[FESTIVAL RECAP] Why Burning Man Wouldn’t Be The Same If It Didn’t Make You Uncomfortable
Do you think Burning Man was purposefully created to be uncomfortable?
Despite the tons of pillows and pads for our cuddle puddles, the air conditioned yurts, the truckloads of ice and alcohol, and enough electricity to power a small metropolis, the thought that Burning Man can be a relaxing vacation away from the daily grind is a far stretch from the reality of the Playa.
“I don’t care how long you’ve been coming to Burning Man. Days like these just suck.”
Despite the 30 mph dust whipping at my face, I found that statement from our camp leader to be quite comforting. It’s a lollipop idea to think that just because you’ve been going to Burning Man for 19 years that dealing with 12-hour, white out dust storms day in and day out gets any easier. We’re all still human, after all, and it’s OK to proclaim that Burning Man isn’t all hugs and love all the time. In fact, it’s a lot harder than a lot of people really let on. And it’s not even the physical breakdowns that are the hardest part.
Every year we go into Burning Man with hopes and dreams of what the Playa will provide and how it will transform us and our lives; and each year our expectations are met and surpassed, whether we know it or not. The simple fact that we come out on the other side is all the proof we need. The reason, whether we are conscious to it or not, is that we place ourselves in these uncomfortable situations on purpose – to find our edge, find out what that means, and push past it.
Often times that gives us the perception that our Burn was overly challenging or that we may not have found what we were “looking for” going into it. However, as most burners know:
“You don’t always get the burn you are looking for, but you get the burn you need.”
This year, our team fell inside of that idea as we took on shooting a short narrative film on the Playa, titled Hear Here Unicorn. We ended up not having much time to discover what our own personal Burn was about – each of us having come with our own idea of what that might look like – however we came out with a better understanding of how to create and how to be the best versions of ourselves inside of a team.
We had multiple breakdowns and times where it looked like we not be able to finish the project. With months of work on the line, and the team looking every which way except towards the goal, we realized that it was exactly these breakdowns that were what was needed for our project to come to fruition. It was the breakdowns that allowed each team member to put aside their own ego and realize the project was more important than any of us individually.
It was inside of these breakdowns – during fourteen-hour shoot days, art installations not being completed (or even there), missing Drone pilots, white out dust storms 9/11 days we were on playa, and generally keeping all of our professional filming equipment working while caked in dust – that we each found our edge, what mattered to us, and what we were committed to accomplishing. It was from within these breakdowns that each team member found it in themselves to keep going, to step up, and to take on the issues that were coming up within themselves. The Carnival of Mirrors had taken on a new intrinsically reflective meaning for each of us.
Often times we believe the challenging times are the ones to be avoided, yet they are the moments that teach us the most and allow each of us to grow into more of who we want to be in life.
Out of our greatest challenges not only do we find the most fulfillment, we also find our greatest victories.
So what can we learn through our experiences at Burning Man? I think that’s up to each of us to answer for ourselves. However, I ask you to face your challenges head on, in whatever way you see that in your life. Coming from personal experience, I can tell you that not only will you become more of the person you wish to be through that process, you will look back on those challenges as some of the greatest moments of your life, not because you simply made it through, but because you persevered through the failures and breakdowns and rose up as a better person because of it.
Written in conjunction with Christopher Pitcher.