Monday, August 4, 2014

Who is Burning Man for? Everyone who's interested

"Radical Inclusion: Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community." --From the Ten Principles of Burning Man

I'll preface this post by saying that I've never been the "the Big Burn" in Black Rock City. I attended my first regional, Scorched Nuts, last year, and found it an eye-opening, awe-inspiring experience. Attending the burn by my lonesome, and never having so much as camped on my own before, I was frightened I'd screw it all up, die in the woods, and be a general inconvenience to "real" burners who had to put up with me.

Instead, the friendliest, craziest, most accepting group of people imaginable greeted me with hugs and offers of help and advice. I did my best to return their kindness and gift others in any way I could find: helping set up structures, handing out clementines and chocolate, teaching Tai Chi. I left with a sense of bonding and community, and the knowledge that I could manage not to kill myself in nature for four days. (Yeah, I know that's not much for some people, but it's quite a bit for me.)

I loved it so much that I returned to the same site in October for a first-time burn called The Mosaic Experiment, and brought a virgin burner along with me. He, too, found community there, and returned for Scorched Nuts this year with a new crew.

This month marks the one-year anniversary of my mom's death. In that time, I've gotten closer with my sister as we've grieved together and sought to form a new relationship, as grown-up siblings. At our family reunion this year, the last place I saw my mom alive last year, my sister tearfully told me she'd like to come with me to Mosaic Experiment in October, if she's able.

I was thrilled. My sister's never seen anything like it, and I hope I'm able to share the experience with her.

But when a friend asked if I was planning on bringing anyone this year, I mentioned with excitement how I hoped to bring my sister. My friend, having met my sister one time for a few hours, suggested she might not be "burner material", and I'd be better off leaving her at home.

There have been a number of articles lately about who burner culture is "for". Certainly there's a public perception of who goes (or, in some people's minds, should go) to burns, and I hew closer to that image than my sister. But she has a huge side to her that my friend, in his brief acquaintance with her, hasn't seen.

She's radically self-reliant. Her family hunts and handles the meat themselves. She cans, is incredibly handy, and has been camping since long before my baby steps into the outdoors last year. If there's anyone I'd trust to depend on in the wild, it's her. She embraces immediacy and shines wherever she goes. If ever there was a burn-worthy soul (as if anyone must be deemed worthy) it's her.

So, fuck perceptions of who should be at a burn. I don't know if my sister will be able to make it, but I sure hope so. The magic of burns isn't limited to one type of person, regardless what outside appearances say.

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