Burning Man Deconstruction
«We are very much about absurdity and expression, but also we are deconstructing prevailing ideologies of what is “normal” and creating postmodern expressions of service and civic duty with a common theme of healing ourselves and the planet we inhabit.» https://burningman.org/event/art-performance/playa-art/building-the-temple/
from the official web-site of Burning Man and official article for those who want to build a Temple.
«The one meta-project of our times, the only world view, is “deconstruction”; this perverse pride in proving no assumptions can be trusted and that no unifying experience is possible».
Lee Harvey interview
I have been to Burning Man (BM) three times – 2013, 2014, and 2017. Initially, I came specifically from Russia to do so. I agree that this event is an embodiment of absurdity, cacophony, artificiality, and postmodernism. But I question the idea that Burning Man is either the deconstruction of the prevailing ideology or the space for healing people and the planet.
This article is an attempt to deconstruct in modern philosophical language the core values of BM and its representation in the reality of the Black Rock Desert: the principles, the Man, and the Temple.
The 10 principles:
- Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.
But is that so?
In order to become part of Burning Man, you need to buy a ticket – for that you need money, an internet connection, and some luck. You can’t just arrive and come in. You need to show your ticket, which can mean standing in a long line at Will Call at the gate.
For me it does not look like inclusion, and definitely, it is not radical. If inclusion is our principle, we must include everyone.
What is radical inclusion? Maybe it’s just nonsense?
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.
I see that this principle has two parts:
- No money is used inside Burning Man
- Freebies! Bring something you don’t really need and give it away.
Trying to comprehend this principle, I reflected on the core idea of a gift:
- Gift – something given for free (халява)
- Gift – manifesting something of value to another person
For me, it’s difficult to envision a good gift because I need to know the person, understand his wishes (sometimes even better than he may understand them). To make a gift to a stranger is even more difficult. What happens at BM is that often what is given is food, alcohol, flashing lights, glowsticks, and these objects may not really be a gift. Even though something is being given away, the recipient might not perceive it as a gift.
Burning Man actually promotes the idea of a money-free economy. In fact, that is not so. To survive here you need to spend a lot of money in advance, and it’s not enough to pay for it just through gifts. Additional expenses can be: water, RV, gasoline, bicycle, camp fee, and a lot of other stuff.
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.
Is that so? Many people are coming to BM to promote themselves. This is just human nature, the same as the intention to consume. People want warmth, water, food, and communication, and get used to relating to each other in consuming ways. This does not change suddenly just because they enter the Gate at BM.
When I asked a Russian guy who came to our Samovar one night to bring some wood (for heating the samovar), he punched me in the nose, arguing that I would NOT have asked an American guy to do such a task.
He wanted to consume our warmth, but not to give or to participate, at least at the moment when he attacked me.
- Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.
In one way that’s true, in that water and food and clothes are up to you. But if we talk about actions, the self-reliance chosen in those actions is not always supported. Several times I’ve been stopped by rangers – they don’t let me come close to the fire, trying to make it safe for me, thereby blocking my freedom to rely on my feelings of safety, and letting me choose whatever risk I wish to take. There was a similar occurrence when I asked for medical help after I was punched, but medical people invited rangers, and they came several times during the night asking about the guy who punched me. I needed to ask the rangers to leave and let me be, and resolve the conflict with my own inner resources.
- 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.
This is one from the most treasured principles. It’s expressed in a way that almost all participants can show off in different ways – costumes, behaviour, decorations, manner of interacting with people…
But in fact, if a human being hasn’t found his Self yet, how could he express himself? Especially expressing himself radically.
He may pretend to express, but this is just a new mask, a new appearance which replaces a normal, social persona. And usually he just copies the others in order to look like others – in a unique way. Even so, it may not be unique; it’s still a mask, which others have.
- 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.
In order to create a real community, it’s necessary to know and appreciate each other. Otherwise, if communal values are merely dictated from the top, this is hypocritical. I know – as an ex-citizen of the Soviet Union – that people have often used common property just for their own personal gain. Many people come to BM with very different values, which does not necessarily include even BM principles, so where is the basis for community? Just existing in the same time and space can happen even in a bus; sometimes people create community in a bus, or they may not even speak to each other. I flew to BM and there were 9 people all together in one plane for about 2.5 hours. No one attempted to create a community. Yes, in some BM camps there IS community, but usually this is because community existed beforehand. The first time I came from Russia to BM, to the MAPS Camp, I knew some people beforehand, but I didn’t feel any community relationship within this big camp. I had a really hard time because I am accustomed to living in a community. Therefore, I began to build relationships with people nearby, but not because of the principle, only because of my intention.
The community grows either on common values or on common goals. Which is it here?
If the community really existed, then I question the role of rangers, who are like a force above the community with additional power, which is the power to control. I am aware that in real community regulation this happens by a self-organizing processes. But here almost everything is organized in advance, and then controlled by pre-conceived power.
