learning from Black Rock City

The drive through Nevada’s back highways was beautiful, peaceful, and somewhat eerie. There was nothing around. I watched the mountains and the deserts disappear into the evening, and pushed on through the blackness before finally giving in to stop and rest. 

Already far south along the 395, Black Rock City was well behind me, but I still felt great to have left. I wondered why I wasn’t yet missing it like crazy, and I decided it must be a combination of two things: my total and complete satisfaction with my experience this year, and the life to which I am returning. I think that, at this point, the person I am in the default world is much more closely aligned with who I am when I’m in Black Rock City than it was when I returned the first time. Although everyday life is not Burning Man, I do feel that I am living my values and being my authentic, free self every day. I have definitely translated a good amount of the growth and change that Burning Man has incited in me the past two years into my regular life. Maybe that’s why it feels like less of a disconnect to return this time. I like that. Also, though, I was definitely more prepared for the experience of culture shock and frustration that comes upon returning to the default world, so maybe knowing what to expect helped too. However, even with all the positive differences this time, it has still been an adjustment.

It is odd to return to a world of money. It feels unnatural to be in a place where everyone is either in cars, in houses, or in offices. It doesn’t feel like people live together here. We live in the same place, but not together. Most of people’s actions are motivated by money. We eat to fill up time. We watch television to fill up time. The world is crumbling and on the brink of war – and for what? Why do we kill each other? For money and power. I think that no matter how many times I do it, it will always be hard to come back to that after living in Black Rock City, where no such things exist. One of the many beautiful things about that place is that everyone is TRULY equal there. I have never experienced racism, sexism, ageism, or judgment of any kind. Everyone is free to be himself or herself, and everyone is loved and respected for that. There is no leader, no one at the top of some sort of social order. No one has greater rights. No one is wealthy or poor, because there is no such thing as money. We all get there, and every slate is wiped clean. Each human is simplified down to her existence as a living creature, wrapped in her personality. Nothing more. There are no measurements of status. There are no restrictions on sharing and giving. There are no demands for compensation beyond the joy that you receive from giving love. I love it there because the unnecessary, fabricated, constricting, detrimental parts of human society are stripped away. It gives me hope that, even though real life could never be like Black Rock City in all ways, we can move closer to integrating the values exemplified there into our societies in the rest of the world.

Even though it is hard to come back and I do miss it a lot, I am filled with hope for a kinder world. We all must take what we learn from experiences like this and bring it back home. If Black Rock City changed you, the best thing you can do is let yourself be changed forever and not let yourself get swallowed again by the suffocating norms to which you return. Be the new you, even if you don’t “fit in”. Shine the light that you found in yourself – this will bring you peace, and make much more of a difference in this world than you could ever foresee. Burning Man’s energy will permeate the world only with participants who realize that they are not different people on and off the playa. We each have one self. Which one am I? What are the values that are closest to my heart, and how can I make sure that I live them every day, no matter what? Who do I want to be, and how can I best serve others and this world so that all may know happiness and peace? These are the important questions of this human life. Ask them and live them every day.

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