Two thousand years before Kafka’s Gregor Samsa woke up as a cockroach, Ovid, the literary bad boy of First Century Rome, was writing about metamorphoses dire and diverse. In a world caught between human folly and godly whims, his luckless heroes find themselves transformed into birds and beasts, trees and mountains, even constellations of stars. In some cases metamorphosis is meted out as reward, in others as divine punishment. And looming over every verse is the specter of death, the final transformation, a terminal point at which change is irreversibly arrested. To read these stories is a potent reminder that life is by its nature a transformative journey, where fate and character interact in unpredictable ways.
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”
― Franz Kafka
Burning Man is routinely described as transformative. At the personal level, a transformative experience. At the group level, a transformative event or culture.
This year’s theme is a celebration of change, and an exploration of uncertainty. As such it invites a consideration of time; not its circular nature, or its attendant ritual, but in this case the relentless flight of time’s arrow, and an embrace of the elusive now. Memory is fickle, and the future is uncertain. None of us knows what they will become, but we can seek to understand where we are at this point in our transformative trajectory, this fleeting chord on the strings of existence.
Transformation happens whether we believe in it or not; but if we have learned anything in our Burning Man experience it is that we do have a say in our own futures, that agency is ours if we choose to pursue it. While we may never know the ultimate outcome, there is a shared belief that our dreams matter, and that together and as individuals we have the power to shape our own stories and transform ourselves in positive ways.