- 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.
- 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.
A confusing principle. At first it contradicts basic human nature. People want to leave a trace. Always. This is immanent to human nature. And even to look at this principle practically, leave no trace means, for example, to gather and take out all dirty water (even if you only washed your hands in it), or to not drop anything in the sacred playa, even if it is clean water.
Has someone calculated the amount of global resources expended for each of the 60,000 participants who put their dirty water in plastic containers, and then drive it somewhere far away from the playa? Consider how many hours people spend cleaning the playa. Many people clean the playa for several months after the event, and even that consumes and uses resources that were produced in other parts of the world.
Did somebody count the overall footprint of this event?
Essentially, does the principle of leave no trace mean that you can do whatever with the Whole Earth, even spend whole resources, just to make the playa clean after you leave?
Or is it simply another way of fiddling while Rome burns.
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.
I will discuss 9 and 10 together.
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.
“In 2007, Paul Addis burned the iconic ‘Burning Man’ statue as an act of protest against the direction he felt the event was taking, four days before the event’s organizers were scheduled to burn it themselves. Working during a lunar eclipse after 2am on Tuesday morning, Addis coordinated with a 15-minute shutdown of the lights illuminating the structure.
Although they had planned to burn the wooden structure four days later, Burning Man organizers pressed charges against Addis for burning it early and rapidly built a replacement ‘Man’ to burn at the end of the week as originally scheduled. Addis was arrested and spent 2 years in jail”. (from Wiki)
Following Addis’ 2008 arson sentencing hearing in Nevada, Burning Man co-founder John Law (who left the organization in 1996) wrote in a blog on laughinqsquid.com that “Paul Addis’ early burning of the corporate logo of the Burning Man event last year was the single most pure act of ‘radical self expression’ to occur at this massive hipster tail-gate party in over a decade.”
I think it’s also a pure expression of the principles of participation and immediacy.
This story also shows me that a Statue of the Man is much more important than Human freedom and Human life. Burning Man organizers insisted on building the Statue again, yet sent a real HUMAN to jail.
«At the beginning of Burning Man, there was the idea of “Trip to Zone.” The Zone was some other-dimensional place;the past, the future, somewhere weird, it didn’t matter. We were going there, and we would challenge it and be better for it».
This idea was inspired by the 1979 film Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky.
In this film there are special people, Stalkers, who are responsible for encountering the Zone and leading people there in order for them to have a transformational experience. I didn’t find any people like Stalkers at Burning Man. There were staff who were responsible for survival and civil rights, but I didn’t find anyone who intentionally helped others get direct transformational experience.
Survival is much more important than direct experience in many ways at Burning Man. At the entrance, we are given a survival guide, but no guide on having transformational experiences.
In 2007, Paul Addis burned the iconic ‘Burning Man’ statue as an act of protest against the direction he felt the event was taking, four days before the event’s organizers were scheduled to burn it themselves. Working during a lunar eclipse after 2am on Tuesday morning, Addis coordinated with a 15-minute shutdown of the lights illuminating the structure.
Although they had planned to burn the wooden structure four days later, Burning Man organizers pressed charges against Addis for burning it early and rapidly built a replacement ‘Man’ to burn at the end of the week as originally scheduled. Addis was arrested and spent 2 years in jail.
Following Addis’ 2008 arson sentencing hearing in Nevada, Burning Man co-founder John Law (who left oragznization in 1996) wrote in a blog on laughinqsquid.com that “Paul Addis’ early burning of the corporate logo of the Burning Man event last year was the single most pure act of ‘radical self expression’ to occur at this massive hipster tail-gate party in over a decade.
I think it’s also pure participation and immediacy principles.
This story also shows me, that Statue is much more important, than Human freedom and Human life, if Burning Man organizers insisited on building Statue again, and send real HUMAN to jail.
At the begining of Burning Man, there were idea of Trip to Zone.’ The Zone was some other dimensional place, it could be the past, the future, something weird, it didn’t matter. We were going there, and we would challenge it and be better for it.
In this film there were special people – Stalker,’s who is responsible for encounting the Zone and lead people there in order they got an experience, and get transformation. I didn’t find any people, like Stalker’s there. There were staff who were responsible for survival and civil rights, but I didn’t find anyone from BM organization, who intentionally helped others get direct transformational experience.
Survival is much more important than direct experience in many ways in BM. At the entrance, we are given a survival guide, but no guide on having transformational experiences.
At Burning Man, a huge figure of the Man is constructed in the center of the playa and it burns on Saturday night. Usually it is a grandiose figure that attracts everybody’s attention. To protect the playa, they bring a special sand to place under the burn area and capture the remnants, making removal easy and less effort.
