Open letter to all wheeled burners who visited our camp and went up in our elevator - THANK YOU!!!!!
Thank you for providing me personally, and I feel comfortable saying, everyone in our camp, a tremendous, moving and lasting gift at Burning Man this year. I'm referring to using our Hotel's elevator to bring disabled (or injured) Burners up to our viewing platform 40 feet up to enjoy the panoramic view of our magnificent metropolis. This was an unexpected, unplanned yet transformational act that grew organically out of our camp and is so emblematic of the magic that happens at Burning Man. I feel it also is a powerful revelation of what gifting and contributing at Burning Man is about.
For me personally, this year was the climax and culmination of what I've wanted to achieve at BM since I started going 10 years ago - I can't make giant sculptures or fire pieces, so by 2005 I wanted to be part of a camp that was a real contribution to BM. That was why my wife and I joined the Mystikal Misfits camp and helped turn it into a large, organized endeavor, with an intentional contribution to Black Rock City.
(((As a side note, I made it my project to make sure we had a bar so that our beautiful space would become a gathering place for our community on the Playa. Back in 2003 I was out on the Playa dying from the heat and thirst, and was frustrated to find no place of refuge with cool shade, good company, good music, and icy cocktails to refresh and revive. We have been offering that for several years now, and it's very clear that it's something that a lot of people need. See a niche and fill it! Black Rock City is truly a DIY culture.)))
Then in 2010, without it being planned, we found ourselves all week long offering a real gift and a contribution to Burning Man that actually met a significant and specific need for people at Burning Man. A place and a means for wheeled Burners (or anyone really who is physically unable to climb) to comfortably and safely enjoy a panoramic view of Black Rock City. It was something that had never even occurred to me in 10 years, but now seems obvious. To me, being able to see the City, the physical presence of all that human creativity and passion and community, laid out before you is a big part of realizing and enjoying Burning Man. We did it - we made this City.
A wheeled burner and Ranged named Roadblock and a group of Rangers were just passing by our camp on Sunday shortly after we had the elevator totally checked and running and ready for use. One of us spotted the Rangers and spontaneously invited them to come in and go up in the elevator. Roadblock was the first person in a wheelchair that rode up the elevator to the viewing platform. I was one of the lucky 10 or so camp mates that happened to be there at that happy moment, as we were all really feeling good and happy to be back at Burning Man and almost done making the camp ready. Then it dawned on all of us simultaneously what we had here.
One of our camp mates boogied over to the Department of Mobility and asked them to spread the word around that we had an elevator and could take people up to a high viewing platform, who were in wheelchairs, on crutches, or otherwise unable to climb up stairs or structures. All week long at least 5 times a day, we had people going up and enjoying the view. Every one of them told us their story as we went up the elevator shaft slowly and steadily. And it brought each of us to tears every single time how happy it made people to enjoy this simple pleasure.
So you see, it was a gift to us to be able to do this. It moved me more than anything I have ever experienced at BM since my first time 10 years ago being in the Temple. To me personally, it was a gift to feel so moved, and to feel honored by the privilege of doing something that really was perceived as a gift by others at Burning Man. Seeing the pure joy on peoples' faces as they took in the view, was truly touching. I won't get into the many stories, but most of the wheeled burners who went up had either never seen this view before, or had not for many years.
So, long story short (too late, ha!) it paid back 100 fold all the elevator-related headaches we experienced in our camp planning team leading up to the Burn. The elevator idea was proposed by one person in our planning team as a personal project he wanted to do; something fun, cool and interesting. But he didn't have in mind that it would provide a service to disabled Burners. It just fit in perfectly with our Waldorf Mystoria Hotel theme this year. It caused a LOT of arguing and hand-wringing involving safety concerns, liability and responsibility. Ultimately, we all held out breath and took a leap of faith and just did it. Incidentally, there were no incidents, close calls, or problems or worries of any kind, because we had set up everything very safely and carefully.
But we were destined to build that elevator. We didn't even know we were doing it, but something pushed us to just allow our friend to pursue his vision, even if there was some risk, because we all inherently knew that Burning Man would not be what it is if people didn't try to contribute something radical. The result was that our contribution to Burning Man was a gift to us. This illustrated how giving without reservation or expectation is the purest form of giving, and when you do it, a magical cycle is created and spiritual rewards come to you immediately, and you feel like you've been zapped with an electric charge. It really was palpable.
So that's the story.
I plan on gathering the anecdotes from our camp mates of their experiences of going up with wheeled Burners and hearing their stories, and getting some anecdotes from the wheeled Burners themselves, and writing up an article or doing a video piece about this and what it meant to us, and what it reveals about Burning Man and the gifting economy. I plan to submit it to the Burning Man organization and whoever else would want to post it or read it, just because I think it is a great story that I want to share. In it, I will encourage camps to think about offering this if they have platforms or cranes or some other method of offering a vista point, and putting notices about it on their camp description or in the book or at Playa Info.
PS - our campmate and captain in charge of designing our scaffolding, JP, had the elevator custom made, hand-welded by our friend and Burner artist Jason S.