A blog by Virgin Burner Mariska
I’m having dinner with my dear friends Robin and Thijs. While making his famous salmon dish, Robin keeps an eye on his computer. ‘The ticket sale for Where the Sheep Sleep started today’, he tells me. I know a bit about his passion for Burning Man and his involvement with the Dutch version.
With sparkles in his eyes he talks about the upcoming event at the Veluwe and I’m getting enthusiastic too. ‘I never thought it was something for you though’, he says with his familiar raised eyebrow. I shrug. Then dinner is ready and the tales of Burning Man have to make way for a lovely meal and other gossip.
A few days later I’m in London for a short getaway with a friend. After a day of sightseeing I get to the hotel and tumble in my bed, tired as hell.
It’s an app from Robin. ‘I’ve got you a ticket for Where The Sheep Sleep.’ I sit up straight again. Wait, what? I’m not sure if I have to be excited, happy, scared, or surprised. So I type: ‘Really?! Wow! That’s… oh wow, yay!’
‘I’m going to the Dutch version of Burning Man’, I tell my friend at breakfast. She looks at me for a moment, puzzled, before bursting into laughter. ‘You? Really? But you never visited a festival in your life! You hate big crowds, don’t like trance, house or any loud EDM for that matter, you don’t drink, smoke and you’re even reluctant to take an aspirin, let alone taking something else to enhance fun’.
Well, thank you for that summary. Damn.
‘So? Maybe it’s time to get out of my comfort zone.’
My friend doesn’t look convinced. ‘Okay, I get that. But why don’t you start with something less complicated, like Lowlands or something?’
I don’t like to be underestimated.
When I’m back in Amsterdam I meet up with Robin and ask him everything about Burning Man and Where The Sheep Sleep. He tells me about the ten principles, the guidelines for all burners, about gifting, decommodification and the spectacular theme camp he and Thijs are setting up. His passion is irresistible. I tell him about my insecurity if this is really something for me, as he pointed out in our first conversation. He smiles and says; ‘You’ll just have to figure that out yourself.’
He’s right. I may be a virgin burner, but I promise myself to give this an honest chance. Despite the voice inside my head that keeps getting louder: ‘Are you really sure about this?’ Oh, shut up you boring comfort zone. This is my year of YES, of trying new things, about creativity, pushing boundaries and getting to know this eclectic, exciting community of remarkable people.
I read all the blogs, news items and long articles I can find about Burning Man. I spell out the ten principles, watch videos and browse through beautiful and breath taking pictures. I’m in awe.
It seems to me that Burning Man and Where The Sheep Sleep, are events where you can show the real you, where you can release your soul in its pure form without prejudice. You’ll meet kindred spirits, a community who is willing to give love, appreciation, inspiration, creativity or just simple fun, without expecting anything in return.
It’s a bit overwhelming. No. It’s terrifying.
Like my friend in London pointed out so eloquently: I’m not the festival type (Oh, let’s face it. I’m not the party type in general; I don’t even celebrate my own birthday). I’m your typical observant. That’s why I write. That’s why I take photographs, rather than be in front of a camera. This part of my being will get me in trouble with one of the principles. Deeply personal participation is something that scares the shit out of me. That, and the possible absence of showers.
By now the voice in my head has reached foghorn volume. ‘Are you really sure about this?
I call Robin, again. He listens to my panic attack and tells me this: what you see of Burning Man and WTSS is the photogenic, the loud, the extravert, the people who love to run around in pink tutus with led-lights. But there are so many others, who just lean back, watch it unfold, as they participate in something smaller, less visible. And that’s okay too! You decide what Burning Man is, for you. It’s not a contest. There is no way to do this right or wrong. WTSS is a place where there’s an audience for everyone and everything: whether you gift free expression in a tutu, or in a personal quiet conversation, or in a storytelling session. Everybody’s presence has the same impact and valued contribution.
So, there I go. Like Alice in Wonderland, I’ll just have to say that I knew who I was a before I said YES to this. But I’ve changed a few times since then.
I’ll make it my burn.