A ranger told me this in 2014, when I walked on the Playa with a friend. This ranger followed us as he said he was worried about our condition, being afraid to leave us alone in the middle of a dust storm. We were strolling in his company, passing the big statue of Man, and he told us about how — thanks to BM — his life had changed,. He told us he’d quit his job cleaning swimming pools and became…. To my disappointment, I don’t remember what he became. Probably I didn’t find any value in it at the time. Perhaps he started to work for BM or maybe for some non-profit organization with a smaller income. But I remember that he described this as a significant life step. He very enthusiastically told us all the numerous preparations (a bunch of things) that must be done to burn the Man, before and after the actual burn.
This year, 2017, was a little different from the others. During this burn, one human being threw himself into the huge burning structure. He broke from the fireman trying to stop him and ran into the fire. He died the next day.
Is the Human Being the peak of evolution?
Is the Human Being the only conscious being on the planet?
Man creates the gigantic doll of himself and gathers a crowd of 60,000 like-minded idiots to surround the biggest doll. But when one of those 60,000 throws himself into the fire, which can be a reasonable consequence of all prior happenings, people get outraged. They say that this must not happen!
Is this really what western civilization has brought us to?
Or to the tremendously powerful attempt to escape that anyway fails, and brings to the surface the same eternal questions again and again?
Who are you, Human?
What is your purpose in life, Human?
Why did you come here, Human?
Maybe therefore you should stop hiding from these questions in the fog of drugs, alcohol, noise, duststorms – and different justifications for insurance purposes – and face those questions?
And look for an answer until it’s found? Or until it’s time to go to the Temple?
«Burning Man takes the Temple seriously, and while just about everything at Burning Man is amplified both figuratively and literally, the Temple is also amplified, but not with booming music and wild ecstatic dancing or with art cars that slither along the desert floor or with other lunatic cacophony. While the Temple is something that does reflect the mad masquerade and joy of our community, it does so with sacredness, solemnity, a sense of remembrance, grief and renewal that can appear as a stark contrast to the rest of the event. It is that contrast that helps to define the Burning Man community as anything but one-dimensional.»
Once a upon a time, at the beginning of civilization, Jews gave birth to the idea of the Temple as one and exclusive. Their Temple was the only one, and it was destroyed. They resolved to build a second. But the second Temple was destroyed as well.
It strengthen the trauma: the Temple is destroyed and it can never be restored, because that would not be The Temple any more.
Nevertheless humankind builds and builds temples. Jews never call their synagogues temples, in commemoration of that ancient and singular Temple But Christians and others build and build new ones as if there is no other place for God to live.
«Купола в России кроят чистым золотом
Чтобы лучше господь замечал»
“Are we really worse?”- perhaps thought the non-religious and materialistic ideologists of BM. Why can we not also create a Temple?
And if it’s a Temple, it should be holy and sacred. Even for over-confident cynics, it should be, to some extent, serious. And what could that be? What can make raving youngsters become quiet?
There is! There is!
Or it is better to say – the Fear!
Death exists and it’s coming. It will come to you and to me.
And at the same moment of acknowledging death, it’s hard to continue to move ecstatically with the rhythm. What if death really comes?
In the very center, in the heart of BM, there is a Temple.
It is not the temple of love. It’s not the temple to God. Really, who would, in this apotheosis of absurd, believe in some old man, who has never been seen by anyone here? Even if He would suddenly appear on his fire chariot, it’s unlikely he would have been worshiped. People would rather think about some new vehicle-type invention by Google?
But death is different; in its different forms, it has been seen by all.
Faith in it is not needed. It sneaked itself in like the tempter snake in the hair of Eve… or, perhaps it is better to say into text, or even into the mind of the first narrator, who wrote the story about Paradise and Hell. This faith was born together with that horrible human quality that is called Self-Awareness.
I Am. I exist.
And if I came into existence, that means I will die.
Oh… it would be better not to know this, not to think about this.
When I was a child I often woke up at night and thought, what if my parents were to die? If I would die? It is better not to think about it, forget it.
Now they are dead.
I do not have need to believe in it, like I need to believe in God. I saw it with my own eyes. I saw them dead, I saw their graves.
The very existence of the Temple points to Death. Here it is, the only reality of this world! It’s inevitable and persistent, and there is no rescue from it.
It’s possible to close one’s eyes to it and keep having fun, keep living in a trance. Here, there are many things that encourage that, including the constant musical beat from all around and the striking visual scenery, combining art objects, diversity of people and their appearances…
But that is just temporary, while death is forever; it is reality. And that is underlined by the Temple.
Here it is, the only reality of our world.
And because it is the reality, thus, everything else does not matter.
One can admire the tree or the bird, or extra-terrestrials marching down the Playa. But it is just to forget about this real reality for some time.
But he, this man, probably could not forget. Probably he was the first one who understood the BM message in its totality: burning man. He got burned.
He took the idea seriously.
And consciously went and realized it.
Maybe that was done so everybody else would get the idea: there is nothing to get together for anymore. This idea is realized.
