It has nothing to do with Burning Man

In the Burning Man community, now is the time of year when all the self-righteous people try to ruin everyone’s fun by showing you how cool they are by writing their, “Why I am not going to Burning Man this year” manifestos. They always say the same thing, “Well, I’ve been every year for the past 15 years aaaaaand this year, blah, blah, blah.” Wait a second... Is Burning Man over or are you? Did you just write this article to show me how much of an original burner your are? Is this Playa materialism? Is this commodification of your experience? I’m sorry if your unrealized expectations of what could have been, are crushing the reality of your present moment. It’s time to get over that now.

'EGO' - Black Rock City, 2012 - Artist:  Laura Kimpton & Michael Garlington -  Photo: Trey Ratcliff

'EGO' - Black Rock City, 2012 - Artist: Laura Kimpton & Michael Garlington - Photo: Trey Ratcliff

But I digress. What I want to talk about isn’t how all the rich people are now going to Burning man and thus it is now ‘over.’ Rich people are everywhere, and everything is not over. On the contrary, 'it' is all happening and in one of the most powerful ways a ‘thing' can ‘happen.' I’m not here to talk about how tech ruined all the cities and drove up housing prices. This has happened in every major city, for the entire course of human history, every time a new industry is born. The formula is simple and it works like this; industry is created in the cities because it is the easiest and most natural way to gather and collect resources. Then, all of the young, ambitious and smart people go there to get involved in the construction of the future because of the excitement, opportunity and all the other associated bullshit. The result? A new industry is born for the world. This affects the way we walk on the planet, communicate with each other, live, love, lust, get sick, get healthy and die, all of these things change for a the slightly better. This, for better or worse, is the history of modern civilization and why housing prices in The Mission and Williamsburg are so high.

What else happens? The Luddites lose. Every time. People who can’t adapt and change, they get moved out. Change is a bitch and no one ever said it was easy, but unfortunately, it's the only constant, so get used to it or get on with it.

You may be asking, “Isn’t this supposed to be about Burning Man?" It’s all about Burning Man. The fact that something like Burning Man is happening and you are alive to experience it, is a truly unique gift. Never in the history of humans have such a diverse and unique group of people gathered to build a temporary city based on a code of morals and ethics that are universal and for a specific and defined time. Never has a group like this come together for not 1, but 1000’s of reasons. To commune, to party, to release, pray, fuck, grieve, transform, network, express, create, destroy, explore and more. Never has this happened in the history of the world, an experimental city that rises and falls into the dust, each year another iteration; our Atlantis.

'On Approach' (from sky) - Black Rock City, 2015 - Photo Trey Ratcliff

'On Approach' (from sky) - Black Rock City, 2015 - Photo Trey Ratcliff

In case you are not paying attention, this is a thing and it’s growing. It happens not just once a year in the Nevada desert but almost a hundred times per year in locations around the world. Burning Man has allowed a group of some of the world's most interesting people (along with douchebags like yourself) to self-select their way into a grand experiment whose future is unknown. This crew has, is, and will continue to shape the world into a vision that only they can dream up and where only a tiny piece of this dream comes from the loud, dusty and crowded desert city.

So if you want to say, "it’s over," then great, just own the fact that it is you who is over.  Your, "It’s not pure anymore,” attitude is the death throes of your ego scraping to justify your decision to move on. It’s your inability to see the forest from the trees. The veritable ‘It’ is always still happening, however, as soon as you say it’s over, you, the individual, give up whatever magic or potentiality this ever held. And the scary thing is you become right, ‘It’ is over; for you.

'Crash Site Alpha - 13' - Black Rock City, 2013 - Artist: Aphidoidea Collective - Photo: Trey Ratcliff

'Crash Site Alpha - 13' - Black Rock City, 2013 - Artist: Aphidoidea Collective - Photo: Trey Ratcliff

I’m not saying you have to go to Burning Man ever year or even ever. I’m not saying you need to be part of every event, every going on, or anything for that matter, but just don’t say, “It’s over,” because, that is just not true. It doesn’t make anything better for those who are the next iteration of whatever the magic could be. As soon as you who knows, you the more experienced one, says, "it's over," you disempower the next generation from feeling special the way you did when you first found it. All anyone wants to feel is that what is happening is special and they are fucking special for being part of it. Do you know what happens when a group of people actually feel like they are creating something special? Something new is born. It’s new, again, every time. It’s the same as in nature. It’s like looking at a forest and saying, “It’s a damn shame, I knew this place when it was like 3 inches shorter.” It is crazy to me that anyone could think that human cycles of growth, development and organization are any different from the cycles of nature.

Again, I’m sorry if you’ve peaked already and your now unrealized expectations destroyed your present reality. I’m sorry if you have no serotonin left. Should have taken less drugs and more 5-HTP. But if you believe in the world right now and you have even gone so far to have taken part in some of the magic, you do your dreams, vision and potential reality a disservice by saying, "It is over.”

