We turned off the highway into Black Rock City and were greeted by a man wearing a cowboy hat, boots and nothing else. "Welcome to Burning Man", he said and gave us a few directions. As we drove past he pointed to me and, smiling, added "from this point forward seat belts are not required".|
Welcome to the gift economy
The next thing I knew I was walking thru the desert, surrounded on all sides by nothing but burning sand. Out of the
distance appeared the desert goddess. Maybe 19 or 20 years old, beautiful body, topless with pert breasts at which I struggled, without success, to avoid staring. The goddess caught my gaze. Embarrassed to be staring at her, I managed to say "Hi". Kindly, she looked into my eyes, walked directly toward me and informed me, with compassion and authority, that I looked very thirsty. A half quart water bottle, unopened, rested in my pocket. "I am desperately thirsty" I replied. I wasn't lying with my heart. Standing very close, she held her plastic water tube to my lips and I drank deeply.
I had been welcomed to the gift economy.
Burning Man is saturated
with desert goddesses like this. People of all ages, shapes, sizes, genders, races and sexual orientations
express themselves in enough costumes for a thousand Fellini movies and in states of dress, and undress, of every conceivable variety. Think of a week-long, Rio De Janeiro style carnival, thirty-five thousand strong, gathering once a year on an ancient dry lake bed under the blazing desert sun.
But what most catches my eye is the unending flow of young women with bodies so taut that it hurts to look at them.
Often topless, sometimes clad only in body paint -- it is a scene that one might think could only exist in the masturbation fantasies of a horny male teenager.
As a scientific and objective observer who has conducted comprehensive and meticulous research, I can assure readers that Burning Man is sexier than the painted models in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue; sexier than the recent issue of Playboy with the nude photos of the women of the Olympics; sexier than Britney Spears; sexier than tawdry strip joints; sexier than anything I could have imagined.
The women at Burning Man are more attractive because everything you see is real and sincere. No one is paid to shed their clothes at Burning Man and the goddess standing next to you, with the perfect body covered only in paint, paid as much to get in as you did. This means that she is not separated from you by the barrier of commodity exchange -- which inevitably restricts the flow of sincere energy.
The scanty costumes at Burning Man are not the product of some kind of official policy -- they are simply an example of emergent behavior: what happens when a community of people develops relatively free of the restrictions and attitudes of the dominant bourgeois culture.
-- Definition --
Complex adaptive behavior which results from
the independent actions of simpler,
mutually interacting component parts
without any master planner calling the shots.
Burning Man is sexy because it is not about sex -- it is about people -- people coming together to create a world where individuals are not imprisoned in isolation from one another and where energy flows between people -- and resonates -- as freely as electrons flow between the atoms of a metal.
Truth be told, it is the limitless eye candy at Burning Man, so openly, abundantly and casually displayed --
that attracts the attendance of a section of the participants. But it would be a mistake to see nothing here but the nudity -- or the party or rave aspect of the scene -- because this is only the surface appearance of a deeply intense effort to develop a community with the cultural and spiritual depth to transform completely humanity's vision of itself. Burning Man, simply put, is part of an effort to develop a world culture, from below, dictated not by the profit imperatives of the big corporations -- but originating instead in the deepest aspirations and needs of humans for an authentic connection to one another.
Burning Man exists today as a rare oasis, able to thrive because it is protected by two factors:
1. Burning Man rejects the commodity economy in favor of the "gift economy". Nothing is for sale at Burning Man except ice and coffee. The admission fee (at least so far) appears to be used only to cover expenses.
2. Burning Man takes place in harsh conditions (temperatures between 40 and 110 degrees -- and frequent dust storms which coat everyone and everything with a layer of rock ground finer than talcum powder) which serve to keep out many of the tourists and the gawkers and the less adventurous.
Burning Man has emerged as an artistic and cultural community that stands in stark, almost
shocking, contrast to mainstream bourgeois culture. This kind of phenomenon is rare today.
But make no mistake: Burning Man and similar phenomena are emerging as a beacon, pointing the way forward to our future culture and our future economy. What is a rare phenomenon today will eventually be the norm, 24 x 7, in every city and town on earth.
What are your thoughts|
on the section titled
Welcome to the gift economy ?
Thoughtful and considered comments are needed.
Note: all comments
which are insincere
or which are disrespectful
to the people in the photos
will be deleted.