Burning Man 2009

So I got my tickets for Burning Man today. My knowledge of what goes on is sort of shady. The recommendation that stands out the most in my mind is the description I got from a Burner in DC.

“Imagine that you wake up and you ask yourself, ‘What do I most want to do today?’ Then you do that. That is Burning Man.”

Everyone comes to Burning Man with creations of various sorts directed by a central theme. The theme for 2009 is right down my alley: the evolution of man.

The human species, Homo sapiens, has existed for approximately 200,000 years. The genus known as homo has a lineage stretching back two million years. Homo erectus, the first human ancestor to walk upright, and Homo habilis, the toolmaker, are among our relatives. We are a bud belonging to a twig of this ancestral tree.

The process of trial and error that has made this possible is called Natural Selection. Genetically encoded traits that aid survival tend to spread throughout entire populations. Living entities that bear these genes endure and reproduce, but maladaptive traits are not passed on. This causes species to evolve to better fit the world in which they live. However, this rigorous weeding out of ‘unfit’ individuals has gradually ceased to occur within our species. Medicine and mutual aid assure that nearly anyone is able to survive and reproduce. Now adrift in our own gene pool, we have encountered a new phase of evolution. We’ve become a conscious breed of culture-bearing animals. Black Rock City is a kind of Petri dish, and Burning Man is an experiment in generating culture. We’ve learned that culture’s a spontaneous phenomenon. It thrives as a result of numberless and unplanned interactions. All that’s really needed is a fitting social vessel to sustain it. This happens best within communities that harbor many different modes of self-expression. We’ve also learned that cultures effloresce when human beings feel free to offer up their gifts.

Our theme this year prompts three related questions: What are we as human beings, where have we come from, and how may we adapt to meet an ever-changing world?

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