Sunset and a Sun God

A Sun God at Sunset

For as long as humans have roamed the Earth, we have yearned for and found meaning in something greater than ourselves.  It may be found in an almighty being, in nature, or in a community.  Philosophers and religions have attempted to define and explain what it means to feel connected or enlightened, but perhaps artists have  captured the ephemeral feelings the best, in their sculptures and paintings and music and dance.

Ironically, feeling connected is a deeply individual experience.  No two people express themselves the same when viewing a great piece or art, being overwhelmed by the urge to move to a beat, or feeling at home in the embrace of another.  Expressing our individuality brings us closer

In the modern world, in the real world, individuality is not often appreciated.  An employer may expect you to dress “appropriately.”  Decisions are often reached by consensus or by a single person with power.  Art and music may follow the puppet strings of a corporation with deep pockets.

At Burning Man, the real world gets left behind.  In the vacuum that exists when the  real world get tossed aside, individuality happens.  Connectedness happens.  Magic happens.  And it is a beautiful

Unfortunately, nobody can really explain what Burning Man is.  Rather explain a sunset to one who is unable to see.  It is an experience that requires your presence and participation.  But I’ll do my best

Like an emotion, Burning Man itself is ephemeral.  For a single week, a city of nearly 70,000 people bursts out of the dust of an ancient lake bed, Black Rock City, the 3rd largest city in Nevada.  At the event’s completion, the city recedes into the dust, as if it had never been.  No trace is left behind

Black Rock City (photo courtesy of Wikimedia.)  60,000+ people live here, for a week

There are no corporations at Burning Man. Nothings is for sale. There is no profit motive. Rather, people give and receive freely of everything from water and beer to their art and love.  People create incredible art pieces to share (and in many cases, burn) for the sole purpose of inspiring and creating joy in others.

Art is everywhere.  People dress in elaborate costumes.  People ride decorated and illuminated bicycles and art cars.  The man himself is an art piece of epic proportions.

Mad Hatter Playing an Organ at "Church Trap"

Mad Hatter Playing an Organ at “Church Trap”

Manta Ray Art Car

Manta Ray Art Car, the Dust Rey

Insanity!  It's a state of mind

Insanity! It’s a state of mind

Church of Intense Imagery

Church of Intense Imagery

Music is everywhere.  Dance camps share their captivating beats all day and all week.  Many art cars are roaming dance clubs.

A Typical Day at Distrikt

A Typical Day at Distrikt

Day time temperatures soar.  Dust storms can bring visibility to zero in seconds.  You are never surprised if a 50 foot yacht drives by, or a giant metal octopus shoots flames out of its tentacles

El Pulpo Mechanico

El Pulpo Mechanico

At night, temperatures plunge. The per capita use of faux fur explodes. Art pieces and dance clubs take on a new life.  Nighttime at Burning Man is perhaps the only place on the planet where you can be stone cold sober and still feel high

Fire Spinners

Fire Spinners

Tree of Life

Tree of Life

Let's Dance!

Let’s Dance!

What do people do at Burning Man?  It isn’t a typical festival, where we all listen to music at predetermined times and stages.  At Burning Man, you are part of the act.  Some perform spontaneously, with their hula hoops, drums, or fire poi.  Others might attend an Alice in Wonderland themed party at a nearby theme camp, or stop by a Bad Advice booth for some life changing advice.  Perhaps you would rather go on a naked bicycle pub crawl?  Or maybe you’ll go on an art tour riding a giant snail art car.  A guide book provides ideas for events hosted by the numerous theme camps.  There is something for everybody, and much of it is spontaneous

It’s impossible to see or do everything in the time available, but seeing The Man burn is a must do.  Every person, art car, and bicycle in the entire city turns up to watch.  The air buzzes with anticipation and the bass of hundreds of speakers blasting.  Hundreds of fire spinners perform.  The horizon is filled with lights and lasers as far as the eye can see.

And then the man goes up in flames in a series of explosions and fireworks.  The crowd cheers!

The Man

The Man standing on top of a 5+ story high wooden UFO

He's Gonna Blow!

He’s Gonna Blow!

Burn the Man!

Burn the Man!

The art and music make Burning Man great, but what really makes it special are the people. The culture is incredible. Arriving at Burning Man, everybody from first time virgin to long time veteran is greeted with a hug and a cheery, “Welcome home!” Thousands of people will offer to give you beer, food, and perhaps a small gift. Hand made jewelry, stickers, and even lip balm are popular. Nobody will ask “What do you do?” but will instead thank you for sharing yourself and being awesome just as you are. Step aside Disney, Black Rock City is the happiest place on Earth

Everybody should go at least once.  It will change your perspective on human relationships.  Over the years as I’ve invited people to attend, and by far the most often response is “Oh hell yeah!”  The second most common response is, “I can’t afford it.”

Burning Man doesn’t need to be expensive.  The fixed cost items such as tickets and transportation are most likely the highest cost items.  Consumables like food would still be eaten at home.  Costumes don’t need to be expensive.  In the past, we found a full length pink faux fur coat for $5 and a real pink rabbit fur coat for $20 at thrift stores.

To aid future attendees, here is a break down on cost based on our actual spending this year.  We attended from Wednesday to Sunday (4 nights / 5 days) and carpooled with friends.

How much does it cost to attend Burning Man?

Ticket for BM 2013: $400
Theme camp dues: $120 per person (pays for storage locker in Reno, NV and a 16′ box truck for transport)
Flight from SEA to RNO (1-way): $74 per person
Flight fro SFO to SEA (1-way): $84 per person
1 night hotel in Reno: $54
Gas for carpool: $30
Food: $154 (each)
30-pack of Budweiser to give away: $20
Other alcohol: $35
Misc costume accessories: $77
EL wire: $84
Ice: $25
Gifts for sharing with new playa friends: $40 (each)
Random crap (wet wipes, lip balm, hand sanitizer, etc…): $50
Big dinner in SF to decompress: $94

Our total spending for two people for everything: $2353
(based on having bikes, tents, air mattress, fur coats, etc… in storage from previous years)

We didn’t expect to attend Burning Man this past year, but we were pulled back by chance and great friends.  We were pulled back home. Hopefully next year you can join us