Burning Man 2018: Describing the Indescribable

in #burningman3 years ago (edited)

Over seventy thousand beautiful humans expressing their individuality in the middle of nowhere. Overused words like awesome and amazing begin to recapture original meaning when describing the event. The sounds, the lights, the music, the art, the beauty, the humanity...

I've had so many people tell me Burning Man is indescribable. Pictures and words just can't do it. They were right.

But I still have to try. I've had a number of people ask me how my first Burning Man experience went. I've been processing my thoughts for days, and I'm still not clear how to communicate everything that Burning Man is and what this experience meant to me. I guess I'll just start from the beginning and see where it goes.

I've heard the stories about the C-level Silicon Valley executives attending. I've heard how Burning Man shapes the minds that shape the future. I've been fascinated by it for years. A week and a half before the event, a friend told me he could obtain a ticket after I mentioned how much I'd like to attend. Surprisingly, my wife understood and agreed to watch the kids while I went on my adventure.

I was supposed to fly in to Reno and meet up with my guide, but they ran into some travel trouble. The plan was to hit up the Burning Man costume shops together and, with veteran guidance, help this khaki-cargo-pants-wearing "virgin" burner get some appropriate threads. Instead, I went off to Junkees, PolyEsther's, and The Melting Pot by myself. I didn't realize at first how important it is to wear fun outfits and be part of the scenery that is Burning Man (scroll down for some photos of the clothes I picked out).

With a late start, we got our food situated and made it through the line to the Playa by Tuesday at 5am. I slept for a few hours in the cab of the truck until the sun got too hot. While waiting for everyone else to wake up, I hopped on the bike I was borrowing to travel around a bit. I was absolutely amazed that after quite a bit of riding, I only made it to 2:15 and then 2:30 from our 2:00 camp.

This. Place. Is. MASSIVE.

I can't fully describe just how big Black Rock City is. I climbed a tower and took one of the few pictures I managed to snap which hopefully gives you some sense of scale.



Everything is laid out in a semi-circle pattern with a clock number and letter location system. The burning man structure is in the middle with the temple (and many, many art installations) further into the deep desert called the Playa. Here's a picture of the map to get an idea of what I mean (we were located around 2:10 and H near I):


It took most of the day to set up camp where we had two geodesic domes covered with tarps and aluminum shading (see the video below for more on that). My first night walking around was incredible. Tens of thousands of individual humans, bikes, art cars, and camps all lit up in amazing fashion. As far as the eye could see and in every direction, there were astounding sites of wonder to behold. I can close my eyes now and imagine the lights again along with the thumping bass music from numerous sound camps in every direction. It truly is indescribable.

The most unbelievable part is realizing how all of this just emerges out of the desert from nothing but human will and creativity. As I've studied voluntaryism and anarchy ("without rulers") and let go of the religious dogma hindering my thinking, I've started to form a version of what humanity actually is. As NVC says, I believe our greatest desire is to meet the needs of others. Burning Man was a confirmation of what I believe humanity to be: beautiful, loving, expressive, creative, energetic, resourceful, and generous. Everyone greets each other with a hug and when they hear you are a "virgin" burner they rightfully say, "Welcome home." To give you a deeper view of what the atmosphere is like, here are the ten principles that define the Burning Man experience and, in my personal experience, were accurately followed:

1.. Radical Inclusion

Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

2.. Gifting

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

3.. Decommodification

In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

4.. Radical Self-reliance

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

5.. Radical Self-expression

Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

6.. Communal Effort

Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

7.. Civic Responsibility

We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

8.. Leaving No Trace

Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

9.. Participation

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

10.. Immediacy

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

(from burningman.org)

The whole time I was there, I saw no trash. None. Only tiny specs of "MOOP" (matter out of place) I picked up here and there, almost like a kid on a scavenger or easter egg hunt. I participated and was included to work the perimeter of an art piece burn. There was no bartering and no financial exchange of any kind other than ice and coffee at center camp. People gave me free food, drinks, gifts, and more. It was like a utopia in the desert where everyone gets to do what everyone wants to do.

