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Navigation: The Address of Intention at Burningman

22 September 2010 3 Comments

Illumination, Navigation, and Celebration are the gifts of Burningman Lamplighter Camp I was part of, and so I mirror these in my post-burn writings. Illumination holds some of the greater-humanity experiences shared on the playa.  Navigation shares the oddities and facts of Black Rock City and the Burningman organization.  Celebration is my own personal flavor and experiences during the week I spent in the desert.



Burningman: Black Rock City, NV 

For a week every summer one of the most inhospitable places in the world, the Black Rock Desert in Northern Nevada becomes the State’s 5th largest city boasting a population of over 50,000 (2010).

More info via Web: http://www.burningman.com/

And Twitter: http://twitter.com/burningman


Black Rock City has the luxury of being able to engineer its existence for the citizens.  About 50,000 thousand people show up, and so the street layout is designed to accommodate that.  The city itself is ingenious, and is laid out like a clock.  The area between 10:00 and 2:00 is left open for large scale art projects while the city occupies the rest.  There is a radial street every half hour (15 degrees) and circular streets organized by letter from A to K (varying by theme, this year it was city names) with an inner ring Esplanade as well as a “Center Camp” location reserved for city info-structure. The space between Esplanade and the Man has a radius of 2120 ft and is left open for Art Car operation and large scale art projects.

  Navigation in Black Rock City is simple, because of the ingenious street layout; however, finding someone specific is a miraculous combination of chance and keen observation.

 The traditional way is to know their coordinate address, which consist of a letter and a time (mine was 5:30 and C).  This narrows the search area down to a swath between 500 and 1200 feet long by 200ft wide.  Once the person’s hammock/tent/RV/car is located a note can be left with little detail:

 “Hey Friend! I came by to find you, but you were out adventuring or sleeping.  My camp is at 5:30 and Cairo come by and find me.  Love you!’ 

 That is if you brought a pen and paper and some way to affix the note in the wind.

 Then maybe they will come by and find you, or maybe they won’t find the note, or you’ll be out or sleeping when they come by.  Anyway, this process is really convoluted and only mildly successful.  So what’s the other way?

 Set an intention to find that person and then go have an adventure and see what happens, but keep your eyes open for when they show up (seriously).

 The second method is not surprisingly way more fun, but also a lot more effective.

 Number of people I found by going to their address: three

Number of people I found by setting an intention: 14

 Why does this work?  I’ve got a couple theories I love, but what do you think?  Random chance? Or is there something else?


Additional Info:

 The Festival (and organization) was founded in 1986 in San Francisco and moved to the Black Rock Desert in 1990. 

 Burningman is a 501c3 nonprofit, that uses all ticket money to put on the event, restore the playa to pristine condition afterwards and enrich the Nevada Community.

 Good history via Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_Man

 There are Ten Principles: http://www.burningman.com/whatisburningman/about_burningman/principles.html

We should all incorporate these into our everyday life, basic, and yet incredibly enriching.

  Black Rock City has a legal airport designated 88NV by the FAA.  “88” is coincidentally the HAM radio code for “hugs and kisses.”  Awesome.   The airport serves planes, helicopters, and many skydivers.

 It has a Department of Public Works, Fire Department, Medical Department, Post Office, Internal (as well as official) Law Enforcement, and many other “necessary” cultural structures.  Money is completely absent, except for the purchase of two things: Ice and Coffee, the profits from both which go to fund Gerlach school system.

 With the absence of money a culture of gifting has developed.  There are restaurants, bars, taxi services, hotels, all run by people who have saved up excess resources over the year and wish to share it with the community. 

 Burningman also has spawned many do-good organizations thoughts the world: “Burners Without Borders” http://www.burnerswithoutborders.org/ has recently deployed to Haiti and S. America to help with earthquake relief and rebuild. 

 Black Rock Solar http://www.blackrocksolar.org/ has now installed and donated over 1 megawatt of solar power to fire departments, hospitals, schools, etc. throughout Nevada, giving back to the state that hosts Burningman.  This is approximately equal to $6,000,000 in power costs saved in the upcoming years.

Shoes are a challange on the playa.  Not wearing them is great for one day, maybe two, but the dust is really harsh on skin.  I wore my Vibram Five Fingers (an old pair) the whole time (except when wearing giant platform boots) and the VFFs were amazing. 

Burningman and Black Rock City are very odd, and hard to explain to most people, so this was an attempt to answer some of the questions I’ve gotten over the last few days/weeks/years about the structure of it.  Is there anything I missed, or that you’re still curious about?

The complete set of photos  can be seen here.  Take your time, enjoy, there are about 200 of them.


  • Kath said:

    Intention = Willing it to happen

    “If you will it, it is not a dream” – my fave quote by Theodor Herzl, one of the founders of the State of Israel.

  • Larkin (author) said:

    Wow, that is a great way of putting it. Thanks for sharing Kath.

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