What are you getting in return for your past tense ‘it's over' attitude? You get a satisfied ego that got to tell everyone how cool it used to be. You get to feel more special than the person whose potential reality you just ruined because you blew their expectations. You made them feel like it’s gone mainstream. No one wants to feel mainstream. Try telling your wife that she looks average tonight and see how awesome that goes over for you. “Baby you look great tonight, but you were way better during the last 15 years, right now you’ve just gone a little too mainstream."

We’re flying to the moon, again! We’re building communication platforms that connect the entire planet. For a few hundred bucks, we can get on jets and fly around the world. We have active friendships with folk in cities we never visit. Philosophy, art, performance, and expression has never had the kind of funding or microphone that it has right now. You say,'Rich people are ruining everything.’ If you are reading this, you are one of those rich people. You are living in the most affluent society the world has ever seen. You are rich people and you can either talk shit about how cool things used to be. Or, you give zero fucks about the, ‘it’s over' line of thinking and become the solution. You push boundaries, you experiment, you participate in the future. In essence you believe. You believe in us, in this and in the knowing that there is a future and shit it’s only as bright as we can shine it.

'BELIEVE' - Black Rock City, 2013 - Artists: Jeff Schomberg, Laura Klimpton. Photo: Trey Ratcliff

'BELIEVE' - Black Rock City, 2013 - Artists: Jeff Schomberg, Laura Klimpton. Photo: Trey Ratcliff

You experiment because the type of failure of the past almost doesn’t even exist anymore. We have reached a level of affluence as a society that if you fall, we (basically) got you. Buckminster Fuller's dream of an empowered creative class freed from the bonds of production so that they might fully utilize their thinking capacity is actually coming to fruition. And Burning Man is a great example of that being a real thing, an experimental city.

Are there real problems, threats and injustices in the world? Short answer, yes. These are all real and as many smart people as we can muster need to be working their asses off and paying attention to these issues. From my limited world view, this is actually happening. People appear to be advocating, working, and innovating to solve all of the hard problems I can think of. The challenge lies in our perception of time, change and history. Looking back at history it seems like things just pop up overnight and problems are just solved immediately in the moment. For better or worse any solid reality check will tell you that large-scale systemic change takes time, a lot of time. You don’t just wake up one day and solve climate change. It takes decades if not centuries or hard sustained work, to solve a problem that took even longer to create.

We see racism, poverty, disease and violence. These are all real problems. There is such a powerful body of news, media and journalism today that we can actually see, understand and comprehend all of these issues at the same time. This unique lens and our human propensity toward empathy makes it seem like everyone is going to shit and that there is massive global suffering to a scale we have never seen.

This is a partial truth. Suffering isn’t happening more, it’s actually happening less, but we can now see more of it because our ability to create, consume and comprehend global news events is at its largest scale in history.

This type of news and media has the ability to crush the spirit, kill hope and evoke guilt. It also has an equally powerful converse reaction that activates people to think, see opportunity and create change. Today technology and innovation has automated so much, that collectively, we have enabled the thoughts of many to move away from the day to day and into strategies for the future. More and more, people have the ability to act.

We are eradicating disease. We’ve gotten resources into places we didn’t even know existed 50 years ago. There is a monumental movement of the mind, the hope and wonder of the human potential. A monumental movement of people activating every day to solve some of the largest challenges we’ve ever faced as a human race. This is happening with teams of people from across the world. Language barriers shattered by technology, and collaboration enabled by communication and transportation. It is all actually happening right now. I can, for the first time in my short life, say that every problem or opportunity I have ever seen arise, I know at least one person who is working on it.

'Man Before Fire' - Black Rock City, 2015 - Photo Trey Ratcliff

'Man Before Fire' - Black Rock City, 2015 - Photo Trey Ratcliff

A global community has activated and it has nothing to do with Burning Man. Rich people are everywhere and it has nothing to do with Burning Man. ‘It’ was always better the first time. The one you weren’t at is always better than the one you actually went to. But look around you right now. Check out the super computer you are reading this on, the readily assessable wisdom teachings of every major thought school. Almost every culture is represented in almost every major city. Experts in everything, people everywhere passionate about what could be. Really take a hard look at what's going on and try telling me ‘It’ is not happening right now. Really take a look at the world today and try telling me it used to be better.

We deify the people who lived back ’then,' the ones who created the world we live in now. We talk about how great it used to be, how that could ever happen again. The crazy part of the whole thing is we are those people; today.

Look at the life you get to live and realize what is happening. We are them, then; now. We are those that took action during our time. Respect the past and the people who built these platforms you are standing on. Celebrate their success because now a greater world audience gets to experience their magic. ‘It’ is all very much not only still happening, but growing. So what are you going to do it about? Get your mind out of what once was, and what will never be again and look at the present moment, the right now. Then, look forward. Whatever you can envision, can be.

This has nothing to do with Burning Man, but what a great analogy.