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Narkis Alon Headshot

It's Not Only About the Burning Man

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Last week, I came back from Burning Man, a festival in Nevada's Black Rock Desert that attracts annually tens of thousands of participants.

I describe it as a festival, but it is much more than that. Even if I were to write a book trying to explain what Burning Man actually is, there is no chance I would be able to describe it. Here is a glimpse:

During this magical week, I met people from various walks of life expressing their passion through costumes, gifts, art works, workshops, and theme camps. I visited a math camp, a pure water camp, a gypsy camp, an air washing camp, a roller blades camp, a forgiveness camp and many more. I randomly visited workshops about media, tantra, DMT and synchronicity.

I visited a temple in which people cry all day, pray, meditate and create a memorial spot for their loved ones, who passed away. I've seen people dressed with amazing costumes, and others not dressed at all riding naked on their bicycle around the "playa," the main area in the festival. I partied at night with some of the best DJs in the world. I received amazing gifts and hugs all day long from people I just had met. I saw a big man made from wood standing on a spaceship. People were standing in line to go inside the spaceship he was standing on. And I saw, along with thousands of other people, a ceremony in which this man burned in flames along with fireworks.

As a participant, I was one of these people, seeing, experiencing and being seen and experienced by others. The experience takes place in a unique desert environment in which boundaries are wider, and creativity can be expressed to a fuller extent, which enables you to be yourself in a way you never experienced before, and meet others that do the same thing but cross the boundaries to a larger extent than you do.

Is it possible to experience these things only in Burning Man? I hope and believe that this is not the case.

Every year the festival has an art theme; this year's art theme of the festival has been "Cargo Cult." A cargo cult is a kind of Melanesian movement that believes that various ritualistic acts will lead to material wealth ("cargo").

The most widely known period of cargo cult activity occurred among the Melanesian islanders in the years during and after World War II. The vast amounts of material that was airdropped to troops on these islands meant drastic changes in the lifestyle of the islanders, who never saw this kind of material before. Manufactured clothing, medicine, canned food, tents, weapons and other goods arrived in vast quantities for the soldiers, who often shared some of it with the islanders who were their guides and hosts.

With the end of the war, the military stopped dropping cargo. The islanders were yearning to receive more cargo and so, in their attempts they started to build life-size replicas of sky craft out of straw. These attempts were based on the Islander's superstitious beliefs.

What actually blew the Islanders' mind wasn't the aircraft, neither the cargo, it was the immense human potential they were witnessing. It was so mind boggling that they didn't believe that the soldiers who brought the cargo with them were normal human beings. They thought they had some special connection to the gods, who were the only beings they assumed are powerful enough to produce such goods. But actually, they were just like them, powerful, full of potential-human beings.

While they were focused on projecting the power they witnessed to external things, they missed an important opportunity of understanding the potential of their own inner cargo, the human mind.

The choice of using "Cargo Cult" as Burning Man's art theme sends us as participants an interesting message. The experience of the festival offers its participants the opportunity of figuring out how to find the needed "cargo" for their life by themselves, while letting go of their superstitious beliefs -- their dependence on external circumstances.

The same goes for the festival. I believe that the Burning Man creators wish to convey a message -- it's not about the "burning man," it's about us.

We mustn't admire the festival. It's a mistake to think that there is something that exists only during this week. It's about something bigger that exists in life, in all of us, and this festival is a platform to experience it, a gateway. For the entire week, we had the man standing above the spaceship, reminding us the cargo cult myth, and that man and his mind are beyond all superstitious beliefs. With our mind we can build the cargo that entirely shapes our lives. In our daily lives, we can create experiences of true connections, immense creativity, and we can expand our boundaries -- because we are the ones that create our own reality.

I feel very lucky that I have met some of the most creative people on the planet, gathered in one place for an intensive week, who all kept teaching and learning from each other. I used to think I'm an open person until I visited this festival. It definitely awakened my creative energies, and got me even more amazed by what we, people, have to offer to each other. It's not about this or that festival, or this or that cargo, it's about us.

Burning Man is not a once in a lifetime experience, so I hope, but it's definitely a first time experience. It can expose us to the unique and rich "cargo" this world has to offer, and to the responsibility that we, as human beings have to fulfill this potential with our mind.

Experiences like Burning Man are already out there -- we just need to keep our minds open to them.

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