This is one of our hand-made puzzles.
Burning Man is an annual festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert since 1986. It attracts over 60,000 people from around the world to experience the spirit of “radical self-expression.”
After Black Rock City was left behind – I took off driving my rented Jeep – I entered an Indian reservation with no people around and a castaneda-mystique landscape. I walked a few miles on dry, thorny ground to take a swim and wash off the Playa dust I was covered in in Pyramid Lake which was moving away from me along with the horizon. The desert was whispering to me gently, “Don’t go there.” From time to time, I was seized by the fear of being followed by cops. The sun was blazing over my uncovered head.
Suddenly, I saw my footprints in the sand… Here it is – my trace!
At that moment, I realized my trace was a treasure.
If a coyote, whose footprints I also noticed in the sand, eats me, my body will be found by my footprints in a month or two, and MAPS will have to deal with an international scandal. MAPS is Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies No wonder, one of the official MAPS volunteers, that is me, consumed prohibited substances, plunged into the process, registered in their ZenDo, demanded a meeting with the person in charge, but was rejected and left, then came into the wilderness and was eaten by coyotes. That’s what “compassionate care” is… Well, what can you do…
Do I want to leave behind that kind of trace?
Die here, so MAPS has to deal with a scandal? I clearly realized that was not the kind of trace I wanted to leave behind. But which kind do I want? One night, while at the festival, I realized that closing the door of my car I accidently broke my glasses, which I had bought specially for Burning Man. It was very dark, so picking up the pieces from under the car would be insane. I picked up the largest ones the next day, but didn’t touch the small ones. While doing so, I was thinking that I wanted to leave a trace. Yes, I want to leave a trace on Earth, everywhere where I have been. The glasses are my unconscious mind, resisting the idea to leave no trace. On my way from Pyramid Lake to the car, I didn’t really see where I was going. Afraid of being lost, I started looking around to find my way. Suddenly, I saw my own footprints in the sand, and followed them. It dawned on me, “Wow, that’s what my trace is here for – it’s for me! For me to find my way back!” The depth of this idea, which at that moment seemed true for the whole world, was astonishing. As if I left a trace in this world for myself, for me to find my way back to Clear Light.
Leaving the lake, I was thinking about what had happened to me and remembered about my father’s book titled “Trace on Earth.” He finished it not long before his death. Probably, he also realized he wanted to leave a trace and that’s why he started writing books.
But I’m not him!
I don’t want to just leave a trace!
I want more!!!
To create a possibility for people to be able to follow my trace.
I want to be useful.
And I want my trace to not only lead to me, but go beyond, into Infinity…
“How was it?” a lady who I offered some water asked me at the gas station I stopped on my way back. She was going to Burning Man, which I had just left.
She refused my water, while I thought what answer I could give her. How was it? At that moment, I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I didn’t know what to say, so I shrugged. A few minutes later, after I took off, I found the right word to describe it – outrageous. I felt disappointment about not being able to answer right away. The question kept playing with me in San Francisco, on the plane, in Russia…. To be honest, every time people asked me, “How was it?” I was at a loss. What could I say? How could I fit all those feelings, images, situations into words? What exactly did I have to include in my answer: Pretentious installations? Young men in tutu skirts, walking around with a typical young-macho gait? A ton of information on the benefits of psychedelic drugs that was being melt by the heat into separate sounds in my mind? The stinging in my feet after my first walking barefoot? The heat that could only be cooled by the wind, which also brought sand? The deep loneliness which was getting stronger in the hyper-bright-loud-colorful-foreign-speaking-jazzy crowd of individuals on bicycles? How was it? Or my tears when someone asked me, “Have you eaten?” Or maybe that feeling after my first night there, when the never-ending dubstep rave, heat, jetlag and uncertainty didn’t let me sleep and I woke up with headache thinking, “Now I’m a Burner!!!” The day before I was not a Burner yet, when the dudes at the entrance made me roll in the sand and scream “I am a Burner!!!” and then get in my clean car and keep on driving.
No, I wasn’t a Burner then, and the Playa dust was alien to me.
Yesterday, I didn’t understand the true meaning of being a Burner… And now after spending a night here and waking up at eight in the morning to look at the rising sun that brings suffering, and go work in the kitchen of my camp, Fractal Planet, now – I am a Burner!!! or the Burner??? This question is often asked by Russians: “a” or “the”? Which one is correct? So, am I just one of the 68,000 Burners or I am the only one, the unique Burner? The Human Being? May be this story will help you understand: “Do you know Misha?” a non-Russian girl asked me, as I was standing by my car, about to leave. “Agranovsky or Arshavsky?” I started going over the Mishas that I had met throughout my life…. “…hmm…” the girl thought and asked again, “Are you Russian?” “Yes.” “Do you know Misha?” she repeated the question, as if she was convinced that since I was Russian, there at the festival, I surely knew Misha and he was the only Misha in that crowd of 60,000 people and all Russians knew him, as if he was the Misha. To explain to her that Misha was a popular Russian name, and I knew a lot of Mishas, I said, “Ok, do you know Jane?” “No,” she said, not realizing what I meant. “Ok, do you know John, then?” I asked, trying to use another popular American name… She thought for a second and understood that there were a lot of different men whose name was John… and Misha. She grinned and raised her thumb up, “Well done.” Later I learned that the key figure of that year’s Burning Man was John Frum, a white guy from Cargo Cult.
