Walking Through the Mud, No Problem

Rich O’Keeffe
MDI Contributor

EDITOR’S NOTE: Those of us who didn’t attend the annual Burning Man event over Labor Day 2023 may have observed on TV and social media the potential travesty that was 70,000 stranded humans left to die in the ever-expanding mud. Yet, according to at least one man who was present – MDI member and long-time leader Rich O’Keeffe – it was no biggy. Showing once more how someone else’s “barrier” could be another man’s mud pie.

Recently, the annual Burning Man event happened. You probably heard a lot about it from the media. News headlines read “Thousands STRANDED at Burning Man” or “So and so celebrities had to be rescued from Burning Man disaster” or the like.

The truth of the matter was a lot different than the media portrayed it.

As some of you know, I have gone to Burning Man a couple of times including this year. This is not an article about Buning Man – if you want to find out about it, there are thousands of sources easily available on the Internet. Here is my reality around what turned out to be simple weather “issues.”

As background, I previously wrote an article for the magazine about “comebacks.” https://www.mentordiscoverinspire.org/no-comeback-needed-when-embracing-the-moment/ My background philosophy remains the same – there is no “comeback” required when embracing the moment. In my case, I just accepted that there wasn’t a thing I could do about the weather. I hunkered down in my tent and rode it out. Managed to get messages out to the folks who needed to know that I might be stuck for a few days. Did the needful.

In the midst of it though, a fuckton of fun and enjoyment was there to be had – all I had to do was embrace that moment. Hell, there were people creating mud art that was pretty awesome. My camp had an epic party on Sunday night that ended at sunrise on Monday morning – complete with a suite of super talented DJ’s. Almost everyone who just embraced the moment, hunkered down and accepted things had a wonderful experience. Rain and all. In a lot of ways, the weather mess, and being forced to sit tight in my tent with my sweetie, made the Burn the best one I have attended.

Trapped tragedy or a walk through the mud? The giggle at the end says it all.

A few other aspects are worth mention.

There were people who could not, for whatever reason, accept that they were not in control. A famous news item from the weather mess was that Diplo and some other celebrities had to hike out and be picked up. In Diplo’s case, he had a show to do on Saturday night. Lots of people had paid probably good money to see him. He had to do everything in his power to make it if he could. I’d venture to say that he also just embraced the moment. He did the needful. Two of my campmates had tickets to a Beyonce birthday concert in LA on Labor Day. They hiked out, caught a ride and did what they had to do.

Other folks also just did what they thought they had to do – sadly ignoring the “stay in place – don’t drive” instructions. Without getting too much into it, this was an unwise choice. Besides the obvious risks of getting further stuck, they also in many cases caused some damage to the environment that other people had to clean up after. Shitty behavior.

One more – more along the lines of a personal pet peeve. For most of you, the only thing you heard were the media reports of what almost seemed like a humanitarian disaster (It was NEVER that).

I want to encourage you to take the news you read and hear with a grain of skepticism. The media’s job is not to tell you the truth. And it is not to inform you. The media’s job is to get you to watch the media. Which is a big part of why the focus is always on the sensational. And the graphic. And the lurid. There is tons and tons of good stuff going on in the world. For example, most people are not aware that the US has achieved a 20 or percent reduction in fossil fuel emissions since 2005. We are bombarded with climate crisis doom and gloom news, and so rarely do we hear about the good and the progress that we have made.

We hear about acid rain or smog or the like. And how devastating it is. Then we never hear about the results of the work we did. I can go on and on with example after example. Violent crime has decreased steadily over the past few decades (I acknowledge an uptick from the pandemic). Literacy rates around the globe are higher than ever. The War on Poverty has been a massive success in the US. Yes, we still have poverty, only so very much less abject poverty as compared to when we began six decades ago. It all boils down to what perspective you take and how you want to see the world.

The glass is really, truly way more than half full – even when stuck in a tent at Burning Man.

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