When Paradise is Unsettling: My Love Burn Experience
I had the good fortune to spend this past weekend at a regional burn (think Burning Man, but way smaller) in south Florida on Key Biscayne Island.
Myself and 2,000 soon-to-be good friends, camping, drinking, dancing and fucking.
Well… 3 out of 4 ain’t bad.
There’s a lot of truth in the unspoken.
As I learned in my graduate education for Psychology (the classes I wasn’t falling asleep in), what’s in the background is just as important as what’s in the foreground.
The proverbial elephant in the room.
When a special someone is dying, and you know they’re dying, and they know you know they’re dying, and while neither of you are bringing it up, it’s dominating the background of the conversation.
So, my unspoken: I didn’t get laid.
I didn’t even make-out with anyone.
But it’s not just that; it’s worse. I didn’t even really connect with a woman on a deep level.
Burns are magical experiences–not just metaphorically, either, but literally magical. Our bartender (at one of the scores of bars) was blowing our group’s mind with magic tricks.
This was also the first burn where I didn’t do any psychadelic drugs. I had tried to score some shroomage before heading down, but it didn’t happen. Oh (just now remembering), I actually did a small bit of Molly, but it didn’t really affect me.
The magic came in many forms: visual, sensory, auditory, creative. My experience wasn’t lacking in sensory delights–it was just lacking in the one area I wanted the most: outrageous chemistry with a beautiful woman.
But I’m learning a lot from this burn. I think I see myself more clearly now. Everyone who goes to burns goes for different reasons, but I think besides the use of mind-altering chemicals, the experience in-and-of-itself invites self-clarity.
So to recap: no woman and no psychadelics.
No woman no cry…
The second night of the burn, Saturday night, is the BIG night.
It wasn’t my best night.
I did make it out to an incredible dancing venue–this theme camp in a hard-to-find lane bordered by a bunch of RV’s. The camp’s DJ’s were playing up high in their own huge RV. And it was incredible.
I noticed the whole time my desire, especially, to dance with a beautiful woman; to share that energy.
And without the chemicals dancing around in my head, I was able to see my own dynamic more clearly: too much grasping.
But it goes deeper than that–way deeper. It’s trying to force an outcome while hiding inconvenient truths.
In fact, it wasn’t until the last day of the burn, having failed multiple times with multiple strategies of achieving my goal, that I finally felt like myself.
For me, this burn was about seeing myself more clearly. And a lot of what I saw I didn’t particularly like.
And if I just remained there, in that place, that would be a sad ending to this story.
My burn, however, was a re-awakening:
why was I wandering by myself, alone, so much of the burn?
why was I feeling so disconnected?
Getting back to that BIG Saturday night, after doing some dancing I took a nap in a camp called, Narnia. It was a “chill space,” meaning they had taken a big truck and added couches, AC and tapestries. It was a combination of people napping and people getting it on in a variety of manners.
I think we’ve firmly established by now which of those two camps I was in:
the voyeur camp.
So, after my nap, I walked around and heard fireworks that signified the burn was about to happen. Except for that it didn’t really happen on account of the wind gusts. Much of the weekend, the winds must have been kicking up at around 30mph. In fact, many tents basically blew away.
The fireworks show having ended, I walked all the way to the far side of our little island. I didn’t feel like dancing anymore. I wasn’t tired. I was a bit chilly, and I saw this small camp with tea.
A guy standing outside said hello and invited me in. Like many camps, this one had couches and rugs. I was introduced to someone named Halo, and I came to realize that she was actually volunteering there–and that I had stumbled into a “care” camp. Basically, a place for people who are struggling in one way or another, to come and get some TLC.
That wasn’t why I had stepped into Camp Sanctuary…
except for that it was.
Halo was a burn veteran. A little older than me and definitely wiser. It was a little mix of burn nostalgia meets therapy on the couch. Which reminds me I should also probably talk about my stop-off to a “Shitty Advice” booth, but that may also have to come later.
What I discovered for myself talking to Halo was that what has been missing for me from basically every burn was community.
I have always been a burn-loner, and though I may technically always have had a camp to call “home,” I hardly ever interacted with anyone in my camp nor spent much time there. (By the way, the expression “how you do one thing is how you do everything” applies here, as well. I’m not just a “burn-loner,” I’m a loner in my life, as well).
At burns, there is a lot of giving and receiving going on. The whole point of these camps is that they’re a group of people who come together with a mission: love other burners.
And they do this in a hosh-posh of funky, creative amazing ways.
Foam Nation (where everyone who wants to gets naked and people are perched above with foam guns spray you with soap for your group shower and then rinse you off with water cannons; it’s followed by a naked dance party which is how you dry off. The whole time, an M.C., also 1/2 naked, is talking about love).
Slushies (hot day, icees with alcohol and your favorite flavors)
Pizzas (just homemade pizza happening)
Chill Spaces (addressed above)
Salons (with head massages and cucumber wraps for your eyes)
But there are like hundreds of them, big and small, with various crazy-cool missions.
If you don’t come with a camp, you can still definitely bring your own gifts to share, but it’s not the same thing.
I brought some trinkets to share, and I would walk around in the morning (i.e., afternoon), with a container of fresh dates asking if anyone wanted. While doing that I was offered some fresh coffee–score!
But it’s different. When you have a camp, instead of wandering, people are coming to you. My friend, Miguel, is an amazing artist. One of his mural pieces was featured, and he spent a good portion of Saturday night talking to people who were curious about his art.
What I realized is that I want to come back as part of a camp, my own or an existing one, with a purpose that really inspires me as a way of loving burners.
My thought: head massages. I’d love to have a camp with those devices with the thin metal spines that you just gently rub up and down people’s heads, and it feels ohhhh sooooo goooooood, and that’s what we do. You drop by for a few minutes and we give orgasms for your head.
Your other head, silly.
In fact, my new camp could be called: THE GOOD HEAD CAMP.
Or CAMP HEAD ORGASMS.
(Ok, though it doesn’t matter right now, the camp name certainly does matter!
Leave your suggestions for my new camp in the comments box.)
But the point is that instead of artificially (aka forcing) trying to get to know people with an agenda, like a wild predator hunting for his dinner, I can simply relax and provide some head love and let the connections flow as they will.
While burns are magical places, and you can will almost anything you want to happen, force definitely is not one of those ways.
I remember my good friend, Ari-Moshe, who happens to be an evolutionary astrologist, put a fun opportunity on his wall: ask a question and he would randomly pick a page from his book with an answer to your question. I forget my question but my answer: learn to coax life more.
Coax: persuade (someone) gradually or by flattery to do something.
Less forcing, more coaxing.
Not coaxing people, necessarily–but life itself.
Coaxing life to show her wares; to reveal her deepest secrets.
And that definitely doesn’t come through forcing.
(Same same for women.)
This post has meandered a lot, not unlike a burn.
You can have a grand intention, like trying to get to a camp for pancakes and porn, and you don’t make it there, but you end up somewhere else which ends up being totally awesome and unexpected and amazing.
I had a grand intention, and I didn’t get it, but I got something else pretty amazing: why I’ve been failing and a new strategy to get my needs/desires met.
To be continued…
after my next burn.