Cargo Cult is a kind of Melanesian millenarian movement that worships plane effigy. Adherents of the cult believe that the goods that fall off the planes are sent by the sprits to the people of Melanesia.
In most famous cargo cults, “copies” of airports, landing strips and radio towers are built from coco palms and thatch. It is believed by the followers of the cult that the effigies will attract cargo planes (that are believed to be sent by the spirits). Drills and military marshes are held regularly, with the followers using sticks instead of guns and drawing “USA” signs and orders on their body. John Frum is the key figure of Cargo Cult on the island of Tanna (Vanuatu). He is depicted as an American military man of the WWII era, who is believed to bring wealth and prosperity to the followers. It is believed that the name John Frum comes from “John from America.” Frum is a rare last name in English-speaking countries. Amazingly, I scored a hit when I used the name John. The key figure of that year’s Burning Man was John. The John, aka a John, because he’s from the US, just like Misha is from Russia… It turns out you can be unique, the only one… Well, who am I? I am a Burner, that’s for sure now! But have I become the Burner? The one that burns, Danko, the burning man? After my sleepless night and shift at the ZenDo tent with bad-trippers, I took 2cb, and headed to the other side of the Playa.
ZenDo is a volunteer project by MAPS, held at different festivals, to aid people who have had a “bad trip.”
I was blown away by the wind. It was so strong that I couldn’t even see my own nose, but I kept walking. As it turned out, I was walking in the right direction. While walking, I experienced the fear of death. It was inevitable, it was near, but I didn’t know how to avoid it, I didn’t want to die… I didn’t know how to get rid of that fear. “Maybe, someone can help me?” I thought and began asking people… “Are you afraid of death?” A young girl in a bright dress said, “No.” I didn’t believe her, but I didn’t want to bother her anymore. Then I came up to a car. There were two people in it, an elderly man and his wife. I asked the same question. “No”, they replied… and then the woman said, “It’s his birthday today, he’s turned 80…” I said, “Even more so.” One of them continued, “Let’s make fun here! Anyway, nothing can be done about it, everyone dies eventually…” I said, “Maybe, something can be done?” They: “Maybe.” I: “Let’s do something!” The man honked. “Oh! That’s something,” I thought… and left, free of the fear of death… at least for a while… But shortly after that, I was overwhelmed with a new wave of thoughts, “What if Gena dies?” And I couldn’t overcome it again. I drove back to the couple and asked, “And what about the death of your partner? Are you afraid of it or not?” “Not today and not tomorrow…” said the woman… and the two left… I kept walking to the Red Lightening Camp, to meet Ralph White, founder of the New York Open Center, to talk to him about Global Enlightenment. The New York Open Center is a large holistic center in Manhattan.
Global Enlightenment is a new ambitious project by Tatyana Ginzburg and GenShi, designed to unite people, organizations, systems of human development around the idea of achieving Enlightenment.
That’s when a lecture by Daniel Pinthbeck was to be held at the Red Lightening Camp. According to Ralph, Pinthbeck is the new Timothy Leary of the new millennium. Timothy Leary is a prophet of psychedelic culture. Ralph told me sadly that the lector failed to come, so the lecture was delivered by some young man. Meanwhile, I was fighting the urge to go and grab the microphone and share with all those present what was really important to me at that moment, namely my fear of death and desire to overcome it. But my fear took over me, and the only thing I forced myself to do was raising my hand and asking that guy with the microphone if he was afraid of death. Of course, the answer was no. After that I passed out and the only person who was able to move me was the owner of the mat I was lying on. She was asking me to move away, “This is my mat… I need it!” “So what?” I replied. “It’s communism here, isn’t it?” I thought to myself. “Is the mat more important than a human?” She wouldn’t stop yelling. Perhaps, the mat was really important for her. So I suggested physically pushing me off and taking the mat… which she did shortly. I got up, and saw Ralph waiving at me. The first thing he told me with regret was that the lector failed to come. “Don’t be sad, Ralph,” I told him. “I’m Timothy Leary! Really! I, with my rebellious manners, demand for domination over the world and new ideas, spiritually fit to be the Timothy Leary of the new millennium. “Ask me what you would want to ask Timothy.” Ralph stood silent, smiling at me politely, and I realized he didn’t believe me. That man, Daniel Pinthbeck, must have been more convincing than me. And, besides, he was a man. However, if a man does not believe in something, he can assume that (as by Descartes), form a hypothesis, and prove it. I am not John Frum, I don’t want people to believe me requiring no proof. Cargo Cult reflects nicely the ability of the human mind, in this particular case the mind of aborigine natives, to have faith that if you march along the road, that is built to look like a landing strip, than gods will arrive from a different world. But you can be waiting for their arrival forever. That is not something which may lure me.
