Friday, February 28, 2014

Why am I a Burner?

"Wow dude... You're one of those people?  I'm ashamed."  I sit at home reading that sentence in my email.  Each time hoping the sentence will turn into a paragraph that gives their perspective some context. But no, it's just that one sentence.  I wanted to respond back directly, but it didn't feel like it was the right thing to do.  So I let the universe guide me, and ended up just letting it go. I hit delete and erased the message, obliterating it into the cosmos. 

A few posts ago on here, I was mentioning being in a In-N-Out burger having a enlightening experience.  Spoke about going to BurningMan that year.  I got quite a bit of feedback around that sentence. Some quite inquisitive, and others (like above)... well... not interested at all.    However one of the emails caused me to ponder, and is creating this post tonight.  

"Why BurningMan?"

I stared at my iPhone reading that one question. My mind racing with images and magical moments that I've experienced there. Trying to forge together a cohesive paragraph that would fully answer it.   That, I found, is almost impossible.  Something akin to trying to describe color to a blind person.  "Where do I start", I thought to myself looking at the blank email I was composing, attempting to respond back.  I must have sat there for 30 minutes, not a word written down.  I shake my head and hit 'discard message', giving up.  Then a moment of inspiration, and I head to this blog and start typing. 'Yeah, now this feels right!'  :')

I think everyone has different reasons for heading out to the desert. Me in particular, I was at a very low point in my life. I was removed from a music group that I spent years pouring blood, sweat and tears into.  All the fans, all of the friends suddenly gutted from my life.  I was mildly suicidal and numb, I started reaching out looking for 'purpose'. I remember sitting in my apartment, all of my stuff in boxes, crying myself to sleep everynight for months. But I kept coming up to the same gut feeling...  Some new chapter is opening, it's all going to be ok.  "Let go of the past and accept the new story" I kept hearing in my subconscious. 

It took time to learn to "let go", as it's not something we're used to in our culture. As I'm learning, I begin to meet fascinatingly awesome people. The more I let go, the more people came to greet me from the shadows.  I was finally becoming totally free. As time went on, the old story became more and more closed and I was fully living out in my next chapter. 

I was on Facebook one day and saw a post from a old and very dear friend.  I reached out to her and told her my story. The heartbreak, the healing, the journey. Then I asked her a very pointed question, "What's next?", I asked. She paused. Then my phone rang... It was her.  "Hmmm................ well....... So, have you been to BurningMan?", she said.  "No." I respond back with a heightened guard. "Hmmm.  Well, that's what's next on your journey, you'll find 'yourself' there."  "Ok." I say with a heavy dose of uncertainty.  

'Find yourself'?  The hell does that mean?  I had a lot of images running through my head.  But I had a stronger trust of my friend. So I ended up getting tickets a few months before and started getting ready to go out there.  While prepping, I began to meet other burners whom I constantly was bugging their ear for any pro-tips for my first year.  They would answer the question politely, and always followup with "So, this is your first one?"  "Yeah.", I'd say.  "Hmmm.  When you go 'home' ('home' refers to BurningMan btw) you'll find out who 'you' are.  Just be prepared for that."  

I heard them.  But I didn't listen, I wasn't prepared for 'that'.

What I found out in the desert is not something I could describe.  Imagine trying to describe gratitude to a computer.  Trying to describe the scent of a rose to someone that can't smell. Describing color to a blind person. I can't explain 'it'.  Nobody can.  But I can explain what it did to me.  Now I see the world for what it is.  We are all one. Nobody has any higher importance than anyone else. And I could not mean that any more than what I do. You, me, the president of every nation, to every homeless... We are all the same, we are all one, we are all equal.

And my big life change was this.  I no longer was defined by others perception of me. I was finally allowed to be who I was at my core. In the desert no one cares what you do in the 'default world'.  That life is separate.  And at 'home', you are what you want to be. "So what are you?", they might ask. "I'm a painter!" You scream out smiling. Even if you've never touched a single paintbrush in your entire life, but you know in the deepest part of your soul that you're a brilliant painter... Their response... "Fuck yeah!  Cool... Let's paint, painter!"

After going "home" year after year, I've come to see what is wrong with what everyone else experiences everyday.  In the 'default world' we're completely judged off of someone else's perception of you.  You aren't what you want to be, you are what others tell you.  You want to be a lawyer?  Well... NO!  We will not accept you until you prove to us you are our definition of "lawyer". You think you're a painter?  HA!  Show us your multimillion dollar art exhibit...  What's that?  Don't have one.  That means you're a fraud!  You're stupid!  You're a joke!  It goes on and on, and sadly for most peoples lives. 

It's quite remarkable that anyone gets anywhere out here. A world built and run by judgement, criticism, and others perception. I think that's why so many people lose it when they get fired, have a social media stink, or some scandal open up.  These things shouldn't matter, but in a world where the outsides' judgement of you is the ruling clause. It becomes the word of god.  Got fired?  God hates you.  Social media blowing up over you?  You are a failure!  And we do this to ourselves.  Nobody is forcing us as humans to act like this towards each other.

Think about that... If you get fired, are 'you' a failure?  No.  That's someone's judgement placed upon you.  That doesn't change who 'you' are.  But for some reason, we place more stock in our identity with others.  Walt Disney was told that he "lacked imagination and had no good ideas." = FACT.  Oprah was told that she was "unfit for television" = FACT.  Elvis was told  "you're better off driving trucks." = FACT.  And they knew, they 'got it'.  They understood that what was said to them was someone elses judgement, and it did NOT define them.  They knew who they were.

Take a second to think about that...  Who are 'you'?  Do you know?  And the answers that come up... Are they real, or are they perceptions others have placed upon you?  It's honestly nearly impossible to discern the real 'you' from the judgments of others.  But out there in the desert, these perceptions don't exist and you're left with only the 'you'.  My first year I found myself answering people... "I don't know what or who I am."  And they'd smile back, "... It's cool, must be your first burn, you'll find yourself.  Promise!" :) 

And that's what happened in the booth at that In-N-Out, it all came together...  I found out who I was.  And it was awesome.

"We came to the Playa seeking adventure, community... a party.  
What we found was Ourselves!"

--unknown (BRC porta potty, 2013)

Could not be said any better. :')  That's why I'm a burner.

I hope you have a awesome week!
--Paul Jacob Evans

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