Filled Under: new age

BURNING MAN (one man’s truth)

a short story
Written by
David Rodwin
David Rodwin
2817 Third St. #C
Santa Monica, CA 90405
(310) 392-7316 (h)
(917) 553-2147 (c)
Burning Man
David Rodwin

I’ve been to Burning Man twice and have never had sex there.
The first time I didn’t have sex because I didn’t go with my
girlfriend. The second time I didn’t because she came along.
If you’ve never been to Burning Man, I should make clear that
going there means you are going to have sex. And drugs.
Not having either is like flunking Phys Ed in elementary school.
For the uninitiated, Burning Man is an annual temporary arts
community which arises out of sheer willpower from the playa of
the Black Rock Desert in a barren wasteland two and a half hours
north of Reno, Nevada. There’s nothing there until thirty
thousand freaks from around the world descend on those plains to
make it a walking techno-performance-art-sex-drugs-and-drum-
It’s also the third largest city in Nevada for the week.
My girlfriend, let’s call her Meadow, came with me my second
time there. We were helping create a ‘ritual opera’ based on
some odd interpolation of Haitian voodoo mixed with early Hindu
Wasn’t my idea. But it was something to do while there. And it
got us free tickets, food and a tent.
My job was to create a series of initiations to put people
through to prove themselves and earn the right to join our
group. We built a pentagonal open-top hut (voodoo in design I
was told) which we carpeted with remnants we found in Reno’s
finest back alley trash bins. Then I put the candidates through
trust-building games and guided meditations from midnight ‘til

Every night for a week I kept up this nocturnal schedule –
initiating almost two hundred people who willingly subjected
themselves to this torture. No drugs or stimulants were used.
No animals were harmed. No sex was had, but people were
stripped naked and made to endure the nearly freezing
temperatures of the desert night. It made them huddle and
become friends very quickly. Everyone was just looking for
something to do and a group to be a part of. And when you work
for it, somehow it means more. So I made’em work.
People also joined us because we supplied body paint for the
performances so they could dance around essentially naked in the
glow of burning sculptures to the moves Meadow had choreographed
for them.
The ‘opera’ came to fruition on a frigid midnight the night
before ‘The Burn’. ‘The Burn’ is the last night when the powers-
that-be (yes there are powers-that-be even at Burning Man) torch
a sixty-foot tall wooden sculpture of a man. ‘The Burn’ over
the years has turned into a Disney-esque spectacle complete with
fireworks instead of the unruly Bacchanalian orgy it once was.
But our event was unsullied by the bureaucracy.
AND it was ART.
Because we said it was. HA!
There was running and dancing and making of music and wearing of
symbolic body paint in well-researched designs. Of course, no
one could see anything in the dark, so, should anyone have been
able to decipher the Haitian iconography mixed with Sanskrit
they were not afforded the opportunity. Nonetheless, five
thousand people (quite sensibly dressed with hats and scarves)
cheered us on as we cavorted about. They didn’t have a clue
that there was purpose to it all, but we burned things at the
end, so everyone was happy.
The morning after our little show, it was the last day before
everyone went home to clothes and jobs and trees and cars.
Meadow and I had worked so hard the entire week we hadn’t had
time to enjoy the rest of the festival. So we found ourselves a
plush and pleasantly cool tent that some Silicon Valley
billionaire (back when there were still Silicon Valley
billionaires) had brought from Morocco. It was eighty feet long
and twenty feet wide and there was a light mist coming down onto
us from sprinklers he’d installed above. Thanks. It was 75
degrees inside the tent and 115 outside. Sweet.
So we laid on these plush pillows – emerald and ruby and ivory –
and we luxuriated.
“Now!” I thought, “was the perfect time for those ‘shrooms.”
I’ve never done much drugs. I hate the smoking and the shooting
and the snorting, and I’d never done ‘shrooms before, but I’d
always liked the idea of getting high naturally. So I take out
the little plastic baggie that I’d traded some guy for a gallon
of water earlier in the week and it’s just then that I realize I
have NO idea how much of this to take. So I put a little in my
mouth and wait to see what happens.
Nothing. So…I give a little to Meadow…
And then I take a little more, because I’m bigger, and, well,
drugs don’t really affect me all that much.
When I was younger I learned I have a very high tolerance to
drugs. I had trouble falling asleep in high school – at night,
not in the classes. I could fall asleep just fine then.
So I was given a prescription of L-Tryptophan which is supposed
to make you drowsy. It did nothing for me in the recommended
dosage, so…extremely frustrated, one morning around 3AM, I ate
half the bottle. The pills in it – not the bottle itself. The
bottle would have been bad for me. The pills on the other hand
didn’t so much as give me an upset stomach, much less put me to
But it seems the ‘shrooms or the sun or just sheer exhaustion
did send me napping that afternoon at Burning Man because the
next thing I remember was gently waking after a pleasant rest
and feeling my girlfriend lightly clawing at my chest, saying:
“I know we’ll be OK if I can just get inside you.”
Isn’t she sweet?
“I know I’ll be OK if I can just crawl inside your
“Uh…Meadow, you’re hurting me.” Her nails dug in.
“I know we’ll be fine if I can just get IN-SIDE your
body! Everything’s going to be ALRIGHT if I can just
crawl inside you!”
At this point, the thought wafted over my head that I ought to
ask her if she’s feeling OK. But before the words came to my
mouth, she leapt to her feet, pointed in the corner and yelled:
“Oh my God! There goes my spirit guide!!!”
Then she promptly collapsed.