I received these gifts during the event, including a Sri Yantra necklace which I may do a post about in the future. The "To the Moon" necklace made me chuckle considering the cryptocurrency meaning of the same phrase (it's actually a local burner event, which I may attend some day).


I now know why so many "burners" wear a lot of necklaces and bracelets. These are common Burning Man gifts.

As for my own gift, with little time to prepare, I couldn't think of much other than what I do here on Steemit which is give my time to help others understand important things like cryptocurrency. I put this little flier together and only gave it out to those who I thought would appreciate it. Everyone who received it was truly grateful.


If there is one thing you can clearly say about Burning Man is that it is beautiful. The camps, the art cars, the costumed individuals, the Man, the Temple, and the art installations all represent human creativity and beauty at a level I never knew was possible. Here are some images from the official burning man website just to give a taste of what I mean (please click through to see more images):


As I mentioned, I bought some of my own costumes as well. I don't have pictures of me wearing them on the Playa, but I did lay them out in the hotel room beforehand (the white Junkee hat was a gift):


You can see I also bought some lights which I strung together and wore at night to avoid being a "Dark Wad." There are so many bikes and art cars going in every direction that if you're not lit up, you will get run over. I also used the water backpack, headlamp, and goggles I prepared beforehand along with a much-needed dust mask.

Some people think Burning Man is just a wild event of sex and drugs. I think it's whatever people want it to be and those who don't have personal experiential knowledge of the event might do well refraining from describing what they don't understand. For me, it was a spiritual human experience. My first trip on psilocybin mushrooms took place the night of the burn where they put a torch to The Man. It was amazing. I could write many posts on that night alone which included a euphoric sense of love, peace, comfort, joy, wonder, purpose, and connectedness.

I'm very blessed to have been guided by a friend who practiced as a shaman in his past and has attended Burning Man for over a decade. Connecting with people like Vinay Gupta out there and seeing these "wizards" communicate about things I've previously written off and judged as "not scientific" absolutely changed my reality. Discussing ancient plant medicines as "spiritual technology" and hearing from ridiculously smart, scientifically-minded people how "the magic is real" got me to drop so many judgements and closed-off thinking I've been holding on to. I also ran into @lukewearechange and @virtualgrowth among others at the Decentralized camp where lectures about blockchain technology were taking place throughout the day.

As I put my religious thinking behind me a few years back, I swung the pendulum way over to hard materialistic determinism. I now realize there are many other modes of successful thinking, many of which have served humanity for thousands of years. Just like I've enjoyed and excelled at communicating complicated blockchain technologies to non-technical people, I think I'm starting another journey to explain these "spiritual technologies" to those who are either too close-minded either religiously or scientifically to consider the possibilities of consciousness beyond ourselves.

I'm still extremely skeptical, mind you, I'm just now open to the possibilities. As of today, I still think the amazing things people describe outside of the body are just experiential emergent properties of the human brain. But, for the first time in a long time, I'm open to many more possibilities, further open to being wrong about my assumptions, and I'm truly interested in exploring everything to gain more wisdom and understanding.

Burning Man is an experience where just about anything is possible. I even saw a Cirque du Soleil show! The people I met, the conversations I had, the art I experienced, the beats I danced to, the wonder and awe that washed over me... It all contributed to a once-in-a-lifetime reality that seemed stranger than fiction. It's something I hope to experience again and something I hope you get to participate in some day as well.

I guess I should say something about the fact that, yes, there are some naked people. Many camps have open showers. It was weird for maybe the first day or so and then it just became normal. Why should humans being humans be considered abnormal?

I could go on, but instead I'll end with a short video of the few shots and videos I took with my phone while I was there. Surprisingly, I didn't have my phone with me much at all during the week. I was living in the moment and experiencing it completely so I don't have much to share in digital format, but just enough to keep my memories alive. This video is unlisted because you're not supposed to take pictures and videos of Burning Man to share online unless you get prior permission. Hopefully this will be okay as I made a conscious effort not to photograph any individuals, and it's mainly to remind me of what I experienced. I hope you enjoy it also.

