radical self expression

Cultivating Difference Not Indifference // Matthieu Mayran

Someone told me once that when he was at Burning Man, he overheard a cop saying:

“While walking on the Playa, I saw a unicorn hugging a rhino in tutu carrying a pink umbrella. I thought to myself that nothing was out of the ordinary and I could keep going”.

Yep. Let’s analyse that situation for a moment.

Three people: two participants and an observer. What could have gone differently? Well…a lot of things, as a matter of fact.

Repression, Tension & Fear

In today’s world and in our western society, many times dress, speech or other human expression that seems different or unique can be frightening to others. Differentness can be hard for people to understand. And things that are hard to understand can be met with antagonism, tension and fear.  These emotions can take the form of shyness, introversion, awkwardness, mockery, questioning and at the worst times, even violence.

But at Burns, we challenge this. We say- dude, different is OK. In fact, different is GOOD. We’re not all the same, and let’s stop being scared of each other. It’s time to learn to accept difference and even celebrate it so we can bring about some acceptance, tolerance, happiness, human interaction and a “slight” shift in the universe of the Expected.

Some in large metropolitan cities may say: “I already have this kind of environment. I live in NY, where western society is open, and nobody ever makes fun of me when I wear my frog costume on the streets”. But, I would argue that there is a difference between indifference, and tolerance and celebration.

Emotional Expression & Self Realization

I remember the emotional down that I experienced after my return from my first Burn some years ago. Why, because I left a home where I was allowed to be whomever I wanted to be. I could connect with my most visceral feelings and express them.  

On the Playa, I realized how easy it was to interact with people once the distrust walls were down. And I remember how unnatural it seemed for strangers to just say hi to each other or to me and how rewarding it felt to welcome the stranger instead of stepping back to check first who they might be.

And I pondered and wondered why things were different in the day-to-day world.

Creativity, Humanity & Art

What makes the Self Expression at a Burn such a beautiful thing is that people care, people awe, people find it normal which makes other people feel confident, free and creative. Creativity should not take courage but encouragement. “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” [Pablo Picasso] and the Playa is your canvas. Come, express yourself, create and enjoy!


  1. Well said. It is so true. Encouraging differences and giving the gift that makes it not just ok to be who and whatever you want to be, but actually laying the foundation for self expression is what makes the burn and the burners so special…and the love. We have a camp at Afrikaburn on the Binnekring and are looking for some international burners to join us. We have space for about 8 people. Come and share the love in Africa

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