Illustration by DA of Black Rock (aka Dominic Tinio)
Every year the organizers of Burning Man come up with a new theme for the Labor Day get-together in the Nevada dust. In 2011 they celebrated “Fertility 2.0” and 2012 was declared year of the “Cargo Cult”. Other recent themes include: “Rites of Passage”, “The Vault of Heaven”, “American Dream”, and “Metropolis: The Life of Cities”.
As one of the 68,000 who will be a part of this year’s festival, I’m probably not the only one wondering what to make of the 2014 theme: Caravansaries.
I’ll admit that I had to Google it before I even grasped what the theme was, let alone how to interpret it. However, after a few minutes of research I came across this interesting nugget from noted author, photographer and Burning Man regular Jeff Greenwald: “The Silk Road was the world’s first information superhighway.”
I would imagine that Burning Man founder Larry Harvey had that in mind when he penned this intro for the Burning Man web site: “For countless centuries, travelers along the Silk Route crossed paths in caravansaries, a network of oases and sanctuaries that dotted the 4,000-mile road from Europe to East Asia. These bustling caravan stops offered more than just shelter from the desert wilderness; they were vital centers of cultural exchange, bringing together traders, pilgrims, monks, nomads, traveling entertainers, and wild-eyed adventurers from all points of the compass to share their stories around a common fire. Though fueled by mercantilism, their legacy to us is a grand commerce of ideas — a swirling exchange of languages, legends, technologies, philosophies and art that helped shape nearly every aspect of our modern world.”
Harvey went on to explain that the 2014 Burning Man festival “will create a caravansary that occupies the crossroads of a dreamland: a bazaar of the bizarre wherein treasures of every sort, from every land and age, flow in and out to be flaunted, lost, exploited and discovered. This is not a tourist destination, but a home for travelers who come here bearing gifts. Amid the twisting and the turnings of its souk, participants will come upon an inexhaustible array of teeming goods and unexpected services. Anyone may pose as ‘merchant’ here, and anyone may play a ‘customer’, but nothing in this strange emporium shall have a purchase price — no quid, no pro, no quo — no trade at all will be allowed in this ambiguous arcade. According to a rule of desert hospitality, the only thing of value in this ‘marketplace’ will be one’s interaction with a fellow human being.”
So with “The Man” set to burn in 133 days, I started my search for something that can easily be transported to the playa for gifting to my fellow travellers. First stop: Google. Key words: “caravan” and “gift”. High on the list of results was this quote which was attributed to The Caravan of Dreams: “If you have no troubles, then why not buy a goat?”
That’s it! Why didn’t I think of that? On my way through California I’ll simply buy a goat, schlep it out to the desert, tether it to a tent peg and open my own desert oasis: “Mikail’s 100% Free, 2% Goat’s Milk Bar & Hookah Lounge.”
Hey, there was a time when Starbucks sounded like a crazy idea.