2015 Burning Man Theme: Carnival of Mirrors

The new theme was announced on Burning Man’s new web site www [dot] Burning Man [dot] Org today! The new site is a great leap from the [dot] Com site which is still around. While on first review the web site looked a little incomplete on a more complete review found it much more modern and less contextually intensive than the predecessor.

Carnival of Mirrors

It is absolutely exciting and as powerful sounding as Caravansary was. The possibilities and idea flourish and the theme speaks to the hearts and minds of many of us. Cheers to 2015.

2015 Camps listed?

Here I come!Are you kidding me with this already? Yes, today I posted the 2015 Camps List without knowing who the heck was going in the first place. The truth is that I was just doing some pre footwork by accumulating a list of camps that I know about and will edit the list as we get closer to the big event.

This will also give us a chance to give people visiting the site to see what camps have been at Burning Man and associated with the Gayborhood (directly or loosely). Links to the various resources are there and will be updated over time as well.

Ruining Burning Man? WTF?

What is really ruining Burning Man? Is it being ruined at all? Every year there is a new source to blame. The position from this Admin (Toaster) is that Plug-n-Play camps are bad for burner culture. It is Commondification and those people cannot seem to grasp 10 Principles thinking. Yes, this is a blanket statement but the statement is against the general concept.

Will Pants (Right) Burning Man's voice
Will Pants (Right) Burning Man’s voice

When famous voice-box WillPants gets it twisted in an official Burning Blog he uses typical media spin to stir people away from the real issues at hand. He tried to use Virgins as the scapegoat… it is the dangling of the carrot  off to the side to distract from the fact that Plug-n-Play camps are a bigger problem for the event theology than wallets are willing to admit.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not apologizing for Turnkey Camps and virgins who may have mis-stepped … nor are we sweeping anything under the carpet.original post by Will Pants

But that’s not all. We are not out to poo on the event or the people running it. Frankly the work being done by the Borg is a symphony. It is art unto itself. To manage and maintain something that has grown so much over all these years is magnificent. But willful disinformation just makes them look bad and while a lot of leader have progressed over time some are still in the 90’s Borg thinking.

We’ve been hearing and reading a lot about Turnkey Camps over the past couple months (haven’t we all?) and I have to say, I’m a little confused by people’s apparent willingness to make or buy into blanket statements and generalizations about Turnkey Camps, virgins, who should be allowed into Black Rock City, etc. – original post by Will Pants

There is well-enough naysayers out there. The embittered trolled on the Facebook Group to the fundamentally angry Burners.Me posts. Not a space we on Queer Burners want to participate in. We are looking for the Borg for leadership to help this culture stronger and better. We’re asking for more transparency and engagement on some levels. But truthfully we have something amazing.

 

Immediacy and Impermanence

[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man’s 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]

(image used by permission  Photo Credit: John Chandler, 2013..Believe by Laura Kimpton)

There have been some recent losses in our community — suicides and accidents — that serve as stark reminders of the impermanence of it all. My heart goes to the friends and family impacted by these losses. For those of us connected through social networks, both personal and online, we are entering new territory. No generation has shared and mediated grief through digital space like we do, and no generation has been so removed from religion. In the spirit of continuing the exploration of how we talk about impermanence in a radical, creative culture, I’d like to share the following reflections.

Read the entire original post and supplements here…

The best conversation I had in 2013 was about death. I was being interviewed to be a volunteer at the Zen Hospice Project (ZHP) and, in my 1.5 hour long interview, the Volunteer Director, Roy Remer, now a collaborator of mine, asked me all sorts of questions about death and dying: “Had I ever seen a dead body?” “What was my experience with death?” “Why did I want to work with people in their last days of life?” “What was my work and how did my work life connect to this hospice work?”

I work for Burning Man. I don’t often have conversations about death and the role of death in my work life. Mostly, I think of the event as a celebration of life; a feeling of connection to Immediacy but not necessarily a connection to “THE END.” And I think that is, in part, why I wanted to volunteer for ZHP.

I was looking for something that would ground me and connect me to something bigger. I don’t belong to a church and I never have, but I do believe in Karma Yoga (or Gifting); I do believe in service. And I have always believed that our final days of life are an incredible, potent, important time. I have often wondered who would be there at my bedside when my time comes. And when I signed up to volunteer, there was something romantic in me about what I might be able to do for someone in their final days. It’s hard to be romantic about death but I thought perhaps I could be there for someone else in his or her last days. Maybe I could provide a kind face for them; give a heartfelt hand squeeze; maybe I could help someone in their last days feel a little more love.

Image of the Pandava Brothers in Exile, Public Domain

There is an ancient yoga story from the Mahabharata about the five Pandava brothers. They all get lost in this forest and as they approach this lake, they get overwhelmed with an incredible thirst, but a voice comes from the lake and says, “Don’t drink me.” But they are all really thirsty and so they all follow their desires — they all drink from the lake and so they all die. Except for one brother, Yudhisthira, who talks to the voice from the lake and it turns out it’s a spirit. Testing Yudhisthira, the spirit from the lake asks him these questions:

“What is the most remarkable or strange thing about human life?”

Yudhisthira says, “That everyday people die, yet humanity goes on thinking they are going to live forever.”

It’s true: we have a hard time imagining we are going to die. Who wants to think about death? Death seems sort of scary and sort of impossible when you’re alive.

The spirit of the lake asks a second question:

“What is the greatest gift, or what is the only friend, a dying man has at his bedside?”

And Yudhisthira says,

“The charity that the man has done throughout his life will be his companion.”

