02 March 2008

Untitled Burning Man Post

If you recall, I went to Burning Man in 2007. While I was out on the playa, I was interviewed for a as-yet-to-air episode of BURNcast with some other virgins about our experiences.

One of the questions asked was - "How has Burning Man changed you ?". At the time I didn't really have an answer for that. Instead I talked about how a deeply appreciated the art and wonder I found out at Black Rock City combined with the sheer scale of the event.

I have always had the notion that if a thing were completely knowable (like an art museum) that I wanted to know it completely. For example, you can't see all of the Prado or Louvre in a single day. And if I had to leave without seeing everything, I would feel like I had missed out or failed in some way.

Today at BarCampLA, we ran into the host of BURNcast (which was a pleasant surprise). And someone else was giving a talk about Burning Man for people who were interested in going. I sat in the talk mostly to hear what he would say and hear what people would ask. But it all got me thinking about my playa experience again and what it meant to me.

The playa is a vast area where innumerable amazing cool things are happening every single second. It is also scale-free in such a way that its physical boundaries are inconsequential. That amazingly cool thing might be a 600' tower of flame seen by tens of thousands or contained in a small yurt and seen but by a few. It is impossible to see everything, even if you didn't sleep all week. It is the exact opposite of a knowable event.

And in that realization is a certain release and relaxation. Since you can't do everything, you need occasionally make sure you are doing the right thing for you, be willing to change what you are doing at any instant, and revel in the fact that other people are carving their own unique paths in time/space/experience.

Now of course there are people you care about more than others and sharing a path with them for some time is great But so is seeing their path diverge and cross and loop and merge and then go off again in a new direction.

Now off the playa, what the hell does that mean ?

I think I have really started to appreciate that the default world has all these same aspects as the playa. It is just more diffuse. You have to wander longer and through more crap to get to another amazingly cool thing.

And you will miss stuff. Time and space conspire to keep you from doing everything. And it is OK. Somehow knowing that the path I am carving is contained within a giant tangle of paths of the people I care about plus those of complete strangers makes me feel good and mitigates some of the pains of life.

And I need to keep checking in to make sure what I am doing right now is the right thing for me right now, be open to change, seek new experiences, and do what I can to help other people get to their next amazingly cool thing.

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