It is that time of year when you have to prove your love for Burning Man by obtaining a ticket. On Wednesday, February 18 at 12-noon Pacific Standard Time, I will be sitting at my computer with my finger poised above the buy button. The computer’s clock (which I will have reset through the world atomic clock) will be counting down the seconds. At 11:59:59 my finger will make a dash for the button. Then I will wait. With luck, at some point between one and three hours, I will get on the site. Hopefully there will be tickets left. I am sure that computer geeks, far more geeky than I, have figured out how to hit that button within millionths, if not billionths of a second after 12:00. My poor human pinky doesn’t stand a chance.
And that’s not all. Before I even play Beat the Clock, I will have to preregister to purchase tickets. According to the Burning Man ticket site, I need to do that some time between 12-noon on February 11, and 12-noon on February 14. Apparently, I also have to go online and update my Burning Man profile before I can preregister. Fine.
Assuming I manage to successfully jump through all the hoops Burning Man has created, I will then be given the opportunity to shell out $790 for two tickets and another $50 for parking. Woo hoo. Actually, I don’t mind the price— Burning Man is a bargain for the week of art, entertainment, and experience it provides. And, this year’s theme, The Carnival of Mirrors, sounds intriguing. Here’s what Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man, and Stuart Mangrum, a Burning Man pundit, have to say about it.
This year’s theme is about mirrors and masks, mazes and merger. It will be a kind of magic show that takes the form of an old-fashioned carnival. This Carnival of Mirrors asks three essential questions. Within our media-saturated world, where products and people, consumption and communion morph into an endlessly diverting spectacle, 1) who is the trickster, 2) who is being tricked, and 3) how might we discover who we really are?
Here’s a thought, Larry. Burning Man is always about mirrors and masks and mazes. I suspect that plenty of merging goes on as well, by whatever name you want to call it. But I am a sucker for carnivals: any size, any type, anywhere. As for trickster… he’s one of my all time favorite characters, right up there with clowns, jesters and fools. We are talking crazy wisdom here folks, the type that you get when a Zen master whacks you on the side of the head, or you spend too much time watching old Groucho Marx reruns, or you try to understand modern physics.
One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know. The tusks were really stuck, so I went to Alabama where Tuscaloosa. –Groucho Marx
We all agree that your theory is crazy, but is it crazy enough? –A discussion between the physicists Niels Bohr and Wolfgang Pauli
I am reminded of the old adage, “Life’s a circus; enjoy the show.” Burning Man definitely meets the circus criteria, but the event adds a twist: roll up your sleeves and join the show. So while I expect to find fortune tellers, magicians, games of chance and possibly a burlesque show or two in the midway set up at the base of the Man, I know I will be called upon to entertain as well as be entertained. But no, you won’t see me naked, or twirling fire, or even more scary, twirling fire and naked.
Of course there will be a maze at the heart of the carnival; it’s Burning Man and there is always a maze somewhere. A funhouse of mirrors and masks will be set up where Burners will be challenged to explore their various personalities. Will I find the real me? (If I haven’t done so by my age— hmmm, doubtful.) And what’s at the end of the maze? “…a final passage will reveal a courtyard that surrounds the Burning Man. Photo booths will here record the faces of participants, merging them into a swirling stream that will envelop the entire body of the Man.”
How can I resist? My finger is poised.