I was not fazed. Living in California, I’d had a tendency to
date women with made up names and spirit guides. This one had a
guide who took the form of a mouse. She wouldn’t tell me his
name though. It was a secret between them. Why he was a mouse
I never found out either. It didn’t seem like a very powerful
totem to me, but, then again, he wasn’t
spirit guide.
After lying there musing about her guide for…I don’t know how
long, I realized she lay lifeless in a heap at my feet and I
thought, “Someone really ought to do something to make sure
she’s OK.”
Then I realized no one else was going to do anything. This was
Burning Man and they didn’t realize that this was not normal
behavior. And it struck me, right then, that there wasn’t
anyone in the entire world who cared about her except for me.
She was completely my responsibility. Her health, her
happiness, her security, her getting married and having children
and living a perfect and fulfilled life. It was ALL up to me.
So I did the only think I could think of doing.
I screamed at the top of my lungs and ran over to a group of
topless women. Somehow all that managed to emerge from my mouth
was a disturbing gurgling. When they didn’t respond, I spotted
an army of male belly dancers and lunged in their direction.
They had great costumes. Really elaborate. I screamed
something that was meant to alert them to the unfolding drama,
but instead, a high pitched squeal emanated from my throat.
Progress, perhaps, but not what I was aiming for.
I tried crying out for a medic, but all I heard was my own voice
laughing…really quite hysterically. I didn’t see what was so
funny though. My girlfriend must have overdosed and here we are
in the desert two and a half hours north of Reno, Nevada and
this is where she’s going to die!! And I’d killed her!!!
And while things had been a bit on the rocks between us, I was
hoping we could turn it around. Perhaps we’d get involved in
some sort of Burning Man orgy. They had those here! I’d been
told about them. That would enliven the relationship! Right?
I, of course, in the openness of the entire event, was stupid
enough to tell her about this desire and not only did sex cease
to be an option for the rest off the time there, but in the
moment she responded, her voice deepened and like the witch that
transmogrifies into a lethal dragon, her grammatical skills were
overpowered by her reptilian brain as she bellowed:
And although I was growing furious that her jealousy was
reigning me in with the power of a steel-belted tether, and
although she rejected me when I expressed my true authentic
desires – which I must point out
included her
(as well as many
other women). And although that rejection took the form of a
silent refusal to copulate in any form…
That didn’t mean I wanted her to die!!!
I dropped to my knees in front of her body and tried to remember
CPR from my days as a Cub Scout. And thank the stars above,
before I began, she leapt to her feet in one move and exclaimed:
“My God, that was so beautiful! You won’t believe what
just happened to me. My spirit guide took me to the
underworld where he lead me across a deserted continent.
I asked him ‘Where are all the souls’ and he declaimed:
‘Back in the 19th Century, medical advances created
an unprecedented population explosion in the Living
Realm. We had to send up the souls of every human we
could find. But still they needed more. So we
started sending to Earth the souls of monkeys and
dogs and rats and we put those into the newborn human