Music by Doxent Zsigmond via CC 3.0.

Edit: I almost forgot to mention my experience at the Temple. It's a shrine of sorts where people leave notes for their loved ones who are no longer with us physically. It's a deeply solemn place of quiet reflection that eventually goes up in flames. I walked through it quietly until I saw a sharpie message "FUCK Cancer" scribbled into one of the beams. I grabbed it to steady myself as a wave of emotions flowed over me. I found a place to sit and began writing a letter to my parents who passed away a few months apart in 2007. After over ten years, I thought I had processed all those emotions in full, but here they were rising up within me. I wrote to my parents about the man I've become, about the wife who birthed the three grandchildren they never met, and the experience I was having. I told them how awesome my kids are, the challenges and joy they bring me and how much I love them. I had to write around the large tears hitting the page. I left that note among many others, collected myself, and as I walked out, a woman asked if I needed I hug. I said, "We all need a hug" and gladly received it. It was the type of hug @corinnestokes gives, and in that moment this random stranger was a proxy for my wife who wasn't there. I told her she was a beautiful human being and walked off. It was a powerful moment I will never forget.

If you'd like to see a short documentary film on Burning Man, I included it in a previous post.

Luke Stokes is a father, husband, programmer, STEEM witness, DAC launcher, and voluntaryist who wants to help create a world we all want to live in. Learn about cryptocurrency at UnderstandingBlockchainFreedom.com

I'm a Witness! Please vote for @lukestokes.mhth


Really awesome that you got to be part of this experience, Luke!

My wife (who went in 2015) is fond of saying that "there's Burning Man, and then there are all other festivals." And we've been to our share of festivals. She also remarked that "coming back down" takes most people a couple of weeks.

She has always mentioned the sheer scale of it... and yes, you CAN see Burning Man from space. And that was the original gig... to send a visible message to aliens who might be watching. But yeay, if you put Google Maps over the Black Rock Desert and switch to "satellite view," you can clearly see it.

I think you are precisely right that Burning Man is what each person wants it to be. There's also the slightly more "woo-woo" view that you take away exactly what you needed. As I have not yet been, I leave that open.

Here's one for you, though: an unusually large number of innovative creative projects are started in September and October. Coincidence?

As for the spiritual side, I am married to someone who's often "off the deep end" in that direction, and what I have come to understand is that life is constantly unfolding, and people are wired very differently. And so, I think of the example of how people in the middle ages might respond to your smartphone as "magic" and "supernatural" and compare it to things we might think of as "woo-woo" today... that will become a matter of science fact 100 years from now, when our ability to observe and measure them have grown to that point.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your amazing experience!

Thanks @denmarkguy. I always appreciate your well-thought out comments and insight. It was a truly incredible event and I totally agree that much of the "magic is real" stuff really comes down to how we think about "magic" and what starting positions we take regarding knowledge, information, and applied "technology" of all kinds (including spiritual or psychological technologies).

I'm loving the open-mindedness I have right now and I hope to keep it going far beyond the normal come down period. :)

Gah I love this! Luke, you’re such a beautiful human and I adore how open you are to expanding your experience of life.

This was one of my favorite lines:

Why should humans being humans be considered abnormal?

🙌🏽🙏🏽 (Amen, right?!)

Thank you so much for sharing your experience here in detail. We’ve never been and honestly I don’t think have any other real friends who have gone. But I want to and I think we will in a year or 2. Can’t you just see me there? 😃

You seem to have more thoughts on the Sri yantra, and I’d love to hear those. Also can’t wait to hear more, and compare, mushroom experiences. They can be fabulous.

