WORDS BY: JONATHAN AKBARI
PHOTOS BY: JACOB AVANZATO
As the dust settles and the glitter fades, seventy thousand weary warriors leave the happiest place on earth, Burning Man: a psychedelic utopia that has driven self-discovery, birthed a new generation of hippie culture and thrilled dance music fanatics for the past thirty years. It’s true, no two burns are ever the same, from the 2015 frigid dust bowl that challenged everyone’s grit and endurance to this year’s mild, temperate fun fest. All the elements come into play to create a holistic experience that challenges the mind, spirit and body for eight days in the Nevada desert. It’s a microcosm of life where you get out what you put in, and the more work and effort you exert the greater the reward.
At festivals around the globe people are often positioned as consumers, taking in music, food, and drugs, and rarely contributing to the experience. Burning Man is all about the participation, no sparkle ponies (aka ) allowed (only at some camps), each person brings energy, attitude, and creativity to manifest on the white canvas that is the playa. From an empty, desolate desert to a full blown functional city, Black Rock City is a sea of big imagination and heavy intention. People’s wildest dreams and sauciest fantasies come to life, from partying with Victoria’s Secret Angels at Disco Knights annual Saturday party or discovering the catacombs in the giant wooden pyramids. Burning Man has limitless potential to satiate, educate, and enlighten those who make the annual trip.
But you can’t always get what you want.
In a bubble that is full of fun, frivolity and beauty, one may think you can have it all; NOT TRUE. There is simply too much going on at all times, picking and choosing between the parties, talks, art exploration, and simply, the randomness, sometimes you need to release the need of having a plan and surrender to the flow of it all.
Leaving Burning Man knowing that you got the burn you needed not what you wanted is a key element in understanding the journey and magic that the playa provides. Be on playa time: encouraging attendees to get lost in a sense of wonderment and awe and breakaway from typical set times and rigid party schedules aka go with the flow. Whether it’s Maceo Plex cancelling his Mayan Warrior set two years in a row, or missing the lighthouse burn because you were too tired from the past six sunrises, you can’t always get what you want. Sometimes missing your favorite set means hanging out with a new friend or breaking free on a playa date to get lost in the nighttime scene, which ends up being exactly what you needed. Being in a space where everyone has put in countless hours of effort, intention, love, and imagination creates a vibe that is reciprocal, the energy gives people what they need.
After a week of unpacking your dusty fur coats, costumes, and car, take a minute to unpack your experiences. If you look back at each new art piece you discovered or how you were synchronistically in the same spot as your three best friends who you didn’t even know were there, it’s those unplanned moments that the playa offers. You got what you needed not what you wanted. Don’t trip on missing an art structure burn or a great set, realize that Burning Man gave you what exactly the experience you were to have. Every experience was rich and fulfilling, even the rough ones.
Burning Man can often be called a “positivity theatre” where everyone is beaming with sunshine and rainbows and sparkling hard. That’s just one side of it. Burns can be challenging physically, emotionally, and mentally. It tests your toughness, perseverance, emotional fortitude and flexibility. Not everyone has an awesome burn and comes back feeling fantastic; it can be tough out there. Whether your camp is getting vandalized like White Ocean’s or you don’t see your friends all week, that is part of the burn experience. The skills and situations that arise from dissatisfaction and difficulty are where the real lessons are learned; after all you don’t learn when it’s easy. They say there is no such thing as a bad trip, that it’s just the personal work you needed at that time. The same thing goes for Burning Man. It’s not a bad trip, it’s just a challenging and growing adventure.
The bigger the experience the bigger the takeaway, and after eight dusty days and nights, and sometimes more for the early entry crew, there is a lifetime of knowledge packed in. You can live a whole lifetime in one burn. Whether it’s easy or not, you need to trust that you got what you needed, maybe not what you wanted or expected. We can often get stuck lusting over the girl we didn’t get to take on a playa date or our favorite DJ that didn’t show up, but in the big picture, it’s just a piece of the puzzle.
When looking back on all the elements at the Burn many things come together to deliver a life changing experience. If you always got what you expected out there, it would be just another festival. But it’s the little misses and challenges that keep you coming back again and again to try to conquer the ever evolving desert trip.
“You can’t always get what you want But if you try sometime you find You get what you need”