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  • Writer's pictureNiki Ernst

Burning Man and the false idols

Burning Man is an annual festival in Nevada. In the area of “lovelock”, on a dried out lake, about 75000 people build a city, every year. Black Rock City would be the 5th biggest city in Nevada if it would actually be a city, with its own airport, BRC — the only temporary IATA airport code in the world. At the end of the event, 10000 volunteers make sure that not a single item is left on the Playa. “Leave no trace” is one of the golden rules of the event.

I have been there twice and I am going again, this August. And even though I don’t do alcohol (there is a lot of party on the playa) and I don’t do drugs (yes, rumor has it that people take drugs, as well), neither am I psyched about casual encounters on the toxic gypsum sand (guess it comes with the former habits), I really enjoy my four days at this festival.

For one, it is really amazing, how people are invested in the art pieces, they bring to the playa. Strolling through the camps and open playa is just a feast of passion and beautiful art. Even though its more than a month to go, a lot of people are full swing into preparing these art pieces, the art cars and costumes for this years Burning Man, right now.

Another reason is the actual call behind burning down a wooden sculpture which marks the climax of the event. We all worship false idols, like fame, fortune and all sorts of specimen of status. Burning the Man shall invite us to get rid of these false idols and go back to things that really matter. It might sound silly. I even avoid the procedure of burning the man. 75000 people, psyched around a massive fire site does not sound like a thing, I really want to be in the midst. But as I said: I like the call.

We humans are really good at making false decisions. And one of the recurring themes is that we are good at making our lives complicated. We connect our wellbeing to the depth of our pockets. We don’t get satisfied with the freedom of mobility, of going anywhere, anytime, we love big, fast, expensive cars. We don’t enjoy the company of our best friends during an evening of fun and laughter, we choose Michelin restaurants and mourn around imperfect dishes. We don’t picnic and camp in the beauty of our countries, we search for “boutique hotels”. Everyone is invited to complete this list on your own.

What defines us is what we have and not what we are. My daughter recently complained about most of her friends, being primarily interested to talk about their parents’ wealth. Daddy’s car is more important than deep human connections. And wherever we go and pass by nice residential areas, she would ask me how expensive these houses are. Sometimes, we don’t even recognize, that we are doing the exact same thing.

Have we lost the capability of seeing beauty in little things? Andy Warhol talked about “Shopping for the Art of Shopping”. Have we arrived there? While we pack more and more into our backpacks, we are having an increasingly hard time, letting go of the things, we don’t really need. And of course, this behavior turned money into topic number one around the dinner table. To an extent that we actually make decisions, we would never make, if money would not be attached to the decision. Keeping the Job we hate is probably the most prominent of these (false) decisions.

I am not giving you a list of ten things, today. Just invite you to think about it. Maybe you realize (as well), that you have spent years, making your life more and more complicated. Maybe already thinking about it, is enough motivation to begin to get rid of things.

Make your life less complicated.

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