Over the past few days, photos from people returning from Burning Man have started popping up in my Facebook feed. I looked through a couple of the galleries and noticed myself feeling that strong pull again, touched with the wistfulness of not having gone. YOU MISSED OUT ON A LOT, the photos said.
But then after a bit I noticed something else: Everything about Burning Man looked exactly the same. The camps looked the same. The art looked the same. The people and the clothing they wore looked the same. I saw cars made over into whimsical rolling art. I saw big sculptures with people climbing on them. I saw people in dust masks and people in steampunk and people in pink hot pants. I saw big soundsystems with beautiful people dancing in front of them.
And I don’t mean to disparage any of it, or to suggest that it wasn’t a profound experience for those who went, or even to assert that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. I’m not trying to be arrogant here. What I’m saying, though, is that after the initial sense of OHMYGOD I SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE went away, it became all the more clear that my decision to not go this year was the right one. All of the sameness in those photos said to me that if I want something different out of the Burning Man experience, I need to bring a different me out there.
And while I’m a substantially different me from where I was a year ago, I know I haven’t gone far enough yet. Another year of the process of change, approached with a little attention paid toward returning to the playa: that should do the trick. That’s when a return to Burning Man will make sense.