From the Outside Looking In, Burning Man is Easily Misunderstood. But Let Me Tell You Why it Restored My Faith in Humanity.

Whether you’re deep in the festival scene or not, you’ve likely encountered a few people over the years who proudly identify as Burners. Personally, my interactions were fairly light until my late 20’s when my sister (Playa name: Magic) returned from her first Burn enamored by the transformational experience she had just undergone. If you’re reading this and haven’t experienced Burning Man first hand, then I’m sure my words just incited an eye roll because when I first started to endure the stories she returned with, I too shared a similar reaction.

I’ll put this in perspective first by noting that what I associated with Burning Man at the time just didn’t align with the brand that Magic had developed with me and my family over the years. As the sole boy amongst three sisters growing up, the common dynamic between us revolved around me and my younger sister (by one year), partying and prioritizing our social lives over school. We managed just fine but were always content with good grades over excellent ones because the ROI behind going the extra mile in exchange for the social lives we valued just didn’t make sense. We of course were naïve and stupid like many kids in high school.

But not Magic – she was the model student, daughter and friend. Some Magic’s decisions were based on the fact that she was the oldest child and actually took the responsibility of setting the standard serious, but much of it is just the result of her being wired differently…or correctly by the standards of modern society. All of this is to contextualize my surprise and even disbelief when she began to share stories of her maiden voyage and ultimately began the process of transitioning to a full fledged Burner who later took on the role as a leading community organizer of a Burner community first in NYC and then LA once she decided to ship out West.

My response was to be expected, and frankly extreme at first. Now mind you, I had been an avid festival goer, live music junkie and cosmonaut for nearly 10 years by this time, and was no stranger to counter-culture. But, trading precious vacation days to go on a survival retreat in the middle of the Nevada desert was well beyond my understanding regardless of how seasoned I thought I was. From the outside looking in, my comprehension of Burning Man’s value in her life or the 80,000 others that made this pilgrimage each year simply inconceivable and had no place in the fabric of the world I was building nor desired at the time. Until suddenly it did.

Maybe it the pandemic’s seismic impact altering my world and opening me up to new ideas. Or, maybe it was experiencing more people’s tales and testimonials in support of Magic’s claims about the long lasting effects Burning Man and its pointed value system had on their lives. Whatever it was, The Burn and all that came with it finally started to make sense, so I decided to dive right in.

After prepping for a few weeks and doing a really terrible job of grasping the magnitude of what I was about to experience, I landed in Reno and hitched a ride with a fellow Burner to the desert. Yes, Burners still hitch rides and it was actually super dope despite the fact that my wheelman’s only available listening experience featured the full Swifty discography that he kept nestled in the center console, yes…on CD.

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