Beyond Belief, Beyond Caring 2003
by the Vacationing Sage Collins
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the desert ... good grief, it's Beyond Belief! The BMorg chose a simple theme last year - The Floating World - and not a moment too soon! But just as I was just getting over having Seven Days of Nothing Theme-Related for 2001's Seven Ages of Man, I starting hearing about this year's theme in the rumor mill. Rituals, temples, and idols are getting raised higher than ever this year in a theme that sounds dangerously close to a week-long version of one of Pepé Ozan's operas. Frankly, I'm getting just a little bored with BMorg's ideas.
I argue that participating in Burning Man is a ritual in and of itself, and I'd even go so far to say that the very preparation can be a ritual for those big on faith, and even for those big on doubt. We have our rejoicing during discoveries made at a thrift store; we give thanks and praise for rebar and tent repair kits; we attend weekly services of updating our e-mail list. Back in the Real World, churches fill every corner in every city and easy-to-read pamphlets about dogma are handed to us whether we want them or not. This is precisely the kind of thing I go to Burning Man to avoid, not celebrate. Cripes! If I wanted to hang out in the desert with a bunch of religious freaks, I would've joined the U.S. military!
You want a religious experience at Burning Man? Here's one: In '98, my crew got pulled over less than 500 yards from the entrance. They had the dogs in the back seat ready to sniff through the car, but our driver got the cops to take a look around the dashboard with their flashlights instead. Not only did they fail to discover the contraband under the dashboard, which had recently been burning, but they didn't even notice myself and another campmate buried underneath some gear in the back seat! Our driver later called it divine intervention, stating, "It was the Hand Of God, and that hand was made of wood and neon lights."
If you're going to have reverence for anything this year, bow down before all things not theme-related. Worship the hundreds of women who ride in Critical Tits. Say a prayer for the Black Rock Gazette so they'll actually get a hard-hitting story published this year.
Seek the ultimate truth at Blinking Man's mighty shrine to Jack Webb. He's the only cop out here with a sense of humor and probably the only idol (or cop, for that matter) who'll respond to a direct question. Trust your Sage and his own brand of divine wisdom on this one. The truly enlightened Burner sees the ideas for this - or any other year - and says, "Less theme, more fire."