See you later this week! Hugs

Thank you so much. :) It was so great to see your smiling face today and give you and @sean-king a big hug. I'm so looking forward to hanging out this week and enjoying this beautiful island.

thanks for trying to catch the uncatcheable in words. nice to read about your experiences. Def helps putting this higher on the bucketlist :)

YES! If I accomplished that, it was well worth the effort. I look forward to seeing you in Poland in November. I hope your work is going well and things land smoothly as they can. Conference planning is a huge undertaking and you do it so well.

thx man, add some pressure to it :P

You are an absolutely beautiful person. I have mad respect for you and congratulations on such a tremendous journey.

Thank you. I look forward to the many cool things we’ll be doing together in the future to make the world a better place.

I ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain this past July and encountered a camaraderie among amazing people who show up for the festival every year and brave the bulls. I have always thought about going to Burning Man. How do you get a ticket?

A good friend found a way.

Looks and sounds like you had a wonderful experience at Burning Man. There are many of us scattered around the world who are committed to a radically participatory ethic and we need to come together more often as an example of what is possible.

We make our own world together when we're not delegating those responsibilities to the man or world leaders. We can take care of each other better than they can take care of us.

I wish I was there with you. See you at Steemfest.

Very well said, my friend. I look forward to hanging out next month. :)

Read every line and it made my day, it really did brother @lukestokes. I am so happy that you went and experienced it. I am sure that the crack that was put in your rigid beliefs will continue to grow until a whole shell falls off. Actually I have little doubt about it, as it always eventually does for everyone (on dying bed) but for the lucky ones it is shed during the life. I feel that you'll be one of the lucky ones. I can't wait to see you next time and feel that energy coming out of you. I am sorry to hear about your parents. The last paragraph made me cry too. Restemeed, upvoted, naturally. Much Love. SO M U C H L O V E !!!!

Thanks Jan. :)

I've heard how Burning Man shapes the minds that shape the future.

That's for sure @lukestokes. I went there for the first and last time in the year 2000. As one of the international VJs invited to perform to fill with immersive real time 3D visuals what by then was the very first big dancing geodesic dome in the middle of the Playa. In what were then also the most primitive beginnings of experimental videomapping audiovisual technology.

So yeah, that was almost 19 years ago. And wadda blast mate. From all points of view. Left & Right. Up & Down. From Inside & Out and Back & Forth and beyond without question. :)

Discussing ancient plant medicines as "spiritual technology" and hearing from ridiculously smart, scientifically-minded people how "the magic is real" got me to drop so many judgements and closed-off thinking I've been holding on to.

I'm glad indeed that you now feel more open to many more possibilities, further open to being wrong about your assumptions, and you are now truly interested in exploring everything new beyond your usual scope to gain more wisdom and understanding after this recent vivid experience. :)

Burn, Rock & Steem On buddy. Cheers!! :)

Thanks for reading and leaving such a great comment. That video mapping video is amazing! I would have loved to see that on the Playa.

Haha way more than just see that on the Playa. You would have lived it intensely in your own flesh. :)

Great story man. Inspiring. I hope I get to experience Burning Man one day.

I hope you do also!

I've probably done more entheogens than most and my assessment is panpsychism is real and that consciousness likely precedes matter.
The trouble here mostly is that it's incredibly difficult to explain this in words let alone demonstrate what happens (via empirical methods) and even more difficult to enact a living system based on these experiences (the Hindu's tried and failed, IMO). It's good that burning man makes a noble attempt and I should have gone when the opportunity was still available to me 20-years ago.
Good on ya for being brave enough to take this on!

Prior to this experience, I would have laughed off panpsychism as silly woo woo pseudo-science. Now I'm curious and open to whatever might be out there.

Hey Luke, cool to hear about your experiences at buring man. I know we had discussed your plans over medallas at Blockchain Unbound last spring. Hope all is well, gonna be producing a lot of content on steem and dtube this month so Im excited to start really bringing value to the platform with you.

Much Love! received_2104113313190959.jpeg

Very cool! I look forward to seeing what you put out there. You going to Steemfest?