Christianity, just like any traditional religion, is in essence a Cargo Cult, too. It is blind faith that a ritual can be followed by some kind of extraordinary results. Cargo Cult is just a lovely example of the absurdity of this faith.
I’m Timothy, I’m not Jesus, I’m not John. I’m for questioning stuff! Including questioning the fact that I’m Timothy. Doubting means assuming that this is possible, and then trying to figure out the Truth. To assume that the Timothy Leary of the new millennium is someone new, unexpected, daring, someone who might be a woman, a woman from Russia, and not necessarily an English-speaking man. And then to find out whether it’s true.
Gradually, we switched to discussing Enlightenment, which was my plan. Ralph insisted it was impossible for him in this lifetime – maybe after a few lives. Inspired by my idea that Cartesian doubt could be used on anything, I suggested that he assumed that for him, Enlightenment was possible at that very moment! To accept this as a hypothesis and to either confirm or refute it. It seemed more reasonable to me than the blind faith that Enlightenment was impossible.
Pondering over it, I suddenly realized that it’s impossible to confirm the thesis “Enlightenment is impossible.” Since it seems impossible now, it doesn’t mean it will remain impossible tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. One can only argue – it didn’t work out again, and again… but it doesn’t mean it will never work out at all. However, the thesis that it’s possible can be proven. It can be proven now and again, at any moment. If one plunges into this state of probability and search, then maybe it will be it? Enlightenment? The completion of the endless cycle of proving the impossible. Realization, understanding, after all, choice of a possibility! Having shared it with Ralph, I found out that it was too hot to follow my train of thoughts. Maybe later, when it cools down, he’ll think about it. So I walked further, further into my mind and further across the Playa. As I was walking, a horrid urge ripened inside my head. It began to overwhelm me, and I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to pee on the Man standing in the center, or better poop. It seemed so beautiful! It tied together my previous life, where I came to realize that urinating, besides being secret and bad, can also be a process of blessing something if that’s your intention while doing so. At the same time, taking into consideration the insolence of the things around, peeing on the Man seemed pretty normal, it corresponded to the place and masterpieces of contemporary art. Besides, it’s not about just some simple process of peeing. It’s about peeing as an artist, to create a work of art by displaying your freedom and, on the other hand, showing to the Man that he is nothing, and is no better than my individual trace. However, I was often told that it was prohibited. I was threatened that police might arrest me and the guys from Fractal Planet told me, “You, Fractal Planet, behave yourself. Otherwise you’ll compromise the entire psychedelic movement.” I may get arrested, which would be another international scandal. I imagined being questioned by a police officer, and then escorted back to MAPS; I’d tell them I was a volunteer at the ZenDo project; I completed my shift, took some psychedelic drugs, and came to poop on the Man. ZenDo would be ruined. “Sorry, Rick, but you see, what to be sorry for?” Thinking it over, I come up to the Man. As I’m approaching him, I get overwhelmed with the urge again and ask a naked man walking towards me, “Help me please, let’s do it together, lets pee on the Man…” He says “Good idea,” but hesitates… I persuade him to at least try. He agrees. I manage to pee a little bit on the ground, he doesn’t. I keep walking and reach the Man. Horrified, I go inside, look at the people around…. imagining sitting in the center and peeing, while the rest are staring at me with understanding. Suddenly, I notice a water faucet and reach out to wash my face. That’s when I realize I’m peeing… that the water which is pouring out of the Man on me and me are the same process. I remembered the New Year seminar at Shiram in Russia. We squatted to pee when water started dropping on us from the roof… That’s when we realized the world was responding, it was peeing on us…
That’s when I realized that I and the Man were the one whole. It was the same process.
