Burning Man: the Silly and the Sacred

This video illustrates one of the plethora of reasons why Burning Man is so unique and amazing. Here is the video description from youtube:

“Burning Man 2011 – the Black Rock Animal control teams up with some angry carrots to attack the Billion Bunny March. Of course the Death Guild shows up since the million bunny march took over the Thunderdome… a battle must take place. Meanwhile, animal control and the angry carrots are gathering for attack.”

For those who haven’t attended Burning man, allow me to translate if I may.  Every year there are groups of people who dress up according to themes, characters, animals, or roles.  There are also an unfathomable number of the most outrageous and random events you could possibly think of that are scheduled to take place throughout the week at various locations on the playa (the slang term for the dusty desert floor of the Black Rock Desert) and at all hours of the day and night.  Sometimes these armies of people randomly cross paths, where they are sure to engage in spontaneous shenanigans whether it be the stilt walkers, the naked bicycle ride, or the pirates.  Other times, such as in the case of the chosen video here, groups will coordinate a scheme to ambush another group’s event and stir up some harmless trouble.

Every year there is a Billion Bunny March, where anyone and everyone is invited to dress up like a bunny, meet up, and march around Black Rock City.  There is also Black Rock Animal Control, whose members are dedicated to the task of hassling and locking up anyone who is adorned in animal regalia, making them do things like take shots of liquor to prove they are humans and thus be freed from their cages.  There is also a group who dress up like carrots, as can be seen in the beginning of the video dressed in orange and holding signs that say “Have you had a carrot today?”

In the beginning of the video you can see the animal control and carrots unite, ready to sabotage the unknowing bunnies and teach them a lesson.  Well, the carrots and animal control ambush the bunnies, who have taken over the thunderdome, which, just like in the movie “Mad Max and the Thunderdome,” is a giant dome where people are tied to elastic bungies and forced to fight while bystanders climb the dome to cheer them on and place bets.  As a result, the builders and operators of the thunderdome, the Death Guild, stepped in and battles were fought (3:30 in video).  My favorite part of the video is at the end when all the bunnies can be seen hopping around joyously.What happens when mobs of bunnies, carrots, animal control officers, and goths meet in the desert? A good ol’ love rumble. Nowhere else on earth can you witness or participate in an experience like this. You never know what will happen on the playa.  Every moment is the most beautiful spontaneous exotic live action art, and you create it!

And for an addendum, here is a cool little video about the Temple at this past Burning Man. I chose this video because I think it serves to balance the silly debauchery of the first video.  Most people that I talk to who have heard about Burning Man have this misconception in their mind that Burning Man is just a giant party. I always point out that yes, there is a huge party scene in Black Rock City. It is a giant celebration!  But there is a tremendous amount of education, workshops, activism, intellectual talks, and spiritual circles. Many couples even get married at Burning Man every year. There is an entire sacred side of Burning Man.  And those who attend will tell you that their lives were forever changed from the gathering.  People transcend old personal boundaries and remember their true essence.  In my experience, the only way I can describe my week there was that it was a week of Church. A week of communion with the pure love, acceptance, and creativity that is God.

For those who don’t know, “The Man” is burned on Saturday, which is an all out party night and climax of the week.  Then on Sunday, the Temple is burned.

Sarah Tracy, enjoying her first sunrise on the playa. Photo: Clayton Gaar 2011.

The burning of the temple is a very emotional and powerful event as throughout the week the 50,000 people in attendance come write prayers on the temple, leave photos of loved ones, and inscribe things they want to let go of.  You can almost always find someone sobbing at the temple at any given time throughout the week. On the final day, these incredible works of carpentry and architecture and art, which people have spent the past year designing and building, are burned as a symbol of impermanence and of moving on.

Waiting for the temple to burn. Photo: Clayton Gaar 2011.

The Temple Burn. Photo: Clayton Gaar, 2011.

It’s quite the site to see.  This video shows the earth harp being played by Andrea Brooke, who I was fortunate enough to see perform an earth harp ritual in conjunction with performance rituals and yoga every sunset at Envision Festival in Costa Rica a couple weeks ago. Magical beyond words!

View of the temple's intricate architecture. The earth harp's long strings can be seen coming towards the camera from the center of the temple. Photo: Clayton Gaar 2011

And lastly, here are two of literally thousands of Burning Man photo galleries on the web to browse just for kicks:

Lost and Found

We Call It Black Rock City