Burning Man – Geniuses or Madmen?

On September 3 we burned a man for the thirty-second time (in my case for the third time). Burning Man is a festival in the state of Nevada (USA), in which about 70 thousand people participate who build a city (Black Rock City) in the middle of the desert for a week. More than a music or art festival, it is a festival of creativity that is difficult to describe. In the center of the area, 2.4 km in diameter, is a wooden statue of Man.

Naked people, dressed in the most extravagant clothes, riding around on bicycles or in “mutant” cars, and who don’t take a shower for a week. Huge queues to get there, scorching heat during the day and cold at night, not to mention the dust that gets everywhere and does not leave us for months, and sandstorms that don’t let us see or breathe. With this description, which is correct, most people ask us what we are going to do there, and it is normal to try to ridicule the experience. The out-of-context photos help too.

However, participating in Burning Man is a unique experience. A utopian society created in inhospitable conditions. People camp in tents or motorhomes. Any gifting economy transaction (gifting economy). Art exists everywhere, in all shapes and forms, and is participatory. Many pieces could (and often do) end up in the best museums. People bring gifts to give each other that can range from something bought to a massage. Several of the best DJs and musicians are present and perform on stages created by the participants in the desert. At the festival where the organization creates the spaces, at Burning Man the participants create almost everything.

Near San Francisco, this festival attracts many of Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs and is described by many as a strong influence on the local culture. Part of the process of hiring Eric Schmidt for CEO of Google was going with the founders to Burning Man. And in his words “It’s well documented that I go to Burning Man. The future is created by people who have an alternative view of the world. And you never know where you’re going to find the ideas.” Such is the case with Elon Musk, about which he got the idea to create the Solar City company with his cousin during the event.

At the end of the week the participants gather around the statue that is burned. For some, a representation of burning what we want to leave behind and reinventing ourselves for the new year. The meaning is up to each person, there is no specific one. The way out is not easy, it seems that we arrived from another planet, where we would like to be, to return to the normal world. In the first few days after we talk to our friends who have already been there while we reintegrate. We go to be the worst people to invite to dinner in the following months because when we get together it’s usually the topic of conversation.

Despite all the criticism, Burning Man is for me a display, even for a few days, of the best and most creative human being, and the influence it has on our culture has been important. These days help many people to want to be the best version of themselves, and this is reflected in their lives and businesses’ lives and businesses when they return to the real world. Those who don’t go don’t understand, those who do go, call it home.

David Bernardo
David Bernardo
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