I’m down in Costa Rica for the Envision festival again. What a great festival! A combination of local, US and Canadian musicians and speakers, in a tropical beach paradise setting that is about as far environmentally from Burning Man as you can get…without going to Antarctica, anyway.
Envision is getting bigger every year, with an estimated crowd this time of 5000. Many camp at the 5-day festival, others stay in the very affordable villas or hostels nearby.
In many ways, Envision reminds me of the first Burning Man I went to. In 1998, there were 15,000 people at Burning Man, but it felt much smaller. Everyone was approachable, every camp was open, we were all in it together: this crazy bunch travelling all the way to the desert for a festival. It created a common bond of adventure amongst the participants, something that is not quite the same now that Burning Man is a city of more than 60,000 people, with Art Cars that require wristbands to ride on and theme camps that are closed off to all but the insiders ($7500 per “head” to stay in a swingers camp, anyone?)
This year I managed to take in quite a few of the workshops, mostly because friends were presenting. And they were excellent. Ashley de Regil helped us realize the importance of our dreams, Klaudia Oliver (organizer of TedX Black Rock City) helped us realize the importance of “free style magic”, calling for spiritual assistance any time we need it through simple, personal rituals; and Ed Zaydelman helped us realize the importance of being in the present moment, with conscious awareness of the choices we’re making and their consequences.
Envision was not without its problems. Heavy rain and lightning storms shut the festival down on Friday night, and turned it into a mud bath for the next day. Luckily it’s Costa Rica, and things dry out quickly. Unfortunately for many of the campers, I heard the rental tents were not particularly waterproof.
Another problem was more Burning Man-like – on the last day there was no toilet paper, anywhere in Envision, except for the emergency tent where someone was stroking the remaining roll like it was the evil mastermind’s cat in a James Bond movie. Fortunately I was able to use my Burner skills of making do with the tools at hand…I found some fliers promoting a meditation retreat near the entrance. Yes, people can sell things at Envision, and people can advertise things, and we all had a great time and lived to tell the tale.
The vibe amongst the people at this festival was amazing. As one of the DJs said “this is a transformational festival. I feel myself transforming right now, in front of you all”. What makes for a good vibe? No dicks, for a start. What about good looking people? Well, for those of us who care about such things, the girls were amazing. And there seemed to be more of them than guys – always a good thing.
Burners were well represented – it seemed like the majority of people I spoke to, or who responded to “show of hands” in workshops, had been to Burning Man. I met Chris Breedlove, new president of Burners Without Borders (and cousin of the record-breaking rocket car playa jockey). I also got to see Burning Man’s Social Alchemist Bear Kittay doing his thing – which, I have to say, he seems pretty good at. He describes his mission as “seeing what we can do to promote the values of Burning Man out into the broader global culture, and build links between other communities of Burners“. He goes to festivals like Envision and Kiwi Burn, listens more than speaks, and asks “what can we do to help you”. Then he goes back to the Burning Man founders and reports his findings. The jury’s still out on whether this can even be done, whether it can be done in the new non-profit organization that’s being created (seemingly with
fresh meat a new team) or whether Burner culture has now become its own beast. We’re all for promoting the values of Burning Man…just less so the values and modus operandi of BMOrg. I didn’t hear anyone getting told off at Envision because of “rules” or “principles”, even though the principles were obvious to all participants. “Respect the environment, but you paid $250 a ticket so we’ll clean up the trash”…rather than “Leave No Trace” (which incidentally, is only ranking 5th in our poll about the most important Principles. Most surprisingly of all, given how rabidly anti-commercial some voices in the Burner community are, is that the LEAST popular principle is Gifting).