There are currently 50,000 people camped in the Nevada desert about 2 hours north of Reno. Every one of them has their own reason for being there. Some have gone to get trashed and party hard, some have gone for the Art, some have gone to gawk and some are there because they have a need to be. Because they feel real there.
This picture of The Burning Man was taken on this day last year. An incredibly impressive structure, it was designed by BM Founder Larry Harvey and Black Rock City Architect and Planner, Rod Garrett (http://www.burningman.com/art_of_burningman/bm09_theme.html) It was truly beautiful to wander through the arches of what felt like giant desert thorns. And then they burnt it. But that’s another picture and another story.
Black Rock City aka The Playa, is an unusual place. Something I was not aware of before I went on my own personal pilgrimage, is that no money is allowed there. At all. Once you are on The Playa, your money counts for nothing because you cannot use it.
It’s supposed to run on a barter/exchange system, but the whole time I was there nobody asked me to give anything in exchange for what they were giving me. Every morning I’d get up and have a fresh coffee at a temporary cafe some people set up not far from our campsite. Not once was I asked to give or contribute anything in return. Some mornings they gave away fresh croissants as well. (Where the hell did they make fresh croissants in the middle of the desert with dust storms rolling through every day?).
Over the course of my week at Black Rock City I learned that groups of people raise funds all year so they can go to Burning Man, set up a bar/nightclub/cafe/shop etc and give everything away. It’s a very liberating experience to live amongst 50,000 people for a week, none of whom are exchanging money. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was inspiring.
Today with honor and respect for the 50,000 people who make Burning Man what it is, I am listening to Bob Marley’s Redemption Song covered by by Johnny Cash and Joe Strummer here: