Burning Man is an annual art and music festival that arises along with a temporary city of 50,000 people in a flat dusty expanse of the Nevada desert known to attendees as "the playa." Described as "an experiment in community, radical self-expression and self-reliance," it begins this year on August 29 -- and, for the first time ever, is sold out.
The debaucheries of Burners are legendary... and well deserved. Yes, many people consume copious amounts of drugs, from the legal (alcohol) and more innocent (pot) to the more adventuresome (acid, ecstasy, GHB, you name it). Yes, some people are naked all the time. But most people are at least partially dressed, and in magnificent costumes, from devils to disco cowboys to pink faux-fur bunnies.
On the playa, it's possible to dance yourself into a frenzy in a massive outdoor arena that shoots flames from its moon-grasping tentacled stage. Or you might prefer to eat bacon and watch porn on a giant screen. You can have just about any lascivious or hedonistic experience that makes your spirit do jumping jacks -- drugged, drunk or sober.
And this is important. Reason enough for many people to attend Burning Man at least once. My philosophy with The Life Out Loud is to embrace every aspect of our human existence: the spiritual and the sloppy, the profound and the mundane. I believe that it's critical to one's well-being to party your ass off from time to time.
Aside from the blatantly self-indulgent aspect, Burning Man also comes under fire for being a massive waste of resources. Many attendees bring gas-guzzling RVs and generators to power their camps, sound systems and art cars. Guilty as charged, say I. At least major efforts have been made in the past few years to get more solar power on the playa, and into the local communities year-round.
Nevertheless, having attended Burning Man for nine of the past ten years, I can testify to its many benefits: psychological, emotional and spiritual. Here are ten reasons why you might consider making the pilgrimage.
Photos by Gabe Weisert.