Camps at Burning Man range from miniscule (mine this year) to well over a hundred participants. Camp Mystic fits the latter category. Its founders made their first journey out to the Black Rock Desert in 1998, six years before I did, and have been returning ever since. I always make a point of visiting the camp to check out its other-worldly art. I am never disappointed.
This year, I also went on the camp’s website. If you would like to gain an insight into how the larger camps function at Burning Man, you might want to visit http://campmystic.org. Take some time and peruse through the different categories.
Camps in Black Rock City perform a dual function. The most important is to serve as a home for their members. They provide a supportive community with common values and friends to share the Burning Man experience with. Part of the support is help with logistics. A camping location (usually with structures to provide shelter), food, power supplies, and bathing facilities are fairly common. Participants are expected to help cover common costs, and, even more importantly, to share in the chores. Burning Man is a participatory experience. Some, like Camp Mystic, even hope to give their members a transformative experience. Here’s what the theme camp has to say about itself.
We are a medley of creative talent and energy. Inspired by a sense of mystery and wonder, we perceive the consciousness of “We Are All One.” Mystics encourage the enigmatic spirit to explore a deeper connection, not only on this planet and all that exists within, but the realm of the entire Universe. Camp Mystic is an ongoing experiment in the power of friendship, love, artistic expression, commitment, and exploration into the farthest reaches of human development and beyond.
Reminds me of my youth in the 60s and 70s— “It is the dawning of the age of Aquarius.” Remember that song by the 5th Dimension? “Let the sunshine in.” Parts of my soul still exist in that time warp, back when magic was real, back before the wars and politics and greed and fanaticism of the last 50 years created the malaise and cynicism that exists today. I suspect that the magic still exists for members of Camp Mystic, and hopefully it is being reborn into today’s younger generations. That’s a good thing. We need all we can get.
The second major function of large camps, and most small camps, is to give back to the community. This is done by contributing and supporting art, offering workshops, providing drinks and food, and hosting events— a dance venue with large speakers and top DJs, for example , or a bunny parade. The number of things that people contribute is limited only by their imaginations. When I was there three years ago, I came across a peanut butter and jelly bar. It was filled with several types of bread, jelly and peanut butter. You were free to make your own sandwiches. The KFC Camp from Kentucky close by was offering fried baloney sandwiches and a shot of bourbon for breakfast. Woohoo!
I stopped in front of a large sign at Camp Mystic that listed the events and workshops taking place at the camp. As you can see from the photo, there were a bunch. I also took a close up to provide a perspective on the variety. For example, you could participate in an immersive light and sound experience that was reportedly similar in nature to taking DMT, a drug found in many plants that leads to a short, but intense, psychedelic experience where you might encounter anything from geometric forms, to aliens, to elves, to God.
Much of the art of Mystic Camp seemed to reflect what a DMT experience might be like. Other paintings featured our close association with nature, a vision of the future connection between humans and machines, and mystical contacts between men and women. There was also some fine ceramic work.
If you would like to learn more about the art and artists of Camp Mystic, go to the Camp Mystic site listed above and click on Art and Performance.
Continuing to read down the list of events and lectures offered by the camp, I found that I could participate in workshops on “What the Heck is Leadership,” and “Humankind, Where Do We Go from Here.” The leadership course was offered by Jason Gore who works as a coach for CEO’s who have start-up businesses. It was a practical, hands-on lecture where people could learn communication and organizational skills critical to leadership and included some of the same skills used by Burners in developing their camps. I’ve mentioned before that Google is one of the companies that considers Burning Man a valuable experience for its employees.
Henk Rogers’ course on Humankind was a bit more ambitious. He was discussing topics like how to eliminate our dependence on carbon based fuels and how to end war. He was also interested in how the Universe might end and what we could do about it. (Burning Man has never been shy about its desire to change the world.)
I was amused to find that there would be “Critical Tit Adornment” for the Mystic Camp women who would be riding in the Critical Tit Parade. Neither I nor the public was invited. The parade is an annual event where several hundred women go on a topless bike ride through Black Rock City. I’ve watched a few; the participants obviously have a lot of fun and part of the experience is to have their breasts painted and/or adorned with pasties and even tassels.
I’ll conclude with a couple more shots I took around the camp.
NEXT BLOG: I will continue my exploration of Playa where we visit a pyramid made out of 100,000 Gummy Bears and a 40-foot tall flamingo, along with aliens and several other art works. It’s possible that we will even be able to answer whether the chicken or the egg came first.