After that I left… and I continued walking across the Playa, barefoot, back to Fractal Planet… Rick. This is who I wanted to talk to. And tell him all the truth about his ZenDo project. Rick Doblin is the creator and mastermind of MAPS. Who else but me can tell him the Truth? That it’s boolshit … if he wants a real psychedelic experience, why locate ZenDo in such a loud place? Why am I left alone? Why did none of the two volunteers join me? What’s the fuck with the signing in? Why do they make me register people instead of letting me help them? Where is the team spirit? Where is the alliance between the volunteers? And so on… I could unfold it. After all, I’m a therapist with a huge experience… Of such therapy, like existential things… If I’m asking for a transformational trip for myself, what’s to think about? Why not answer right away. Or not… or… yes, of course, great, perfect! Isn’t the transformational trip of most value to him? And the rest – like “legalize it” and so on – is secondary? But… What if he’s not ready for that yet? Not ready for my Truth? Then what? Then I won’t say anything, I’ll just leave, and that will be a small sign on my part. What else can I do here? Then I should think of something to understand whether he’s ready or not. Whether I should bug him with my Truth or not? Oh! I’m a Game Master! It means playing with the world in a way a possibility which is the most harmonious will be realized. How to play? I could go look for Rick, all the more so given that I think I know where he lives. Find him and make myself heard. But I want to find a more harmonious way. It might be possible if I go through the system. Through official ZenDo entrance. They’ve registered me there already, as a psyche, or a bad psych, or a trip-psych. Ideally, if in our system someone, after diving into the process, demanded Gena, Gena’d respond. In my opinion, such a system needs receptivity. For some people, volunteers are enough. Some need me if the volunteers can’t handle it. And for some, for certain processes, it’s important to have an opportunity to contact a superior, get help from a superior, up to God, who in this case is Rick… May be it’s here? That’s why I decided that I’d come and see my sitter, Mommy, and ask her to help me find Rick. Sitter is a ZenDo volunteer helping people with bad-trips who came to the ZenDo tent. Even better! I’ll ask her to choose between option 1 and 2. If she picks 1, I’ll leave. If she picks 2, I’ll tell her that I want to talk to Rick, and ask her to find him for me. However, as usual, the world turned to be more complicated than my thoughts. Before I reached the tent, I realized Mommy’s shift had ended. “What if Mommy’s shift has ended and no one is waiting for me?” it dawned on me… “But how so?” one more time I was thinking about the psych processes support at MAPS. How can you leave someone in the process? I was right, there were some strangers in the tent. They didn’t know I was having a process. It seemed terrible to try to explain everything to them from the beginning… as well as the fact that my Mommy’s shift had ended. I started asking a guy sitting at the entrance to go find Rick for me. He was hiding behind the registration papers I hated after my night shift… I insisted. “It is not my job,” he became more persistent. “It’s not my duty.” I thought about it and said, “It’s your duty!” I knew the point of him sitting there was helping people through their psychic processes and that’s what I came there for. “Who are you to give me duty?” he asked. “I’m Tatiana Ginzburg,” I calmly answered. Strangely, I didn’t even think of becoming Timothy Leary or someone else at that moment. I clearly understood that I was Tatiana Ginzburg, and that I did have a right to demand from him for my wish to be fulfilled. Suddenly, the world changed. After hearing my name, the young man jumped up and started looking for a solution. I sat down in his chair, watching him. After a while, he ran into Linnae, a blonde in charge of the whole ZenDo project. She said Rick was asleep and she was not going to wake him up. “In this case, I’m leaving.” “Leaving where?” she asked me, as if ZenDo was the center of the universe. “To the people who are ready to wake up to talk to me,” I replied. Later, I thought a lot about that phrase of mine and my departure. I worried it was a weak move on my part and I should’ve stayed. Maybe, I was driven by exhaustion, my ability to make distinctions was reduced by the psychedelics. I couldn’t find a place to rest, while the goals I set while with a clear mind, such as interviewing Annie and Ralph, seemed unimportant. To sign in to work at ZenDo again no longer seemed exciting either… While preparing to leave, wandering in search of my camp and answering questions of those around, I became overwhelmed with an insight that I could approach any person with any request, no matter how ridiculous they looked or my request was, and they would most likely try to help me. I’d had this miraculous feeling until I reached the civilization. Leaving Black Rock City wearing a wet, dirty pair of socks and dusty clothes, I got out of the car and came up to some random people asking, “Am I dirty enough for you to let me leave?” “We are new here, but sure you may leave,” they said with a smile. I was driving relaxed, not afraid of the heat, with my windows down. Then I stopped in the middle of the exit corridor, got out of the car, like a true Burner took my clothes off and poured a canister of water over my head and then put on somewhat clean clothes. The shoes I put on were different because I failed to find a matching pair, and continued my way. Driving down (Black Rock City is located 2,000 km above sea level)… for miles… I was thinking about my life, who I was, what my mission and my current goal were and how I was going to achieve it, as well as what the Game and Game Master’s School were. And what scale was adequate for the realization of my goals. It dawned on me that I was Tatiana Ginzburg. I’ve achieved fame, since some young man whom I didn’t know, sitting in the ZenDo tent, jumped up upon hearing my name and did his best to fulfill my request. Also, it dawned on me that my name differed from Mashiah in just one letter.