That struck me, this idea that whatever good we do throughout our lives, and hopefully we are doing some good here and there, it comes back to us in the end. So when we are dying, the love we have given can be felt internally or seen and received in the loved ones around us.

EGO by Laura Kimpton and Mike Garlington, by John Curley 2012

So with ambitions of some sort of a spiritual redemption, I went into this Zen Hospice Volunteer interview. And Roy asked me about Burning Man. I told him that in a way, we (the Burning Man community) deal with impermanence all the time. We build a temporary city out of the dust; in two months it is created, celebrated, disassembled and returned back to the dust. There is always a great high and excitement at the birth of the event and there is always a sense of despair and desolation following. It feels like a loss and a death, every year. And some years are harder than others.

We celebrate Immediacy because we know that the spectacle can’t last. The Burning Man community pours tons of energy and attention into art and an experience that will exist for one week. We pay close attention to the art of the social interaction and performance; the art of the fire; the art of the dance; these moments are so fleeting and unreplicable. And of course there’s The Man: the man — the physical body of a man — that is built and then burnt. Every year. Although there is no “defined” meaning to this ritual, for many participants, The Man (and his burning) is a symbol of freedom.

2013 Photo Chapel by Mike Garlington Photo by John Curley

So maybe life’s most important work is about freedom and learning to let go. Maybe Burning Man has tapped into the art, creativity and expressive side of this work and maybe Zen Hospice has tapped into the Palliative care/End of Life side of the house. Maybe I have a lot still to learn too, but maybe there is a connection between these two sides, art and death.

Maybe we make art because life is short. Maybe final moments are art, too.

And then I started volunteering. After a couple of months at the the oldest Almshouse in the country, I moved to ZHP’s six bed Victorian in Hayes Valley. It’s there that I found — sort of — my groove and realized that the trick to volunteering is actually very Zen: you don’t do or expect anything. As a Hospice volunteer, you are there to bring the residents some food or a glass of water; sit by them or talk to them or watch TV with them; or to help the nurses when they need something. It’s very simple work, and yet it’s incredibly grounding.

Every so often a small miracle happens, or a small horror, and then that too is gone. At Zen Hospice, the most dramatic experience of a person’s life — Death — is occurring. There is no trumping this final act that sometimes plays out over days. Whether a resident is smiling or groaning, surrounded by friends and family or all alone, each person’s journey to the other side is theirs alone.

And so each day, this experience provides a stark reminder:

“Wow. I don’t have forever. Life is precious. What am I doing with MY life?”

I often walk away from Burning Man pondering this very thing.

So this November, in a few weeks, I’m bringing these two ideas together in a larger, public forum. I’m excited to talk to others about the connection between Zen and Burning Man; immediacy and impermanence; creativity and liminality. I humbly invite you to join me for a talk or a workshop (Nov 7, 8 & 9) or maybe a comment on this blog.

Ritual Death and Transformation: lessons from Burning Man and Zen Hospice Project

Is Burning Man getting too Gay?

Burning Man Gay Pride

The message that Burning Man started off with, the 10 Principles, are the same thing the LGBTQ community has sought from the world at-large as long as many of us have been alive. When a group of San Francisco based hippies are screaming it we believe it because the bay area has been the voice of independence and personal liberties for many years. But since June 28, 1969 we started fighting back for it. The messages attracting queers is:

  1. 08282012_burn-303Everyone is welcome
  2. No money needed, give from the heart expect nothing back
  3. Let’s get rid of the corporate bullshit
  4. Stand strong on your own
  5. Express yourself freely and honestly
  6. Stand strong on your own but a community is stronger
  7. Your community is stronger when it is responsible to itself and the environment
  8. Keep our world clean
  9. Get involved and no sitting on the sidelines
  10. …and act. Act now. Act up.

While these are interpretations of the official 10 Principles from the Burning Man web site the words are the dream of many LGBTQ++.

Demographics

See the data for 2013 and 2014 where we can clearly see a surge in fluid sexuality out numbering the self identifying heterosexual attendees.

“The largest percentages for the overall, male, and female samplings represented heterosexual Burners, however, for the group identifying as fluid/neither gender, only 17% of them chose heterosexual as their orientation. The overall data depicts the Playa as a largely hetero, but bicurious environment. The same was true for females Burners. However, the male population was largely hetero with the second-most reported orientation as gay, while the fluid/neither Burners were mostly bisexual and refused labels”. [quote]

The 2014 data was presented in much more detail than in previous years and put the details in a well written presentation. #demographics

The Gayborhood

3This space along the 7:30 corridor since 2013 is an attraction at Burning Man and an impact on the event itself. There has been a lot of information posted over the years under the category #gayborhood. It is huge! It’s a huge leap from the beginnings back in the late 90’s detailed here and on the Mudskippers web site.

What people are saying…

While the culture of Burning Man is that all their kids should be able to play nicely in the same sandbox many of us know homophobia on the playa in spite of the glitter in our eyes. But we have a huge gulf between ourselves and how we approach the culture we are a part of. While snarky queers look down their nose at the Gayborhood there are still others exploring it for the first time even with a lot of playa time behind them.

Burning Man is not a gay event. No, it is not. There is an undeniable effect on identity and orientation as people selectively explore the boundaries of their sexuality at the burn. There are more and more stories of gay men having self-identified straight boyfriends while out there.

While the diversity in our approach to our sexual orientation, lives and sexual identity are as diverse as our heterosexual community, snark and

all, tearing ourselves down or putting others down for who they are – is self destruction.

Burning Man Gay Pride

Conclusion

The demographics from Burning Man are amazing. We are a strong presence and more than what the census says. One simply cannot turn around without running into people who would be under the LGBTQ banner whether they accept the label or not.

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