It explains a lot when you think about it.
‘But there were still too many people being born so
we sent out the souls of every salamander, every
guppy and every weeping willow – until there was
nothing left in the after-world at all!’”
As she recounted her journey in a torrent of sound, she took off
all her clothes and began dancing and singing and giggling like
a four year-old. She spun in circles, naked and giddy, when
somehow, she floated off the ground!!! She was more beautiful
than I’d ever known her to be and for the first time in my life,
I wanted to be with her and no one else.
She looked down at me and started speaking poetry. She rhymed
her way through her ecstatic journey, telling of how she was
picked up by a metal bird and flown across the desert. How her
mouse guide looked so cute, sitting on the nape of the bird’s
neck. “You could just tell he was finally at home, flying in
the air.”
She was dropped off at a cave where she was attacked by a ghoul.
No worries. There was no struggle. He just lopped her head
right off, took her body and boiled it in a huge cauldron. She
assured me she’d been put back together, better than new, and
that now she could see the fabric of all living things as she
never had before. As few have ever seen before.
“Now I can look directly into your eyes and see if your
soul is really, completely human.”
Finally, gently, she floated to the earth.
She took my face in her hands and looked deep inside.
I’d never been penetrated like that before.
I don’t know how long it lasted. Her eyes were so brown and
timeless. I could say they were deep umber, but they were truly
a simple puppy-dog brown.
I was powerless as she searched my soul.
She never told me what she saw. When she broke away she just
said, “It’s been quite a day and I could use a drink.”
We lay down together. She laid her head on my chest, and she
laid her hand on my heart and voice trembling joy, I heard:
“I love you sooo much. It’s good to be home.”
She faded away, tucked into the crook of my neck and we slept
right through the Burning of the Man.
* * * * *
She didn’t remember the trip when she woke up the next morning.
I had to remind her of the entire story. It was as though it
happened to someone else. To this day, she thinks I made it up.
But I can’t make up stories. Not like that. Not me.

The New Age Is Dead

The New Age Is Dead

by Silvia Hartmann
The New Age Is Dead

Well, it’s official now.

The New Age is dead.

It was already in the hospital in the mid eighties, then was moved into the hospice at the turn of the century. There it lingered on, until the global recession hit … hard …

RIP, New Age.

How do I feel about it?

Well, I guess, first of all I feel relieved.

It was painful to see the dwindling audience of hard core ex new agers assemble once more at various Mind, Body, Spirit events and try to recreate something that was wonderful and sparkling once … long ago …

The fact is that you can’t turn back time, and all things have a context in time and in space.

The excitement of the New Age movement lay right alongside the excitement about the new science movement – everyone was excited about everything, even if they stayed strictly out of each others way, to make sure never the twain would meet.

At one conference, the reality of travel to the stars was discussed; at another in the building next door, the reality of making this lifetime the last one on that excruciating karmic wheel was discussed.

The sky wasn’t the limit, and death wasn’t the end – those were the days …

And here we stand now at the crossroads, and we wonder what’s next.

What are we to do now?

But as every good old new ager knows, when the watch tower gets struck by lightning and falls in the Tarot deck, there is catastrophe, yes, but also an opportunity.

An amazing moment, that moment BEFORE the new has been build not from the ruins of the old, but in their place, to build something else, something different where that old watch tower once stood to keep the hordes of barbarians at bay …

And the fact is that it has all already happened.

The barbarians are no longer at the gate – they have overrun the bastions, all of them, across the board of humanity, science, magic, art, religion.

They have already come, and they’ve already conquered if only they knew it – but who are those barbarians?

Of course, they are all these many individual people who have stepped up and used the Internet to be heard when once they could have been so easily silenced.

The barbarians have changed the landscape in their passing, and are changing it more and more as each day goes by – whether they are blogging on politics or science, on enlightenment, on art or fahsion, or putting their Sunday sermons on the web for anyone to find who wants to hear them speak, there isn’t a single field of human endeavour left where the old watch towers still stand untouched by the tide of human voices, opinions, and divergent approaches, thoughts, ideas.

In that cacophony of voices, can anyone still be heard?

Of course. There are always some who make more sense than others, who have their fingers on the spirit of the time more sensitively than others. Those are those who see opportunities when the lightning strikes have happened and all descends into chaos.

