A small man and a tall Man
by Kirk Souder
On my way
back home from Burning Man last year, I stopped at a roadside convenience store
just outside of Reno. I noticed a local eyeing me as I perused the aisles of
junk food I had been kept safely away from for the last week and a half.
your way back from the Burn?" he asked.
realizing the trail of playa dust I had left on the vinyl floor, and the
remnant sparks in my eyes had given me away.
I said with a huge shit-eating grin, assuming he had just witnessed the same
miraculous, amazing, and profound few days that I had.
I miss it. My son was born a few years ago. I'm waiting until he's old enough
to go back. Maybe when he's ten or eleven. We'll see."
at that moment not to tell him that over there in the RV fueling up was my one
year old, sitting next to his mother with the same sparks in his eyes that I
My wife and
I have only missed one Burn in the last few years. Our son was born in LA
during Burning Man '99. Despite my suggestion he be born at Burning Man and
have his birth projected live on a giant scrim for all the participants to
celebrate, my wife very pragmatically opted for the safety of a doctor and an
we found ourselves back at Black Rock in 2000, celebrating his first birthday.
This year we will be celebrating his second birthday there, as we will all his
birthdays until he reaches that age when he becomes embarrassed of us, goes
there to a separate camp with his friends, and pretends not to know us when he
sees us dirty dancing at Bianca's.
with rats invariably shows that stimulus at a young age dramatically increases
cerebral synapse formation, intelligence, and the ability to solve problems.
Based on my observation of my son on the Playa in 2000, his brain did well
He lit up.
Space to run, yell, touch, taste and love. Art that didn't hang on a wall out
of reach of his hungry mind and hands, but that he could walk through, bang on,
and clothe himself with. Falling in love with a little red-headed girl in the
psychedelic wind tunnel, getting to actually ride a fire-breathing dragon, and
dancing every day and every night with Mom and
It took a
bout with cancer for me to learn later in life that the boundaries we put on
ourselves that confine our thinking are delusions. My hope is that our trips to
Burning Man every year will stop those delusions from ever forming in the mind
of my son. And even more than that, that he'll be surrounded by individuals
whom he regards as his family and tribe. We are by nature, tribal animals, and
six million years of genetic training has made such social configurations more
important than just a choice we make. The advent in the last hundred years of
the isolationist nuclear family so far has not shown itself to be the greatest
contributor to healthy and balanced communities, societies, or individuals.
No, I want
my son to be surrounded by those described by Kerouac, "...the ones who
are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the
same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn,
burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the
that way, he may just see his life as limitless as a playa in the high Nevada
desert, as opposed to as claustrophobic as a mall in Sherman
year a tall man burns down, a smaller one will be burning up. His name is
McKinley Spark Souder, and he'll see you soon.