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What Happens at Burning Man?

Last updated on May 17, 2020

What Happens at Burning Man?

I’ve been going to music festivals since I was 16 years old, year 2001. 

That first festival, I danced wildly in an open field and felt a sense of freedom that I would chase for years to come.

Fast forward to August 2017.

I’m chatting with a friend who is leaving for Burning Man in two weeks and casually mentions she has room in her RV (!).

I hop on Craigslist and find a Dutch guy selling a ticket, but only to someone who has space in their group for him to join. 


My friend, her girlfriend and the Dutchman all leave for Black Rock City, Nevada on August 26. 

I knew enough about Burning Man to know it was not just another festival. For starters, we would be camping for 8 nights (opposed to 1-2 nights) and needed to bring our own food and water for the week (nothing is for sale).

I knew drugs were abundant, the desert winds could be intense, and the focus was on art more than music.

But I still couldn’t help but wonder: What will we do all day?

Oh silly me!

There wasn’t a single hour where I twiddled my thumbs.

When you enter the gates, you are given a What, Where, When book (screenshot below) that details what’s happening every hour of every day.

what happens at burning man

If you learn only one thing about Burning Man from this article, understand this: It is a serious place with serious intentions disguised by absurdity.

People are naked. People are on drugs. It’s the land of anything goes. 

But to my delight and surprise, the event attracts intelligent people from all over the world that want to embrace freedom and discuss how to make the world a better place. 

Yes to THAT!!!

Centralization vs Decentralization

Conversations around the importance of decentralization were everywhere in 2017. Examples from just ONE day: 

11-12pm: Decentralized Web Browsing with Fabian. Building a decentralized web browser from the ground up to fulfill the vision of the Trustless Web 3.0.

1-2pm: Seasteading: Floating Islands in Paradise. Learn about Seasteading and the first floating islands in Tahiti coming in 2020. Decentralized semi-autonomous floating cities = The Future!

2-3pm: Building a Fair Decentralized Court. As more and more interactions depend on smart contracts, a way to resolve human disputes that cannot be encoded into them is needed.

4-5pm: Blockchain DAOs & Systems with Jordi. How blockchain can help deploy new decentralized models of governance in human organizations.

 You might say this sounds like a conference! But no, Burning Man is not like a conference and I’ll just leave it at that. 

Related Reading: The Benefits of Cryptocurrency

How to Align With Your Soul

Burning Man reminds you that life is as uncharted as the desert.

I am sure of the body my soul has occupied, and of the Earth I stand on.

Everything else is open to interpretation. 

But then there is society…

Have you ever seen a kid skipping down the street? The kid is doing that because it makes his heart happy.

When the kid grows up, he won’t skip anymore. By that time, he will have learned how to dress, talk, walk, work, pay taxes and obey authority.

Instead of the kid interpreting his reality, he will slowly rely on others to define reality for him. 

Burning Man reminds us that nobody knows shit. 

Our only obligation as humans is to align with our souls.

We share a collective soul, and it is YOUR moral duty to express your soul’s authentic desires. This is how we spiritually heal the collective soul.

At Burning Man, I met people who understood this. Our individual freedom and liberty is a God-given right and each and every one of should be able to live our life how we please. 

Society doesn’t approve? Fuck society.

I met polyamorous people, I hung out with exhibitionists, I talked to a family that lived in a commune, I chatted with an Austrian teenager who is building a spaceship, I hung out with artists who lived out of backpacks and traveled the world creating art.

I learned how successful CEO’s drink ayahuasca to inform business decisions, I chatted with a Shaman about the profit motives in western medicine, I met a guy who channeled spirits, I met a permaculture farmer who survived only off his land.

These are my people. They have chosen their heart and soul over their brain. They have shunned society and are enjoying an authentic existence.

Related Reading: Why Are Liberals So Stupid?

Radical Self-Reliance

There are 10 Principles to live by while at Burning Man. 

My favorite is called Radical Self-Reliance, which simply states:

Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

In today’s world, kids and young people are coddled to death.

They are coddled to the point that they never lose, never feel pain, never experience boredom, never get lost, never develop self-defense.

Kids today never get a chance to develop grit. To dig deep into their creative souls and find solutions.

But at Burning Man….

Did you forget to bring water? Your tent flew away? Your bike was stolen? 

Looks like you’ll have to figure that out on your own, buddy!

It sounds harsh but these things happen. And it sucks. Everyone is on their own out there in the desert, though, so forgetting water is your own damn fault. Tents fly away and bikes get stolen…there’s no “customer service” or “police” to help you.

Too many people on the outside world forget that life is something to design. They have been brainwashed by cultural paradigms. No one is going to deliver you the life you want wrapped in a box with a pretty bow.

Dig deep. Use your head. Be creative. Be SELF-RELIANT.

Related Reading: Tired of Adulting? You’re Doing it Wrong.

Spirit Guides

I met a man one morning who told me the story of his life.

He was married for 16 years and believed he met his wife so he could discover his ability to talk with spirits. 

His 16-year marriage led up to a single moment: The day his wife’s brother invited him to join him on a trip to the jungle.

It was on that trip the man discovered his talent. He got a divorce shortly after but believes in his heart the purpose of his marriage was to be invited on a trip to the jungle by her brother.  

His story hit me hard. I was once in a happy and loving relationship for 7 years. 

Then I abruptly ended it.

I had just barely begun my spiritual journey, and listening to my spirit guides did not come natural. But I couldn’t help but receive their messages and it was such a confusing time.

Ending the relationship was awful, but I had to honor myself and my spirit guides.

This man’s story at Burning Man was confirmation that I wasn’t crazy. I was still in a lot of pain, but he articulated for me things I couldn’t say myself.

Burning Man is full of people who see in between the lines of reality. Growing up I never learned about spirit guides or how to listen to the universe.

That conversation meant a lot to me because it taught me I was brave. We are told that love is everything, and that’s only true if we’re talking about the love we have for ourselves. 

Related Reading: How to Connect to Spirit Guides

Stick it to The Man

Government protects us, newspapers inform us, corporations employ us and organizations support us.

Is any of that true?

Folks at Burning Man want to Burn Down The Man.

Instead of back home where people trust the media and believe politicians want to help us, it was great being surrounded by people like me (suspicious of everything lol).

Some things to think about:

The list can get long. The point is that Burning Man is not just drugs, sex and partying. People that attend often question authority, reject norms and value freedom and liberty. 

Related Reading: What is a Basic Bitch?

Art is Everything

Burning Man is a collection of art and it’s wonderful and moving and inspiring:

The People are Art.

what happens at burning man

The Bikes are Art.

what happens at burning man

The Art Cars are Art.

what happens at burning man

The Camps are Art.

what happens at burning man

And then of course there is the Art:

None of these photos give justice to seeing Burning Man’s beautiful attendees, art cars and art installations in person. 

For example, the tree pictured above played music and changed colors. One installation was a giant wheel. If you looked closer at the wheel, you would realize it was made out of skeletons! If you spun the wheel, it created an optical illusion that looked like the skeletons were rowing. This was best at night and on mushrooms 🙂

Another installation was a girl the size of a building who walked around the playa and had a giant bed she slept in every night. Oh, and she would talk to you. 

I could go on and on about the amazing art.

Burning Man is an incredible experience and I’m happy to share with you what bits I could 🙂 

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