Friday, June 27, 2008

What I'm Pondering Today... whether or not I'm gonna go to Burning Man this year. Or ever again.

On my mind because 1. the event is coming up soon, 2. I recently started having a facebook-email conversation with Natasha, a cool healer girl from the scene, about her Burning Man plans and logistics, and 3. the benefits at my job have started to kick in, including a little bit of paid vacation time that has begun to accrue. Which means I could, like, go someplace. Possibly two places! And maybe one of the places could be the Burning Man.

But to be honest, I have a slight problem with the Burning Man (my burner friends all gasp).

What possible "problem" could I have with Burning Man? Well... it's not really a problem with the institution, as much as a personality quirk of mine: I'm not a joiner. I don't like "belonging" to things / groups of people / etc. I don't do family stuff. I don't belong to a religious organization. I dropped out of every school I ever attended. I never formed a rock band. Never participated in the school play, etc. I was in my high school marching band, but in retrospect, despite the many good friends I had in that organization, being in the band, you know, sucked hairy goat balls.

According to a book about human beings I read a little bit of once, people are naturally either extroverts, or introverts. Extroverts make up about 79% of the population and introverts about 21%. Why such a huge difference? Well, assuming there's some genetic component to it, it makes perfect sense. After all, it's much easier for louder, more outward-directed, people-person type people to find each other and hook up for some baby-making, than it is for quiet, inward-directed loners to. So, the vast majority of babies that get made each year end up containing extrovert DNA. Of course, in order for society as we know it to continue, a few introverts must reproduce every once in while, for without inward directed loners, all art forms would be much shittier and there'd be no such thing as Alternating Current.

Extroverts thrive on being around people. They are energized by it. When left alone, they go a little nutty. That's why solitary confinement is considered such an extreme punishment.

Introverts, on the other hand, thrive on and are energized by solitude. Without solitude, we go a little nutty, and can't accomplish very much that's worthwhile. When I'm around lots of people, no matter how awesome cool fun creative and awesome they may be, I feel a bit drained. Not their fault in the slightest. And doesn't stop me from loving them. Just that to me, they're kryptonite, that's all. Just kidding. There's no such thing as kryptonite.

Given that extroversion is the norm (like right-handedness) and introversion is comparatively uncommon (like left-handedness), people who are extroverts don't always even recognize the existence of introverts. Instead, they sometimes think everybody is the same, so... extroverts (the default) and some of us are merely being shy for some temporary reason. Like, maybe we're just not feeling well. This is incorrect. And sort of a nuisance. You'd never ask a left-handed person "Are you okay? Is there anything I could do to help you be more right-handed?"

Of course, there are shy people, and both extroverts and introverts can experience moments of shyness. But people aren't born shy. Some people are born introverts though. Apparently, I am one of those.

Still, I enjoy being social as much as anybody (well, maybe not anybody). I do enjoy parties. I even enjoy throwing parties. But sometimes, I find it good to disappear from them, just for a bit, just to recharge my batteries so I can continue partying more. At Burning Man, that's not a readily available option. Sure, there are vast open areas, but then you hit the fence. And spending a ton of money, and putting forth an immense amount of mental and physical effort to be able to attend a week-long 40,000 person party in the desert, only to spend much of the time wishing you could achieve some solitude, is pretty dumb.

But more than that is the hang up I have about community. The Woody Allen / Groucho joke about not wanting to belong to any club that would have a person like me for a member kind of applies, but more than that is I guess I'm somehow addicted to being an outsider. I don't really know how to loosen up and let myself simply enjoy belonging, even when I do truly value a community and everything it stands for.

Of course, part of the central metaphor of the entire burning man experience is how amazing it can be once you let yourself get outside your comfort zone. Just by BEING there this will automatically be the case for much of the time, due to the sheer desert heat during the day, the severe cold at night, the high winds which produce dust storms so thick you can't see your hand in front of your face and the more-or-less constant noise. But it's really more about getting outside your psychological comfort zone. And Burning Man provides a stunning and immense array of delightfully intense ways to do that too. One of those ways, for me, simply comes from realizing that for better or worse... these ARE my people, this IS my "tribe" so to speak. It just... well, it gives me the willies. So, I guess that's a good thing. ?

Meh. We'll see.

I'm definitely open to being talked into going. Or, you know... try some reverse psychology on me an' shit. Like tell me how much it's gonna suck this year, and how burning man has totally jumped the shark, and how there's no more good art anymore and they're going to prohibit all public nudity and sex, and fire, and biochemicals, and they're thinking of putting up a shopping mall. Black Rock Mall. Oh look honey... there's a Sunglass Hut.

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