I wasn't entirely cut off from the real world while at Burning Man for 12 days. Registered as one of the "media"--primarily to get access to the WiFi network and communicate with the outside world--I had access to information other attendees didn't. Or as I later figured out, they didn't want to have.
When you enter through the gates on a dusty, flat playa, which my buddy and I did at 3 a.m., you are met by "the greeters," a motley band of volunteers who welcome everyone. These greeters pay special attention to newbies--"virgins"--with a strip search and a spanking, but they enthusiastically greet everyone with hugs and a hearty "Welcome home." Once inside the perimeter, most Burners don't want any reminder of the outside world. They go to the playa to escape the bullshit of reality, albeit just for a week. For many, only on the playa will they forget about the society they left, joining a new one which makes them happy.
I, too, was happy, beginning the week leading up to leaving. I had foregone reading the news, listening to NPR and paying attention to the troubles that burdened our state, country and world while I readied my truck and trailer. Without awareness of such heavy, depressing goings on, most of which I could do nothing about anyway, my happiness returned. And it was good.
But a side effect of being in the media is that one becomes addicted to the news. It is our job to be in the know. So, after a few days, I couldn't help myself. I took my computer over to Media Mecca to check my e-mail. Then, and just about every other day, I did it again. Through my e-mail, I learned of disastrous events going on in New Orleans, Rehnquist's death and other tragedies. Then, exploring further via other Internet news sites, I got details. In regards to New Orleans, I was appalled at the disaster and the early reports of the refugees. I tried to share this with my Burner friends through conversation, but many didn't want to hear it. They wanted to postpone the real world until they returned to it. They couldn't do anything about it anyway.
I met one couple from New Orleans who had just heard the news. They were somewhat in a state of shock, but what could they do? Not a goddamned thing. The best they could do was enjoy themselves for the rest of the week on the playa then figure out where to go afterwards. Which is precisely what they did.
Burning Man is a suspension of reality, a time warp, a true vacation. Had I not been so eager for news of home and the world, I would not have been duped by my staff, who decided to mess with the boss's absent head. They played my weakness for information like a fish. And I bit, hook, line and sinker. But Burning Man teaches valuable lessons, the lesson being: I vow to be happier.