This post is a response to Caveat Magister’s excellent post “Raise Your Hand If You’ve Graduated From Burning Man” at the following URL:
You’ll have to read the above post first, to understand this here post. In fact, I strongly recommend it, especially if you’ve been to the event a few times, or if you’d like a delicious alternative to all of the tedious, mainstream-media, (and quite frankly even jaded-Burner), takes on “What’s Broken With Burning Man?”
NOTE: Unlike my other, more “General-audience,” posts here, I’d really only expect this one to resonate if you ‘give a whit’ one way or another about Burning Man. I happen to care a lot about its values, and my experience of them. Mr. or Mrs. Magister addresses for the first time that I’ve read, a feeling that’s been growing on me. Except, that in his/her post I felt something was missing… so, I joined the conversation.
Regarding My Ongoing “Graduation” From Burning Man
Thanks for your blog post, acknowledging those of us who are finding the same radical growth that Burning Man once provided, on new personal frontiers.
Yet, I disagree with a fundamental quality of what you’re saying. I don’t see this as such a clear, “First this, then that” experience — at least taken as a whole. You’re on to something good here, and I want to help grow its scope.
Here’s the case where I feel the analogy needs expansion: I am an “AfterBurner” by your definition, in some areas, and still “Newbie” in others… and, I am still excitedly pursuing growth on each level.
This makes sense to me, and feels natural. I’m like a jet plane with both burners (main engines), and afterburners (massively awesome super boost!). A skilled pilot draws on the strengths of each of them, at appropriate times.
I feel like that pilot. I agree that learning to be the Burner, has enabled me to engage the AfterBurner (and I think that was your main point), your analogy captures that order, but I still want both, when I want them.
Here is a perhaps more inclusive, less black and white alternate view of the transformation you write about.
Burning Man is a conference — a meeting of our collective global tribe whose values are not yet embraced, let alone even understood, by the Default World. It is exciting, and inspiring, to be among our people! Just like any conference in the Default World, the more energy you put into it, the more energy you get out. BMorg gets this, and suggests it as valuable learning with the value of “No Spectators.” Not everyone gets this, but it is an entry level, or at least early, class.
Learning happened for me when I saw this playing out on large scale around me, when my jaw dropped upon living in Burning Man’s Black Rock City for the first time. Speaking personally, it rocked my world. In that blast of inspiration, it expanded me from “Engineer” to “Engineer+Light Sculptor” (PM me and I’ll send you a link if you’d like to see the results), an abrupt path change that continues to this day, decades later, with the added (Default-World-learned) “+Entrepreneur”. Charged with that blast of initial inspiration, and Burning Man’s welcoming (once you’re in) conference to practice my flexing of that muscle, I learned to “Put more in.” Having learned that, like you, and many of the people you call AfterBurners, the natural arc of my own personal evolution, still wants to continue to more advanced learning on the topic — beyond what Burning Man can support. As you aptly suggest to be a commonality — I am now continuing to learn to “Put more in,” year-round. 17 Burns later, with the frontier of my evolution now off-playa, by your definition I’m an “AfterBurner.” I’ve accomplished something amazing (at least to me), and I am honestly flattered by your (admittedly external) validation.
BUT… as clear, and flattering as your definition is, I want to expand its strength.
I view yours as the best answer I’ve heard to the leading edge question of “What’s Next?” Lots of us experienced Burners are asking this question of ourselves naturally, but some of us have to ask unnaturally, because we didn’t get tickets. To lots of us, it is an important, quite likely even defining, question. The BMorg’s (Burning Man Organization’s) answer is to spread the culture of Burning Man worldwide — a great answer for an organization, but it doesn’t easily translate into personal terms. It leaves us to fill in our own blanks. It leads me to think deeply about blog posts like yours, and what wisdom might found therein that I can use personally. I see wisdom there, but I want to add to it, to help it advance this transformation in myself, and others.
There are so many “Classes” to take in the “School of Life”. The untold unique offerings that the Burn, and the Regionals offer, are literally incomparable, truly ranging from entry-level (Say Hello To An Obviously Friendly Stranger) to advanced (Execute a Large Scale, Remote Team Art Project and Leave No Trace), not excluding the often more vital, internal, and relationship lessons, literally custom-made for each of us. But the richness of Burning Man’s potentials doesn’t stop, or start, life, or growth everywhere else. There are countless Non-Burning-Man, opportunities for growth. It is not at all unnatural for our personal frontiers of growth to move back and forth between the Home and Default worlds, or between any other modalities in life. In fact it is unnatural for those frontiers NOT to follow us around where we go.
So, I offer up this enhanced definition of ‘AfterBurner, ‘ building on your wonderful philosophical work here.
It is the massively empowering super-boost that the values, learning and experience of Burning Man CAN gift you with. It includes an advanced course in preparation, among so much other useful knowledge, that can be applied as you quest towards your own evolving off- OR ON-Playa frontiers. It is inclusive, not exclusive, of your past Burning experiences. It wishes you well as you set off, and is rooting for you, but ALSO welcomes you Home again someday, for the loving comfort of that delicious, but ephemeral, home-cooked meal of dust and art, lights and sound, motion and magic, humanity and happenstance.
I wouldn’t call you, or anyone else, an AfterBurner for focusing your efforts outside of the festival. If anything, you demonstrate the mastery of your AfterBurner abilities — and celebrate the attainment of that skill in others — by transcending the incessant “What’s Wrong With BM” conversation, with the positive message hidden therein. You acknowledge the role of even that often-challenging, and divisive conversation as a natural part of the festival’s ability to help us evolve, and offer a beautiful, promising acknowledgement of the positives that can come out of the LIMITATIONS of Burning Man. If I could pick for anyone a sign that you’ve truly enabled your AfterBurner, it would have to include that.
My years of Burning experience is uplifted by it. I feel honored to contribute to the conversation.
While it is not the only one, the Playa is one of my favorite places learn…
I take that wisdom everywhere, but I keep returning…
And I keep learning…
And I keep Burning.