Haha, unfortunately, busy in Michigan working on transforming the city of Pontiac into a cryptopia.
Check out the video on our site if you wanna learn more, should have the steemit article done soon as well I'll make sure to send you the link. TTYS Luke!

Wow Luke, that post kind of made my cry of joy for many reasons. I have to see Burning Man myself sooner than later.

seeing these "wizards" communicate about things I've previously written off and judged as "not scientific" absolutely changed my reality

Welcome to other side. I am happy you had this amazing experience that opened your eyes to the higher spheres of interconnectednes and magic. Maybe you want to consider to make a Ayahuasca ceremony with us next year at Anarchapulco. The shamans this year were amazing.

Last year at Anarchapulco I had a couple different people say that Ayahuasca was "calling to me." :) I'm certainly open to any and all possibilities. We're planning a move to Puerto Rico this year, so the timing of getting to Anarchapulco might be tricky... but I still would love to make it happen.

This sounds like such a transformative experience, Luke! Thanks for sharing it with us! You could feel the joy through your words. 😊

Thanks Eric. It truly was amazing.

That's great brotha.. I have been to EDC in Vegas, but have not been to burning man yet. I have watched a lot of burning man videos, but I really would like to experience it first hand!

Yeah, it's definitely something you have to experience to understand.

I will try in the next year or so, but great video too.. Let me know if you need any music in the future for background music no charge! 🤘😎

Wow! It sounds like you had a really remarkable experience! I love the collage of art and sculpture you posted. That is pretty cool. I have heard that it is quite the experience, and also quite what you make it. So I'm glad you had such a great time.

Thanks so much! It really was amazing.

OMG!!! You went to burning man? I really want to go one day. My friends are the ones that put on the fire shows! :) Maybe you saw them out there.

I saw so many amazing fire performers! It was incredible and many are connected to my guide as he's helped enabled them to do their art. It was amazing to see.

I'm so glad you got to be a part of this. I haven't been myself, but @brandyb has been quite a few times. We plan on taking the RV next year if you need a ride ;)

I'd love to experience this in an RV with our family some day, when the kids get a little older and become more self-reliant. I hope I can attend again next year and that I can somehow get @corinnestokes to come with me. Brandy is such a beautiful person, it doesn't surprise me at all that she's a burner.

Man, I'm so happy that you had a blast with your first experience! From what I've read it's like you were born for Burning Man, as it aligns with your philosophy. Always great to find a place where you belong!

Thanks @jedau. It was amazing and so completely diverse that I really think anyone could find their belonging there.

I've heard great things about that event for years now as well. Hopefully one day I could attest to your sentiment.

Oh my god! I had never even heard about this, and now I want to attend the next one! This looks amazing, and inspiring!

Cool! Definitely spend some time to look into it and watch some videos and read up about it. It's an amazing one-of-a-kind event.

I will! Definitely! Already discussed with my wife, and she wants to go too! ;-)

Wow! Such a cool experience!

Burning Man begins, drawing 70,000 people (and at least one dragon) to the Nevada desert

I've never had the desire to attend myself, but I've always been a little fascinated by the event. A former co-worker of mine went this year as well, so I've already seen pictures of some of the things you posted up here. Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

It's something I feel everyone would benefit from at least once. It's truly an incredible experience.

luke sir you are such an amazing person wow what a long blog you have made gives your intelligency ... sir lots of love for you keep working up yes experience matters alot and you are too much ezperienced person

Looks absolutely incredible. Seems a bit of paradise away from the programmed daily life everyone experiences. I hope I have the chance to go in the future.

Pictures are very good and eye catcher.
Thanks for these photos, articles and sharing you experiences with us. And letting us know about your adventures.
Very few people adventures a lot and also share their experience with others & providing information. And you are one of them.
All these really burning us.

Sounds amazing. You really had a great time. Always be thankful for every opportunity we had. Thank you for sharing this.

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@luestrokes He is a wonderful friend of steemit, you are doing very good publications and very good work in the wonderful platarma of steemit, he continues to do a good job friend. Greetings and blessings for you.