A lot of rhetoric gets thrown around about the fundamental philosophy of burning man and regional burns… what it is to be a “burner”… and then a volleying of either post-modernist cynicism, or holier than thou rationalist, or sacred space community, or adherence to principles, or volunteerism intensity focussed, or seniority of burn experience centred interpretations of what that means. “Do you even Burn, bro?”
The Burn? What does it mean? Is it empty and ultimately meaningless in relationship to our broader communities and the world at large? Is it an authentic and intense crucible for growth and learning with transferable lessons? Or is that trip a naiive indigo child or reductionist intellectual projection of fantasy that is best served up scoffs and eye rolls? Is the meaning of our shared time simply pingers and dancing, and if so is that so bad, isn’t that enough? Is the concept of being a burner simply a brand? Burner™? Is the burn not real? Why do we devote so very much of our lives to it? Is it a cult? There are some strong indications in the positive. I feel like the only person I can answer this question for with any kind of authority is myself.
Leash’s burnerTM odyssey
Burning Seed has been a part of my life since we first landed on Bellingen’s lush, bamboo laden and psychedelically wonderful and overwhelming shores back in 2010, but I can’t say it’s really been the most pivotal part at all times or even now. I’ve had a lot of other fucking stuff on.
I’ve been making the very slow chug towards becoming a working scientist in a country with a 26 year low of investment in science as a proportion of GDP and a lot of fucking TV ad money to brag about our “ideas boom”, working to support citizen centric science, building a decent events industry career, helping run a community garden and a small farm over a couple years each, holding space for entheogenic and other progressive “consciousness” movements I both believe in and at times of which I somewhat doubt the honesty.
I’ve been keeping the personal finances afloat, juggling the key priorities of self-care, family, relationships, friendships, grappling with mental health challenges through years of therapy, tricky family trauma, a godforsaken bad back, an autistic mind which I love but often facepalm about in equal measure, sexual awakening pleasures and pangs and generally pressing on towards greater balance, health, authentic relating, individuation and fulfilment, cooking, eating, gardening, writing, dancing.
I’ve been engaging with wonderful mates who send me videos of alpacas or godawful pirate jokes and go for beautiful sculpture garden walks with me and let me play with their kids or rope me into helping them dress an ARIAs performer in a giant fluffy egg, and love and laugh and empathise with me deeply and vice versa in an genuine fashion and help me decide whether or not to date a non-ironic Satanist ninja (beautiful man, I’m a jerk for even bringing this up, but that’s sometimes another big part of me), doing absolutely nothing at all except maybe lying in a hammock or some grass for long periods of time, wandering beautiful and fascinating places and
ideas: the whole spectrum of life-filling things.
This is my small, weird bombastic world. It’s a bit megalomaniac and intense perhaps – but that’s just who I am, I came out like this and make no apologies for it although I push to tweak it and improve it, especially the parts that impact negatively on other people shining their own crazy or quiet and circumspect beacon. Parts need a lot of work, parts I’m really proud of in a fairly sane balance. There are many things in it that have brought me personal meaning in different ways and loads of joy, peace and pain and a life that feels by and large more and more engaged and real. I need some more fucking exercise, cash-flow and sex and less pointless fights but overall it’s going fine and I’m working on that too.
How does “burning” fit into the picture?
Sometimes I scoff at how much Burning Seed fits into the rest of my life. Packing and planning for months, working for hours on end for days mainly in some kitchen or mythological/mystical wank or another, dropping into a cuddle puddle, throwing the odd theatrical tantrum, dressing like marginally more of a festival nutcase than I would every other day of my life, dancing around a fire nude and maybe winding up feeding a grown man dressed like a cat a delicious, nutritiously balanced breakfast with the consistency of cat food in a completely non-ironic manner, aka a fairly typical Leash Burning Seed experience.
But I do it, because I’m a huge martyr, I’m addicted to food praise, I love connecting with new people and wild vivid experience and I probably need to dance more and have more mud wrestles with rascals to balance this kind-of uptight organism out. But mostly because it personally brings me meaning on a real, raw visceral level. I feel compelled to. I do it because I feel like Burning Seed is a part of me that is a bit less rational. I feel an inexplicable sense of belonging, which I can’t logically explain yet and maybe never will.
Why do any of us burn?
For each of us, that meaning we relate to it and gain is to the great extent personal and individual and related to our broader lives and perspectives and community. Much of the time I’m mostly in it for the dancing and pingers. We all live in our own simple and humble or brashly full microcosm of life which is individual and personal, and how we engage with meaning in that is very much up to us and there’s no huge rights and wrongs ultimately aside from “try not to be a dickhead!” and even that one’s highly contested and situational.
It is also importantly a collective space, which brings us something bigger than the sum of our parts riffing together off all of the things that we each individually bring to the table and closer relationships we’ve built at seed over the years and in our broader lives. Many of us pitch in up to the eyeballs, especially many of the old cranks on “Burning Seed Sucks”. Some of us only pitch in a little. One beaut old cheeky seasoned burner simply comes along to dance and be joyful each year and he is so delightful and fun this is unarguably valuable for our community. And let’s not forget Slave, I absolutely never will.
We have a shared set of principles, crews we form based on deeper compatibility of interests and values, and a community that is spinning out from it where we have rich and diverse and individual friendships, relationships, disconnects, etc. just like in any other walk of life that also spin into our regular lives without a perfect overlap but definitely some influence for many of us, positive at its best.
The only thing I feel I can say with some certainty about us as a group Burning Seed shakes us out of our patterns and shells at its best to engage us to relate in a more real, human, authentic way, and throws us into the usual stupidly shadowy and stuck or self-righteous and stuck patterns of humans trying to interact in other ways, but overall is a vivid, real and loving container for fun loving humans, and the sum of whatever meaning we all put into it.
I haven’t got all of the answers of why we are doing this thing, but I love the process of us all figuring this out together and am optimistic we can push this shared inquiry into meaning further. Lots of efforts towards this have always been made, at Town Councils, Red Earth Talks, and online discussion when it doesn’t deteriorate like a self-righteous witch hunt or an episode of Degrassi Burning High.
Only you make Burning Seed meaningful to you, from your own individual take on it or from the values we share. Don’t just take it from the FB air time hoggers like yours truly.
P.S. I fucking love Burning Seed and every single person I have ever met there even if I can’t necessarily always/ever get along with some of you because of the sum of all of our flaws and I totally personally believe we’re maybe helping bring forth a utopian society together one day in spite of ourselves. When I was 4 years old I totally thought I could talk to Jason Donovan in my mind though, so maybe I’m deluded. Anyway, Pollyanna here believes what she believes, and I will always unashamedly be a complete tree wizard.
Also, for more on the philosophy of meaning at Burning Seed, check out:
Or weigh in here at the Burning Seed Philosophy group, started by one of our lead Rangers and Burner™ extraordinaire, Wonka.
*This blog is primarily Leash rattling on from her own perspective only, not as any kind of official comms representative of Burning Seed ?