“Cargo Cult” was the intriguing theme for this year’s Burning Man festival. Shipments of cargo, dropped from airplanes onto South Pacific islands during World War II, inspired the legend of John Frum, a serviceman gone native who encouraged islanders to return to their cultural roots. Black Rock City citizens picked up on the idea that the mysterious cargo appeared to have come from aliens with magical powers, and some of the art reflected this obsession with aliens, pyramids, and strange technologies. The Man itself was situated on a gigantic replica of a flying saucer. The movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, uses a Coca Cola bottle dropped from the air to show how an alien object can disrupt tribal society in comedic ways. We made an homage to this film by naming the Cleu labyrinth, The gods must be Cleu.
Our annual pilgrimage involved 24 people this year, twice as many as the last few years, and we had about a dozen people here at Outpost One for preparation and load-up, and as many for unloading and cleanup. We created more community spirit by making our meals a time for sharing and laughter. Once on the playa, in our usual location at 3:45 on the outer edge of the city, the crew set up the camp shade structure, sitting area, and kitchen, and put up tents. We built the Starman Dome and the Space Igloo, and finally the Cleu Labyrinth. With so many projects to do, we became much more bonded as a crew. Every night before sunset, we would make a big circle for dinner where we cheered the cooks, shared announcements, and enjoyed each others’ company. During the days, Cleu camp was a mecca for many dusty pilgrims who came looking for a Cleu and the ever-popular Cleu guided meditation and sonic experience we call “the Cleu brainwashing.”
Going on pilgrimage gives us a chance to return to our human roots by spending these precious days working and playing together face-to-face. We abandon our cell phones and electronic devices choosing instead to rely on each other. We revive our own spiritual perspective when we meet others who are looking for a Cleu, and our brains get washed too when we provide a good brainwashing to our visitors. Cleu camp is an opportunity for all of us to appreciate the feeling of communalism that comes from living and working together. We experienced that feeling of At-Onement because we committed to each other and to our camp. This is the magic of living closer to our tribal roots, if only for a short time. When we return to our roots, we discover that we have the power to manifest the reality we desire. Black Rock City is our collective dream, the amazing cargo appearing on the playa through the efforts of many tribes returning to their human roots.