The tranquility crucible 23 August 2010

All things are equally absurd and profound. I find that the more I examine life, such as we know it, the more this proves itself. And in no place is this more vividly, violently true than in the Black Rock Desert at the close of summer every year.

“What is Burning Man?” This is a very simple question that is surprisingly difficult to answer. There doesn’t seem to be an applicable noun – “festival” is as useful a word as “geological feature” is to the Grand Canyon – and mere language seems to lack sufficient adjectives or adverbs. And much like with the Grand Canyon, the sheer scale of it is difficult to express.

The Event, as it tends to be called, is a place so interesting that it can be traumatic. It is like being locked in a room with Robin Williams on coke for a week. Sure, the initial experience is simply amazing but after a couple hours you wonder if you can keep up the laughter, and eventually you may find yourself begging for a break. Days into it you need to have punched through some sort of mental wall simply to deal with it.

Burning Man is like that. It is like being ceaselessly bludgeoned by beauty and wonder until you cry. At high speeds and intense temperatures the brutal and the whimsical collide and become an alloy and you are folded into it. Spend long enough immersed in this pulsing world of the impossible and suspension of disbelief becomes a permanent, involuntary state. Magic is accepted as truth, and vice versa. It is Alice in Wonderland, scripted by Kubrick, directed by Gilliam, scored by Hawtin.

It is a cauldron of raw, primitive motives; of unrelenting awe; of immediacy to the point of synesthesia; of happiness to the point of despair.

– ~ –

There is a word: fey. In modern usage it tends to mean insubstantial or without character, but it derives from a word that once described the strange peaceful calm that comes over a person when they know they are about to die.

There is a certain fey quality that comes over people in this situation. It’s not giving up the fight, it’s letting the fight wash through you.

This, then, is the tranquility crucible: a place where all things absurd and profound are forged into you until you find peace with all that you are.