My Playa name
Playa name is a nickname a Burner uses at Burning Man. was written down by ear by a male-sitter – Mashial. I started asking him to change it into Mashel. But now I understand it was awesome – Mashial! It’s me! It’s just one letter from Mashiah. Mashiah… Messiah… A person with the Mission… Maybe, I’m close to the Mission? Perhaps, the Truth is somewhere close? It’s in just one letter? Just one letter needs to be changed? A lot of situations from Burning Man resurfaced in my mid like clues, and some of them were very vivid: At dawn, as I was stumbling towards my car, tired but overwhelmed with the beauty and calmness of the early morning, a young man appeared in my way, “Where’s my camp? And why am I supposed to walk that way and not this way?” I took him by the hand, turned him in the right way, and walked a few blocks with him, until I realized that he didn’t have a clear picture about the city. Moreover, what he thought he knew was incorrect. I made sure he understood “the world map,” which in that particular case was “the city map,” as well as where his camp on that map was… and let him go on his own. At six in the morning, as a was stomping across the desert back to my camp wearing a pair of valenki (felt boots) (which I brought from Russia specially for the event), I realized the importance of the map, even in the physical world, not mentioning the metaphysical world, the map that could be applied in life, at every crossroad I happened to be. The map that would show me clearly which way to follow in this world? While at an Indian restaurant in San Francisco with Lakshmi, I was answering her questions:
How was it?
I told her about Annie Oak’s lecture, and Annie telling me that a friend of hers often had orgasms while under psychedelics, and she also wanted it and saw it as her next step. Listening to her, I remembered being under a similar delusion for many years. I’ve heard a bunch of stories from my friends about having an orgasm while breathing, after practicing “orgasm reflex” and reading Reich and Lowen. I thought that orgasm was something important and if I kept practicing it, eventually I’d have it. However I kept failing… The best thing I achieved was a state of mad laughter during my orgasm reflex practice as I was straining my back. Laughing at myself for trying to have an orgasm in such a strange way, in such an unnatural position… I thought the orgasm was what I had – a burst of joy and happiness. That’s when I stopped waiting for an orgasm as some satisfactory energy experience, like the one during a sexual intercourse, when the tension from the genitals is released. What Annie was talking about was exactly that – pleasure. That’s why after her lecture I asked her, “Why do you think orgasm is ahead of you? Why don’t you think that it’s behind you?” I was hoping Annie would show me a map and point where the orgasm was, where she was and why it was ahead of her… But instead she talked about how an orgasm was a pleasure and therefore it was good. I told Lakshmi about it. “Do you have a map?” she asked. “Yes.” “Can you email it to me?” “But… it’s in Russian…” “Oh, come on!” “Ok, I owe you for the article… I’ll send you the map…” Here is the map, Lakshmi:
7 vertical chakras
1 – Muldahara – physical body (form, shape, matter) 2 – Swadhisthana – energy (passion, emotions) 3 – Manipura – mind (intellect, distinctions) 4 – Anahata – love (acceptance) 5 – Vishuddha – creativity 6 – Ajna – awareness (meaning) 7 – Sahasrara- freedom
Each person usually has one dominating chakra.
A path of ascending is shifting the dominant up. For the more detailed examination of the map every chakra can be unfolded in horizontal as well. That will enable it to trace the development of every chakra (each quality) more precise, and transition of the dominant from one chakra to another.
For example, 1x1- form = physical body 1x2 – energy form = alive body, biological object 1x3 – intellect form = homo sapiens, awakening of the mind, speech (in other words, the form (body) is developing in our description horizontally ) 2nd chakra – energy, pleasure, passion 2x1 – pleasure from the physical sensations, forms, possession of matter 2x2 – pure quality, pure energy, orgasm 2x3 – pleasure from intellectual activity, reading, conversation 2x4 – pleasure from acceptance 2x5 – pleasure from creativity 3x1 – distinction of form 3x2 – distinction of energy, emotion, sensations 3x3 – distinction of thoughts, ideas (like I am aware of my thoughts in this field (quality) If my dominant hasn’t reached the second chakra and I’m largely in the first one, meaning mostly being concerned about the material aspect, my body, survival, fitting on the material level, then yes, orgasm (pure pleasure) is ahead of me, that is my goal. If my dominant is mostly in the mind chakra, then ideas are more important for me than feelings, and my ultimate experience will be enlightenment, understanding my life, which is ahead (above level three) If my dominant is in the fourth chakra, then my goal is not some temporary physical pleasure but experiencing the resonance with the world and its life. And so on… Here is the map. But it’s one thing to see the map of Black Rock City while you are sitting in front of your computer at home, and another thing to be in Black Rock City and to be able to find your way. Understand where things are located… To learn how to use the map on the spot, how to use it for yourself to find the right way every time you need, and find the solution to each particular situation to move the dominant higher and higher. I’m learning that now. Burning Man has become my polygon. I want to keep learning, including with the help of such events as Burning Man. That’s why I invite everyone to join me and learn together.
To learn how to find your way in the labyrinths of your mind towards the exit.
Towards the peak of the Human Spirit. Towards becoming THE BURNER. Our trace will surely be left after us! Add a Module