Text and photos: Jai’prakash Sewram
This morning, in my dream, a young boy appeared and asked me
“Why do people need to decompress?”
Determined not to pass up a moment of knowledge impartation, I responded and wanted to share my response with you.
It’s a little difficult explaining why people miss something like AfrikaBurn to somebody who hasn’t been there. It’s not just about what they do or dress like or how much they party or connect with people. It’s more about the freedom they experience.
Imagine a world where people smile back when you do. People who say hello and are willing to have meaningful and heartfelt conversations with complete strangers. Imagine people being interested in you without any care for your body type or your skin colour or your gender or whether you are dressed in a suit or in a bikini. Imagine a place where you are freed from the pressure of fitting in.
Imagine a week in time when you are not concerned about emails and deadlines, when you are free to focus on what matters to you, and don’t have to manage other people’s expectations. Imagine living to your own schedule, adapting and adjusting as you need, without pressure, whether you are spending your time with friends, strangers, or yourself.
Imagine expressing yourself within a community expressing itself, together holding space for each other, without forcing opinions or experiences on anyone else. Imagine respecting and being respected in turn. Imagine having a place to belong and be.
Imagine being in a place and a time where play is encouraged. Where creativity is celebrated. Where intelligence is on par with art, organisation as important as the nebulous, formality alongside informality.
Imagine having a taste of this world after coming from and then going back to a world filled with signs telling you what’s allowed and what isn’t. Dress this way. Act this way. This is appropriate for here but inappropriate for there.
For many, the existence they know is devoid of the freedom they experienced in a desert kilometres from what we call civilisation. And once that freedom is tasted, going back to the slavery we have become accustomed to is jarring.
This is one of the reasons why many people need to decompress, and reacquaint themselves gently back into a society and culture that is riddled with rules that don’t serve our inner child.
Decompression is only a part of this integration. The long term process is to learn how to bring the freedom and creativity and care and consideration of the Burn world back into the default one. Creating a life that is predominantly playful, creative, loving, considerate, immediate, expressive, environmentally friendly, community based, civilised, and generous is an aim for every burner.
This is a reminder of what we can have and be. A reminder to smile more. To express more. To love more. To find more ways to keep your feet dusty and your heart full, in whatever way your life allows.
[ This is an abridged version of the full post on Jai’prakash’s blog ]