Home > Uncategorized > It’s made of people, Charlie Brown!

It’s made of people, Charlie Brown!

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I was watching the Bourbon Street webcam on Mardi Gras night, and the screen was filled with people walking back and forth on the street, ignoring each other. They seemed to be walking around and looking- for the party, for entertainment, for SOMETHING.

This reminded me of my first year or two at Burning Man, and how I just didn’t GET IT. I’d wander around looking for I-didn’t-know-what, trying to figure out what it was that made people have such a good time there. I felt isolated, I felt silly that I wasn’t getting it. It didn’t help that I was extraordinarily shy.

I finally came to realize something that felt incredibly simple, like I was stupid for not realizing it sooner.  Burning Man (and by extension, all parties or participatory events) is made of people. By people, for people, and if you’re not making an effort to interact with other people you’re probably not going to enjoy it.

Those people walking up and down Bourbon Street, looking for something to entertain themselves? They could BE that something if they’d only interact with others somehow. It’s up to us to interact. It’s the difference between wandering an event & feeling incredibly isolated in a sea of people, and having a blast. I think we’re so used to spectating, being passively entertained, that  a lot of the art of engaging with strangers is being lost. Which means a loss of connection, which leads to that feeling of ‘loneliest in a crowd’.

You know why everyone is lonely? Because they’re ignoring each other. They’re seeing the crowd as one entity, rather than comprised of individual people (and therefore, individual opportunities to interact).

When I started Greeting at Burning Man (for those of you not familiar, Greeters are people stationed right inside the event entrance who provide hugs, information and an optional bell-ringing celebration for Newbies to the event…but mainly HUGS!) I finally had a purpose, an excuse to interact with people. This was super helpful to me, as a shy person. Having a role to play – and the freedom to express myself within that role – meant that I had a reason to talk to HUNDREDS of people over a 4 hour Greeter shift. (And get a LOT of hugs).  It was intoxicating. I finally got it.

It feels so strange to even write about this, like it’s kindergarten-level stuff. “Events are made of people.” No shit, Sherlock, you know? But I went to Burning Man for a year or two, wondering why I wasn’t having fun and why I was feeling so isolated, before it occurred to me that I had to TALK TO PEOPLE. People made the art. People were hanging out in their camps. People were running events. People were standing around and doing stuff and playing games and making grilled cheese sandwiches. Everyone has a story. Everyone has something to learn from. Burning Man is not just a vast nebulous event, it’s ~50,000 individual people Doing Things. And they want people to come play, too.

Wandering around expecting to be entertained, to have someone come to me and engage, to have the event somehow reach out and affect me…a recipe for a lonely time. It’s up to me to dive in. It’s up to me to say hi, to wander over, to offer a hug, to play with the art, to participate in the events. No one is going to do it for me.

No one’s going to do it for you, either.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 18, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Fantastic!!! “Events are made of people.” Bravo.

  2. Hunnydu
    February 18, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I dig it. Now if I could workon my mysanthropic tendencies…

  3. February 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    All true, but the flip side is that some people you just don’t want to interact with. I’m reminded of a guy I talked to at Burning Man who had a mister and electric fan, and was giving away cool mist treatments. All very nice and participatory, but I noticed that when he gave them to women he made a point of pointing his nozzle up their skirts in a way that would have made me slap him.

    One of the most enlightening aspects of being a (totally hot) crossdresser is I get exposed to the sort of reaction one gets when one is objectified into a presentation of something that other people want. It’s made me realize how incredibly skanky guys can be, and also brought me closer to women, because they know I know what it’s like to have skanky guys comin’ on to you all the time. Somewhere like Burning Man, or Mardi Gras, I think you have to be extra careful because a lot of people there don’t get that “anything goes” does NOT mean “ANYTHING goes.”

    I suppose the key is structure…when you’re a greeter or something like that, there are implicit ground rules so you don’t have to worry about the other person violating boundaries. And it’s a gender thing…generally guys have agendae more than women do. It’s a sad but true thing, that a lot of times if you put walls up, it’s to keep the assholes from coming in. But I agree with your basic point, that you need to make sure they don’t keep EVERYONE out. Just the assholes.

    • Brody
      February 18, 2010 at 5:49 pm

      Yeah Mikey, the key is definitely structure. That’s why I like hugs. It’s simple, it’s nonsexual, it doesn’t imply anything. (Well, to some guys ANY attention implies something, but a quick word otherwise usually suffices).

      There are some people I don’t want to interact with for more than a few seconds, sure, but even the creepy dudes don’t get much skeeve on you if you’re just saying “hey, how are ya, enjoying your burn?” or something to that effect.

      I guess I’m just trying to make more a point about interaction in GENERAL being a positive and useful thing. Sure it might come with some unwanted kinds of interaction, but better that (and a firm NO) than no interaction at all.

  4. This Woman
    July 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Brilliant. Sometimes its the simplist things we forget.

  1. February 25, 2010 at 11:17 am

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