However, for now the time of the “big guru” has passed.

The internet has made everything personal, and has made people real.

Where before, there were well constructed PR masks and statues, we are confronted with real living people who have friends on Facebook and mess up by sending weird text messages, tweets and emails to the wrong recipients.

We have the constant threat of witness testimony as every mobile phone can create a picture that says more than a thousand words about the humanity and fallibility of actual people – and shocking though this may be, it was always needed to bring back a level of REALITY to the doings of both science and the New Age, and religion, and politics, and business, and fashion, and art, and music, and, and, and …

Here’s the deal.

All these things are still as immensely exciting as they ever were – if you can keep it real, this time.

There are a million things to be explored about people, their history, their lives, their doings, their feelings, their spirituality, their sciences, their work, their play, their understandings of what is really going on with the world and all of us who try to live in it, with and inspite of each other.

A million things to explore?

A billion … more … much more than that.

And when do we really start to explore?

When we get out of ILLUSION, that’s when.

When we find the courage and the strength to look around at the rubble of the watch towers and the barbarians dancing in the street and can finally say, “Well, that didn’t work then …”

And that’s the moment when we have to forget all about the old blueprints of the old watch towers and lay aside any notion of trying to rebuild what was there before.

If you even think in that direction, goaded by nostalgia and old guiding stars from way back when, you are missing the opportunity and the freedom for the next thing we can build here.

Something new and different.

Something even more exciting, even more wonderful, bigger, brighter, more extraordinary than anything the world has ever seen – so far.

And here’s another thing.

In this moment of opportunity, this time-space crossroad where the future lies entirely open, and essentially at our own command, don’t turn around.

Don’t even try to “learn the lessons” from what went wrong before.

Forget it all.

Tabula rasa.

As long as you’re still looking over your shoulder, you are caught in the past and you’re missing out on the present.

THAT back then did not work.

It has nothing to teach us now.

Thinking about what not to do is the worst reversal, waste of time and always binds the new that could have been back into the past that failed so miserably.

Don’t try and get lessons out of what was good back then, either. Whatever may have been thought to have been good was inextricably linked to all the other stuff, and it wasn’t enough to stop the cataclysm from happening – clearly.

Forget it all, good and bad alike.

Just don’t look over your shoulder, look ahead instead.

What can we do right now?

What do we want, right now?

And how can we make that happen?

Let’s use our intelligence and the energy of excitement and joy at the opportunity here that only ever exists at the moment of cataclysm, and never afterwards again until there is another cataclysm.

We’re here.

This is new.

Now let’s think.

Do we still want to go to the stars? Damn right we do!

Do we still want to get off the karmic wheel and live forever in the light? Of course!

Do we still believe in the extraordinary capacity of human beings to not just endure, but prosper and flourish, given the smallest of a half chance?

Of course we do.

So let’s start from the beginning.

Let’s start with new ideas, ideas that are born of now, and here. Fresh, appropriate, timely, perfectly in response to what’s needed and wanted and desired.

Let’s try and do this not the old way with make belief, reality withdrawal, pretense, trying to be someone or something that we’re not, or that we know things we don’t.

Let’s ask questions, many questions, and put our heads together, see if we can’t come up with an answer that is born of the here and now, and leads us into the future.

And here is one last thing to be thankful and joyful about.

When the lightning strikes the watch tower and the cataclysm has happened, something else happens too, by co-incidence or perhaps it’s a law of the Universe itself.

All the sins of the past end at that moment.

Everything that was done wrong, thought wrong, felt wrong, created wrongly, for the wrong reasons, in the wrong way, knowingly and unknowingly just the same –

It is all over, with all of that.

You are forgiven for all of it in that moment that the old falls irretrievably, and the new is there to greet us.

You, and me, and everyone is forgiven.

Now we’ve got another chance.

We might not deserve it, but we have it.

And if we can now courageously step into the future and never look back, neither in anger, nor in regret, we are going to have the best time of all again, when all is young, all is fresh, all is new, and …



I welcome the demise of the New Age, and I can’t wait to see what THIS age has on offer to make us glad to be alive, and smile.

Dr Silvia Hartmann
November 2010

Posted Nov 10, 2010 by Silvia Hartmann