Saturday, June 22, 2013

Burning Man 2008 mushroom trip - part 2

Continued from Part 1...

I left the center camp plaza via Bonneville Road, the second concentric-ring street.  It was absolutely white around me and with no visibility, I could barely navigate, hugging the side of the road, marked by occasional vehicles, and camp structures.

At the next intersection, I decided to head up the radial spoke towards the Man, thinking it might be easier to see where to go with the large theme camps to my right.  Stumbling along, I happened to kick over a solar lantern that was sitting along the road, marking the boundary of someone's camp.  At first, I thought to walk on, but then I figured I might as well be polite and set the lantern back up.  Squatting down to do this, I had a hard time seeing, but I found its base was broken and would not be set back up easily.

Someone from the camp saw me struggling with it and invited me in, telling me it was already broken and not to worry about it..  They brought me into their bar, and offered me a shot of saki, which I refused, quoting Woody Allen, "My body will not tolerate that."

I was feeling the initial effects of the mushrooms strongly by then: dizziness, nausea, nervous tension.  They invited me to sit in a reclining camp chair, which was just what I needed.  I was able to relax and enter fully into the trip.  This was when I witnessed the absolute strangest, most alien things I've ever encountered.  It was not all pleasant; quite a bit of it was rather scary, but I was along for the ride, and there was really no way to abort the mission.

I retained a vivid memory of some of the visions that appeared.  I recalled them later like glimpses from a dream, which, back at home, I sketched out in pencil, and later rendered in watercolors, shown below.

One of them was of a strange tentacled creature with what looked like a television screen embedded in its torso.  My mind interpreted this as a genetically-engineered creature from a bleak future-world,  whose purpose was to project shows in its belly-screen for the entertainment of the kids, and doubled as a pet of sorts.  The screen would display scenes of the distant past, showing animals as they used to exist, before they all became extinct or genetically modified.

Another one was a giant twisted-up tree which was split into three parts length-wise along the trunk, with curling branches and vines connecting it all together in a mass.  All along the tree's branches, goblins, elves, fairies, nymphs, or "tree spirits" moved, cycling around and around, dancing and cavorting in a frenzy.  They seemed to be celebrating their sheer existence, but at the same time just going about their daily living.  This seemed to be a free-standing world of its own, not a product of my imagination. 

The last one I remember was a vision of being inside of a large cylinder.  Along the curved walls of the cylinder were countless tiles with animated faces, all expressing some negative emotion: fear, anger, sadness, numbness, confusion, suspicion, etc.  Each tile seemed to be a different color, the "hue" of the emotion being expressed, and fit into this cylindrical matrix.  I empathized with all these beings, each caught and trapped in its respective emotion.  I wondered where the happiness might be in this scheme, this odd free-standing symbolic world, and then, on cue, my consciousness shifted to look down toward the end of the cylinder.  There, at the end-cap of the tube was a golden disk, shining brightly like the sun, and in the center was a face like the laughing Buddha, grinning and laughing hysterically, blissfully, without a care.  Just pure joy.  My mind was interpreting all this sensory input, telling me that this was a symbol of reality; these entities were just like the myriad personalities I encounter every day, or the moods I myself get trapped in. 

I saw more during this peak of the experience, but memory fails, and the wilder visions defy description like the wholly-unexplainable elements of dreams.

I was finally able to sit up and assess my surroundings.  The alien visions had retreated a bit and I found myself sitting in a camp recliner in a theme camp at Burning Man in the middle of a dust storm, which had thankfully settled down a bit, to allow more visibility.  I saw people dancing and heard reggae music from a DJ which I'd not been aware of before. 

I found I had energy to stand, and the music's rhythm inspired me to jump out of the chair and dance frenetically.  

Part 3 coming soon...
Part 3 here!

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