The room that you find yourself in is exceptionally dark, with weighty air, that gives you a feeling of being stuck in an underground vault of a secret government agency. Looking around, you spot a hint of light coming from the corner of the room. As you approach, you notice that the light source comes from a single button that reads “Re-start.”
Exploring the room, in hopes of an escape – you find no gaps in the concrete walls, no other buttons, no openings of any kind. Nothing. Trembling, you decide that the only thing to do is to press the button.
Bright white light flashes in front of your eyes, followed by a sensation of weightlessness. Suddenly, a deep voice announces:
“The World has been re-set. Please provide input parameters and societal norms for the new World.”
What would you do if you could re-start the societal norms of today? What elements would you focus on?
Perhaps you would be curious to see how a society would function if we did not develop the monetary system? Maybe, in your society – there would not be any countries, but small independent encampments, that are part of villages that are in turn a part of the larger world government that sets the global rules? Perhaps, there would not be a standard legal system, but a set of principles that would govern every decision?
Unfortunately, there is no magic button that we can press, there is no way to completely re-start what we have created. This is it, and we must find ways on how to make it better. Yet, what is better? How can we be sure that removing all laws would not cause chaos in our society? If you remove capitalism, can you provide the World with a better system?
One way to test this is to run experiments and to create temporary societies with varying rule sets, to both experience and analyze different ways of organizing ourselves. In essence, this is what the “Burning Man” event does, except the rules are pretty much the same each year.
Burning Man, for me, is not about the parties, music sets, orgies or even the fabulous art that finds its way to the Black Rock City each year. For me, it is an attempt to create a different society and to see how the World would be like if we just did things differently.
This particular attempt removes money, puts us in the desert, is run by ten principles, is decentralized, and relies on everyone taking an active part in society.
When you arrive at Black Rock City, it is akin to being teleported to a different planet, with a diverse society (many Star Trek episodes come to mind). What you used to rely upon in the “normal world” your masks, your social conditioning, your ideas of yourself and other people – simply do not work there.
Thus, many are forced to look within and to rediscover themselves and their life. The event forces you to question society, to look towards art, to see where we have gone astray, and where we could do better.
It is a simulation, but an actual, physical, real-life simulation of a different society. That is not to say that Burning Man way of life could be sustainable if done at large scale, that is not to say that all the principles are perfect, and I am definitely not claiming that Burning Man is a “better” society.
However, it has definitely helped me to look at our own World anew. From last years event, I have learned to take better care of the environment, to pursue artistic expression in myself, to start asking the difficult questions of life, and to be much more faithful to myself.
Burning Man is not what the media portrays. It is not about the parties, the orgies, the music sets, the rich get-aways, the dust, and not even the art. Sure, all of those things exist in this imaginary society, but it is the combination of all the elements that create a unique atmosphere that is so hard to put into words.
That is why I have penciled it into my calendar for the next ten years, because only by going to “other worlds,” can we make a difference in this one. Find them.