huge sculpture of a man that burns to the ground. To a tried and true “burner”, Burning Man is home. It may be the only place where you can actually be yourself with no one judging how you look, dress or act. This makes Burning Man the ultimate opportunity for participation.
Participation is key to the energy of the festival. Actually, Burning Man is more than just a festival. It’s a real community where attendees come to live in creative, self-built camps for a week in a city called Black Rock City. For this week, Black Rock City becomes the seventh biggest city in Nevada, with usually over 50,000 people.
The days are spent doing whatever you do in a real city: riding your bike, meeting new people, viewing art, dancing, doing yoga or meditation, eating, drinking, visiting bars, listening to music, watching performances. You name it, it can be done in Black Rock City. All the events culminate on Saturday night where a giant figure of a man in the center of the city is burned amidst music, fire dancing and jubilation.
Contrary to popular belief, the Burning Man community is not a barter community. It’s a gifting community. Community members give freely of themselves or their talents. Even with some naked people running around, the gifting culture at Burning Man may be one of the hardest things to adjust to. In our everyday society, we are distrustful of anyone giving freely with no reciprocation required. In the long list of ways to participate at this massive celebration, giving is the first.
Five ways you can participate at Burning Man
Notice that someone needs help pitching their tent or shelter? Grab some gloves and give them a hand. Other popular gifts are fresh squeezed juice or a home cooked meal. The Black Rock Desert is a tough place to camp for several days, so any fresh food or a cold drink is much appreciated. Other burners give out small tokens, handmade jewelry, fresh, clothing or other odds and ends.
Many camps need volunteers. You can volunteer to meet attendees at the gate, work as a builder or camp engineer, work in the medical tent or help with the day-t0-day aspects of such a large festival.
Do you dance? Spin fire? Sing? Play an instrument? Burning Man may be the only place where you can perform to your heart’s desire with no one judging your skills or whether you are on key or not. Burners love art and they will love you.
Take some effort and make your camp a wonderful place to hang out. Ingenuity, building skills, and knowledge of how the desert heat and the notorious winds of Black Rock City affect shade structures are great skills to have at Burning Man.
Talk to total strangers. Everyone you meet will become part of your Burning Man family. Who knows, you may even run into them back in the Default (the real world) and you will get many hugs.