Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be

Participating, as opposed to standing around gawking, is valued here, so as I planned this trip I sought out a place where I could contribute to make the magic happen. It’s Monday morning. The dust is resting and the sky is blue here at Burning Man and I’m off for my first shift as an assistant stage manager for the Center Cafe.

I like the idea of this stage, where only original material is performed twenty-four hours a day. Years of writing self-published science fiction has left me with a huge soft spot for artists of all types who summon up their inner muse and then unveil those fragile creations in front of a potentially hostile world.

When I arrive, I find a universe that is gentler and more accepting than I hoped. Staff and performers hug, compliment and encourage. Some acts are polished and great fun to watch. Others are raw creations, not ready for prime time elsewhere. Yet, they are cheered on by this coffee-sipping audience that seems to understand the fragility of nascent artistry .

I receive quick and generous praise from everyone for being a warm, helpful and happy human. How odd. Is this worthy of praise?

Then it occurs to me. Back in the default world, I often work at being less helpful than I want to be. Less warm, less encouraging. I make an effort to smile less. I’ve had decades of signals from others that my natural behavior is at best odd and at worst downright annoying.

Here? I’m not doing that. And they seem to like it. A lot. Wow.

After four joy-filled hours of finding kind words for everyone that crosses my path, I’m high as a kite. I’m being myself and it is more fun than I’ve had in a long while.

Burning Man is considered by many who don’t know much about it to be a yearly drunken and drugged-out Bacchanalia involving sex, nudity and general bad behavior. Yes, I suppose there is some of that, though I’ve encountered little to none.  Camp mates tell me most of the hard partying I’ve heard of will happen late in week when non-participants pour in. The little that is happening now? You really have to go looking to find it.

Thanks to people I’m close to, I already know of other sides to this event. There is the self-reliance of erecting what is essentially a tent city for 80,000 in a place where the alkaline soil is so damaging that there is zero plant and animal life. That’s right: no cacti, no lichen, no ants, no scorpions, no bugs. Nothing lives here, except for a lone type of microbe in the soil. And 80,000 people for one week every year.

There is also a sense of community. We help each other; we give gifts of words, actions and things. As I leave the Center Cafe I wander around, stumbling on the sizable AA area set up to encourage burners who need to avoid altered states. I stop at the mobility camp, providing aid to burners likely to find life here even more challenging.

I can see the temple in the distance. Each year it is designed by a different artist. Over the course of the week it will be filled with notes and photos and memorabilia from those who have died this past year, along with musings and memories that are meaningful to this year’s participants. Sunday night, after the man has burned and the weekend crowds are gone, the temple will be set aflame. I’m already fascinated by this and I pause outside the tent of the temple guardians. Maybe one year that will be me ….

I climb a platform to look over this rapidly growing tent city. I found it a little presumptuous when I entered on Saturday and was given the traditional greeting for this event. Welcome home.

This isn’t my home, I thought then. But now, I can see how in some way it just might be.

Today’s rule of the road? It is a bad idea to pretend to be meaner or more miserable than you are, just to make meaner and more miserable people like you.

Today’s song? I had a few ideas for this one, but I finally settled on Jewel performing with a live orchestra. Give this video a few seconds, she does appear and I’ll think you enjoy what you see.

 

 

 

 

Jump for Joy

Click to visit Jump for Joy

Click to visit Jump for Joy

When I started blogging to promote my books, I had no idea the extent to which entering the world of bloggers would be its own reward. There is a joy to keeping a journal, and a feeling of accomplishment in working to make it interesting, well-written and attractive to others. Better than that, though, is that when random people like a post of yours, you look at their blog. And so many times you discover something wonderful.

I’ve been using the phrase “dance for joy” as a tag line for my novel y1. One of the main characters is a fire dancer from Kiribati and the story itself centers around the human need to seek joy in one’s own life. But jumping for joy is close, so when I came across a blog called Jump for Joy I had to check it out. Wow. It is a photo project “Showcasing the beauty of the human spirit — in mid-air — around the world”.

If looking through these beautiful photos of all kinds of people everywhere leaping into the air doesn’t make you smile all the way down to your bones, I don’t what will. Visit them and enjoy!

 

The look of joy ….

What does joy look like? Jumping (for joy) and dancing (for joy) seem to be the most common images. Here is one of my favorite from the Viva Institute.

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Click to visit the Viva Institute website

Photography works too, and here is another sure to make you smile. It comes from Oprah’s blog.

Click to read 21 Rules for Everyday Senseless Joy by Leigh Newman

Click for 21 Rules for Everyday Senseless Joy by Leigh Newman

But perhaps humor works best of all. This image doesn’t involve leaping, but it filled me with joy all the same. 🙂

Click to visit American Kabuki

Click to visit American Kabuki

For images of hope shown on my z2 blog, click here. For images of peace shown on my x0 blog click here.