Burning Man: it’s like an alternative universe where people come from all parts of the world to participate in a weeklong experience which can be described, without a doubt, as nothing short of transcendental. Hosted in the desert of Black Rock City, Nevada, the annual festival hosts exuberant structures, including a temple in which ‘burners’ create memorials for loved ones, which, along with the well-known Burning Man, is cathartically burned to the ground as a representation of detachment. Nothing in life is permanent — hence why even the metropolis for which the festival stands is temporary.
Many of us live in a world based on consumerism, and as a means to escape that, almost nothing is for sale at Burning Man. Goods are attained through a gift economy. However, unlike the barter system, they’re given unconditionally. In our everyday lives, we see so much as being simply ours and we work tirelessly to protect that from others, but here, in this far off destination, life is but a dream, consisting of patience, love, and understanding. People are fuelled by a genuine desire to connect and be open-minded, and of course, to let loose and tap into the creative, sensitive, positive, and giving nature we all have within us. Burning Man is for radical self expression, whether enacted through wearing nothing but shoes and goggles or with layers of feathers and fringe.
And who might you find in the midst of a land laden with psychedelic trips, naked dance parties, and other activities like “Tea and Porn,” “Spankings and Cookies,” “Pornogamie,” and “Sketchy the Clown Drinking Contest”? You might not assume children. Even the ticket itself says: You voluntarily assume the risk of serious injury or death by attending. Exposed to extreme weather conditions, tantalized by the idea of climbing giant sculptures, and faced with giant walls of fire, it doesn’t seem like it’s that strange of a sentence to place on a few hundred dollar ticket for a weeklong extravaganza. But the ticket comes with the idea of radical self-reliance, so many people are prepared to take on whatever risks come their way.
But, what about kids? You leave them at home and enjoy your adult playground, right? Well, actually you can bring them, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Even the Burning Man website says so. “So, you’ve decided to bring the kids to Burning Man? Great! It’s not an easy decision, but it may prove to be one of the best field trips you could ever take them on.”
So what exactly would it be like to be a kid at such a festival? And would they actually gain anything from it other than seeing some stuff they wouldn’t get behind a white picket fence? Well, you won’t have to ask any further, as 9-year-old Julia Wolfe opens up about being a Burning Man veteran during her very own TEDxABQ in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She discusses her transformative experiences at the event, and how they’ve provided her with lessons that have fueled her to better her everyday life.
“Imagine a place where you can be exactly who you want to be, without worrying what other people think. Where you can climb on giant art sculptures and have lots of fun! I found that place at Burning Man,” she begins.
As she continues to engage the crowd, getting out of the way that, yes, there are naked people, there is drinking, and there are out-of-the-box activities, she educates them on the festival’s 10 Core Principles, sharing her favorite four and linking them explicitly to the importance they play in the goodness of humanity, whether within the context of Burning Man or without.
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