Anyone can learn the official answer to "What is Burning Man?" at the official Burning Man website:
More relevant to this blog, what is Burning Man to me? Well...
This place is really far away from everything I know. Geographically, it's a whole day's drive away. Mentally, spiritually, it is many galaxies distant from the usual life. The playa embodies solitude: totally flat, featureless and unwelcoming, like the surface of an alien planet. The society created by burners is a pocket of love and comfort within this desolate wasteland. When I am there, I can barely conceive of life outside of that canyon.
Anything goes here, just about anything. My creative side flourishes here, as there is a blank canvas inviting me to leave my mark. All expressions are welcome. Everyone is expressing, and creativity is a kind of currency here. The very best of expressions are available to witness and share.
The only place on earth, where, for one week a year, I get to own, really own my own space. I own it by building my sacred space within it, welcome my people inside, hold court, argue, embrace, rest, sleep, eat and hide out from the storm. My dome on the playa is where I really feel at home.
Nothing can possibly compare with a night of roaming the playa. No description, however complete, can convey the unpredictability and unfathomability of experiences on the playa. Things happen that cannot ever be explained: strange guides come to your aid, the exact object you need materializes out of the darkness, and a dreamlike quality leads you to that exact thing for which you have always wished.
The outpouring of energy caught me from the beginning. Frenzied dancing, drumming, fire-spinning, and generally performing is the norm. The pure energy of the Saturday night burn is not easily forgotten. Tens of thousands of people assemble with hundreds of ingenious art cars, lit-up costumes, and amazing gimmicks. The man burns to the sound of wild cheering, then, when it falls, a swarm of bodies circles in towards the massive fire. Spinning counter-clockwise around the fire, the citizens of Black Rock City experience each other. Around the circle, musicians, dancers, and artists of all types pour out their creative expression, forming collaborations and spontaneous pockets of exuberant revelry.
The harsh playa is not for everyone. Severe dryness, heat and relentless dust wear down the body. To stand up to it takes a certain toughness, and some knowledge of survival methods. When one is prepared, with every contingency planned for, survival becomes fun, a gift to share with others. I relish a nice stroll through a whiteout with my dust mask and goggles.