Burning Man effigy

I knew there was a problem when the head of site services presented me with an invoice for 30 toilet doors. Before that, I was too stressed to wonder what the small bonfires in the distance might be made of. It was the 1980s – the Monsters of Rock festival – and the punters were cold and angry.

Festivals were different in the old days. It was difficult to convince people to buy tickets in advance. On the other hand, it was difficult to contract the services of any supplier without a deposit and almost impossible to get any rock and roll band to commit without their entire fee up front.

This led to a white knuckle ride for the promoter who would spend the months leading up to the festival engaged in a variety of methods for stress reduction – meditation, long walks… LOL! Of course I mean, heroic quantities of cocaine, tequila worms and indiscriminate shouting.

The rock and roll industry was full of tales of shysters, charlatans and shenanigans.

There was very little trust.

And then of course there was the ACT OF GOD aka THE WEATHER. Rain practically guaranteed a financial disaster, as the all important “walk up” failed to materialize.

Things are different now. Festivals sell out before a bill has even been thought about. There is TRUST GALORE. People go because they want to be part of an experience. They bring the spirit of the festival with them. These ‘gatherings’ have become something of a phenomenon. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the way most of us conduct our lives in the digital era. We miss REAL THINGS. Close contact with like minded humans.

We know technology is clever and impressive but we want to FEEL things now.

This new spirit is exemplified at Burning Man  which kicks off this week in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. It’s not so much a festival as a tribal gathering of people who want to create a different way of life, dedicated to art, self-expression and self-reliance. Tired of the fear filled, ‘rule’ dominated societies we now live in, they want to demonstrate what a highly principled, totally connected community could look like.

It is mind blowingly creative.

Rather than working for the Man, or giving him the finger (the lame gesture of the ‘80s punk) they want to burn him.

Rather than a financial exchange whereby the audience part with increasingly large amounts of cash to buy the products or services on offer, there is a bartering system in place. Trade a hat for a bicycle pump, a massage for a feathered headdress; Food for shelter. You can virtually guarantee the food won’t have been modified by Monsanto and the shelter will probably resemble something you built out of Meccano, Lego or egg cartons when you were 8 years old…. The last time you were truly creative.

Burning - parade

There are no vending machines.

You’re in the desert, miles from the ‘real’ world (Ha! let’s scotch THAT projection) having a direct experience of BEING…  Joy!!

It being August, it’s the holiday season – a time to catch up on things you didn’t do at the time because you were too busy. Like movies. Which brings me neatly to Prometheus.

How bad? How expensive? How much of a waste of two hours of your life? And they already have the budget signed off to make the sequel. People say it’s the theme that’s all compelling and zeitgeisty. In the digital age, we are desperate for meaning, for answers to the BIG QUESTIONS. Who are we? Where did we come from? Which direction are we heading in? Is there a God?

The problem with big questions is they need a higher state of consciousness to process the answers. We imagine the future through a lens of the past, only more so.  Science fiction is usually the past multiplied by technology and money. Prometheus is no exception. Fighting (with better weapons), sex (cyber) and fear (slithering serpents…oh please can we move on from Adam and Eve already?)

There are people living in the Pacific islands who still think God is a white man.

Tinned spam took on a whole new meaning.

cargo cult

This is because in the Second World War, Cargo planes landed there, bringing supplies to the American troups. You can imagine the confusion to a race of people who had never seen a ‘flying machine’ and furthermore had never seen such an enormous array of food items (that seemingly did not perish!).

Now, many years later, these tribal people have constructed their own aeroplane effigies and ‘landing strips’ made of pebbles and small fires. They keep a vigil, ensuring these fires keep burning, in the hope that one day the Gods will come back and gift THEM with this other worldly abundance.

It’s heartbreakingly sad that they are worshipping the wrong God.

But then so are we.

The God of STUFF.

The original story of Prometheus is a Greek legend. Prometheus, feeling sorry for the limited conditions under which humans were living (cold, residing in dark caves and eating raw meat) gave them the gift of fire – which he stole from the Gods. Now the humans could keep warm in the winter, barbecue their food in the summer and paint the cave walls, way past their bedtime.

The world of humans changed in a very big way.

We are at that point in history AGAIN.

Only this time the rules are different.

The gift we are missing is creativity.

And far from waiting to receive it from the Gods, we have to realize that it is inside us and ‘the Gods’ are waiting to receive it from us.

It’s a crazy paradox. We are the Gods we have been waiting for. We have the power to change this crazy world we’ve co-created. But it takes all of us to wake up, leave the safety zone of our computer screens, discover our gifts, and give them to a hungry world.

There’s no shortage of food. (though ‘The Man’ refuses to distribute it).

There’s just a shortage of creativity Burning END

And creativity isn’t something you GET.

It’s something you FEEL.

There’s no shortage of money.

Again, just a crazy distribution system ($150 million for Prometheus and pocket change for live theatre or

performance art)

Get out more. Support live theatre. Create tribal gatherings.

Find what you love.

Fan the flames.

Feel the burn.

Then we can all collectively…

Burn the Man.