This is not a gathering of drunk, dazed hippies as so many seem to think. Instead, I met teachers, artists, nurses, computer technicians and writers. I met a woman who came to recharge before starting chemotherapy. I did yoga in the cool morning hours with a yogi who juggles fire. I ran into a Greek photographer I'd emailed through Couchsurfing, but never had a chance to meet until I walked into our camp the first day and recognized his face and name.
The people inspired me.
But it's not just individuals, it's the community. Here is a place where taking a cake to your neighbors to say hello is not just something you do on move in day or on holidays, it's something you do many times, daily. Your share everything, and everything is shared with you. You give your food, your water and you give of your daily life in a way that rarely happens in the rest of the world.
I found myself often engaged in conversations with strangers on subjects I usually consider to be private, generally meant only for a few close friends and family. Here, in this stage, I opened up. I expressed things I didn't even know about myself until I found myself telling someone I just met and would never see again.
Thus, the walls that exist between people in general society dissipate. Here in this sudden city, you experience tribal living. You exist in science fiction. You expand into another dimension, if only for a week. It's a world in which wearing jeans and a t-shirt makes you strange but walking around naked is normal.
It is incredibly liberating to be free of the boundaries of world outside of Burning Man, otherwise known as the default world. This frees you, not because you necessarily want to become a nudist, but because it turns the world upside down, demanding that you question why we make the choices we make in the default world.
It is simply put, fan-bloody-tastic. I spent more of my time riding a bike around the playa seeing the art than anything else. This is the largest, most accessible art museum on the planet. It's open day and night, and the art is interactive. Some you can climb. Others are designed to react to your presence, often responding by spewing out flames. One evening, I saw a woman dressed all in white, hanging from a flaming metal bird sculpture. I sat in a chair that amplified my heartbeat. And after some time, everything in this temporary existence becomes art, even yourself.
It makes you see the world in a way you've never seen it before. It makes you want to step beyond the role of spectator and become truly engaged and involved. You begin to believe that anything is possible.
I know many leave the playa to find themselves feeling lonely and disassociated. I can understand why. The separation from such intensity can be painful.
Me? When I dream I go back to Burning Man. I find myself surrounded by swirling dust. I can wear what I want, be who I want. And when I wake from my dreams -- day or night -- I cannot help but bring at least a bit of the dust back into the default world.
The lines between Burning Man world and Real Life blur, and that, I think, is exactly how it should be.