TravelDo I Have to Go to Burning Man?
It’s Do I Have To? Practical advice for skeptical adults with burning questions.
Do I have to go to Burning Man? Everyone I know seems to have gone this year. Just wondering.
I am so glad you wrote to me, because I have not been to Burning Man, so I feel particularly equipped to take this voyage with you. It does feel like everyone and their favorite accessible celebrity is there.
I’m generally of the attitude to: Try things. Traveling is crucial for building your Weltanschauung. That's worldview in German, which you would know if you got out of the goddamn contiguous United States. Not really, actually—you would mostly know that if you were a word dork. Anyway, you've got to see different vistas and experience unfamiliar iterations of communities. There are so many places.
Because I have not participated in this particular dustbowl cosplay, I cannot report on the experience. I’ve read about it, obviously, and it seems like a Ginsberg poem incarnate, minus the propulsive mastery of language (sculptural art; tech moguls; models bartering in a wasteland; implicit drugs). A lot of what people say about it is that it's changed. People who loved it at one point are now upset that it’s fashionable. That's what I hear about everything I’ve ever heard of—bands, bars, Oreos, cities—everything has changed and everyone who used to love it doesn’t anymore. I think this attitude is about people's fear of the passing of time, but who is to know.
Because of the brief nature of your question, it seems like you don't have a huge enthusiasm about it, given what you know. You’re wondering if you should go because it’s there. It’s like that answer about why to climb Everest: “Because it’s there.” This guy George Mallory said that about wanting to climb Everest. He tried three times. A lot of people died. He died. I think that climbing Everest—cold poop mountain—is grossly irresponsible. It's chill to consider the ecological reverberations of your adventures. Anyway, answering the question “why” with the answer “because it’s there” is so indiscriminate it bums me out. Everything is there! If you look at the world like this—I gotta go to Ottawa because it's there!—the whole world is filled with overwhelming and dizzying possibilities that are all without a center and a purpose.
Anyway, here’s some perspective on desert tourism from The Awl by Rachel Monroe, who reported from Texas with her theory that “people are coming to the desert not in spite of, but because of, its approximation of apocalypse. Maybe it’s [an] attempt at inoculation, or a kind of masochism. Or maybe we just want to look at what we’ve done.” The world is getting hot and distraught, and maybe people want an experiment in trying out what it’s like to live in the apocalypse before it happens. Just a thought!
So you've got some time and resources to travel, though both are finite unless you are a billionaire cyborg, and then I'm positive you are currently at Burning Man and wasting my time with this question. So figure out what different environment is the most enticing to you. Do you think that you need amateur art in your life? The freedom from the clutches of your personality that is released by a costume party? A break from the suffocating luxury of having money? A place where people share umbrellas peacefully? That sounds like Burning Man. If your list includes other things, like trees or solitude or well-organized urban centers, there are other pastures for you.
Are you skeptical about whether you have to do something? Send your leading questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. It’s a weekly thing!