Insight For The Modern Man

Dylan Stewart
Columnist

b5_dylanswriter

Every year as the calendar turns to August, my thoughts turn to the desert. The Nevada desert. Where an uninhabitable dried lake-bed becomes the second most populated city in Nevada … but only for two weeks.

The event is Burning Man, an experiment in temporary community in which 80,000 people participate. They bring art, neon, music, RVs, tents, costumes, and lots of hopes and dreams.

This year was my third year, and when the inevitable question of “how was your burn?” comes around, the best I can say is that it was a perfect mix of the brutal and the beautiful. A cross between awesome and awful … and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Many people think of Burning Man as a hedonistic, drug-fueled orgy. And I’m sure for some it is that. But I wish everyone could see it as I see it.

To me, Burning Man is something else. An opportunity to discover who I truly am, at my best and at my worst. A place where I can explore myself without the confines of modern society, without its rules and judgments, without its preconceived structures and belief systems.

  • Who would you be if you knew you would not be judged?
  • What would you do if you knew anything was possible?
  • How would you spend your time if your calendar was completely your own?

It is an amazing and difficult to comprehend opportunity. And it does not come without its costs.

Financial costs are only part of the picture. There is the cost of time and energy. The cost of wear and tear on your body and psyche. The environment can be difficult to say the least with skin-searing heat mixed with bone-chilling cold. The winds can kick up at any time, sending blinding dust storms and white-outs whipping unforgivingly across the landscape.

And then there’s the dust. Lots and lots of dust. Dust that is finer and more omnipresent than you can imagine. Dust everywhere … that gets into absolutely everything.

So why? Why go through all of it? Is it worth it? Isn’t there an easier way to discover who you truly are?

I’m sure there is, but for me it is one of the greatest teachers I have ever known.

You see, I consider myself to be a conscious being of death and rebirth. A phoenix, living a life of growth and change, consumed by fire only to rise again from my own ashes, cleansed and ready to grow and change once again.

And as I left the world I knew behind to start my exodus to the playa this year, I really needed to be reborn. To take stock of the choices I had made this year. The bridges I had burned. The challenges I had created and fueled.

It had been a rough and messy year, which included:

  • A foolish decision to drink at a non-alcohol event
  • A friendship or two left in shambles by my own actions or non-actions
  • A rift between myself and the men’s organization I had spent 15 years
  • The implosion of the men’s team I had been leading
  • Disappointed clients
  • Frustrated family members
  • My own less than favorable opinion of the man I had become

It was time for something to change.

So thank God for the burn. An opportunity to look at it all, take in the lessons, consider my actions, and reinvent myself yet again.

And it began with the lessons I needed to learn, the lessons that had caused many of the issues at home, the lessons at the core of everything that I was at odds with in my own head.

And they were all thrown right in my face.

I had to look at them. Stare them down. Meet them in the field of my own self-consciousness day after day, night after night.

And even now, almost a month after returning from Burning Man, those lessons still reverberate. They still echo through my life and my choices. I am still burning. Cleansing. Changing. Becoming the next version of me.

Why do I burn? Because I have no choice but to grow and change. To die and be reborn. To explore and discover my greatest self. A self that is hidden and obscured under layer after layer of masks and mistakes … layers of actions and ashes … and layers of dust. Lots of dust.

Under it all and after it all, I will reveal my true self. And I can’t wait to meet him.

Burn baby burn.