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Burning Man comes together for a week in the Black Rock Desert, forming Black Rock City (BRC), which temporary stands as one of the largest cities in Nevada, boasting an open-minded population of roughly 40,000 citizens.

However, I've come to the conclusion that everyone needs to define the experience for themselves.

For me, Burning Man is whatever you want it to be. There is a sense of freedom from the constraints of back home (often called the "default world" whilst on the playa) -- mobile phones don't work, internet access is darn near impossible, and I didn't see a single Palm Pilot (except for a few being used as cameras).

Commerce isn't allowed, so no need to bring a wallet (unless you need to buy ice or coffee, sold by the Burning Man organization, with the proceeds donated to the two local communities of Empire and Gerlach). If you need something, ask -- ask your campmate or friend, or even a stranger walking along the street. You'll be surprised at how willing everyone is to share what they have, to lend a hand, a hammer or a bottle of water.

There's more to see and do than you'll have time to do it all in just a week. BRC and the surrounding playa area isn't just setup for the week -- it evolves during the week. Art displays pop up on the playa one day, and maybe are gone the next. Art cars are mobile displays of creativity, lighting, innovation, often incorporating fire, and may even be designed to offer you a ride to wherever you're going -- or wherever they decide to stop and drop you off. It's like free public transportation, providing you don't feel too strongly about where you're going. (But 95% of the time, if there's a big event going on like something burning, they're making a stop.)

I heard all sorts of rumors about the place being a drug and alcohol binge party, an orgy of illicit acts 24 hours a day. I saw plenty of folks with drinks in hand, but no one falling down drunk or displaying signs of intoxication or being under the influence, and the most intimate activities I saw were hugs and kissing. If you want a hug, you can ask and you'll likely get it. If you want a kiss, odds probably in your favor there, too.

It's an art show. It's a community. It's a setting to meet new people and re-connect with friends from the default world or previous 'Burns,' where folks seem more open and social than on the streets of your many urban cities today. It's a party, a celebration of being alive, being free from the pressures of daily life. It encourages you to depend on your ability to plan for a week in the desert. (Keep in mind that except porta-potties, nothing is provided. You carry in your own food, water and shade; you carry out everything you brought in, including your trash, and even the trash you help pick up from the playa.)

But that's just my perspective. You cannot fully appreciate what Burning Man is without experiencing it. Photos are nice, and the stories from friends and past citizens of BRC will clarify, but their viewpoint will only be one viewpoint of thousands of perspectives.

The official Burning Man web site has another perspective, found here. (And you'll likely find there really is no one right or wrong answer to define and explain what the event is all about.)

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