FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out – is a powerful force. It springs from a seemingly good place – a recognition that we are finite beings with a finite amount of time, but it can become a cruel master. I naively thought I had mastered it after Burning Man 2013, but Burning Man 2015 was a reminder that it’s alive and well in me still.
When you pass through the ticketing gate upon arrival at Black Rock City, a greeter gives you a copy of the What, When, Where Guide. It’s a book ½ inch thick with an hour by hour, day by day listing of every registered activity that’s happening during the week.
Want to meditate with Buddhist Monks while listening to Janet Jackson? It’s in there.
Looking for a place to eat Mickey Mouse shaped waffles any time of day? It’s in there.
Group masturbation class? Got it.
Skrillex? He’s playing on Thursday night.
Your other favorite DJ? She’s also playing. Same time as Skrillex.
Want to gaze at Saturn’s Moons through the huge telescopes at the Black Rock City Observatory? Got that, too.
Need help fixing your broken bicycle? No problem. There’s a camp set up for that. It’s in the book.
Whatever you can imagine or desire… chances are, there’s a camp that has also thought of it, and has come prepared to offer that experience to you as their “Playa Gift”. It’s tempting to think you’ll experience it all. I had to confront the reality that I’ll never see it all. I realized I had two choices out there…
- Cruise around the city as fast as possible and have short, fleeting tastes of about 20% of Burning Man, and still miss 80% of it, while having no real deep experiences anywhere…
- Allow myself to sink deeply into certain experiences, go slower, and miss perhaps 90% of Burning Man, but have rich experiences that would inform my mind and heart for the rest of my life.
In 2013, I made the decision to go with option #2 and sink deeply into a few select experiences. I’m glad I did because I had some awesome experiences that changed my life. I also learned that you’ve got to be prepared for the temptation to feel regret as you later hear about all of the amazing things that you missed, because you were busy doing something else.
Keep in mind, whatever you were doing, was also probably pretty damn amazing.
You’ve got 7 days at Burning Man. It’s a city of 70,000 of the most brilliant, creative, charismatic, inventive, unique humans on Spaceship Planet Earth. There are thousands of pieces of art to experience. Countless amazing musical performances. Innumerable human interactions that could potentially change your life. It’s impossible to experience it all.
I find that my time at Burning Man becomes a powerful symbol for the rest of my existence in the “default world”. I’ll never taste every kind of cuisine, I’ll never read every book, never make love to every woman, never see every concert… The typical human life is about 29,000 days. Deduct the futility of childhood and your twilight years, and you’ve got about 18,000 serviceable days to partake in the joys of Spaceship Planet Earth. It’s not much.
My seasoned Burner friend Jared shared this wisdom:
“Sure, there are AMAZING things happening on the other side of the City right now. But guess what? Equally amazing things are happening 10 feet away from you, RIGHT NOW.”
This made me think a lot about how to spend my 18,000 days. Do I want to waste unnecessary time chasing down amazing things waaaay over there, or do I want to save the time and energy and dive into the incredible beauty that’s sitting right in front of me? Consider that the people waaaay over there are looking at what’s in front of you, and having the exact same dilemma. We humans are a strange bunch.
Fear Of Missing Out is a disease of our time. We are a generation plagued by the idea of choice. Social media has made keeping up with the Joneses a thing we do while pooping. Tinder (and everything like it) has turned us all into horrible dating partners. How many of you have checked your Tinder while on a first, second, or third date? At what point do we stop dwelling on our choices, become present and experience what’s in front of us?
I know very few things, but here’s one thing I know for damn sure, thanks to Burning Man:
It is impossible to be fully present and truly experience what’s happening in front of you, if you are, in any way, simultaneously contemplating your options. Option contemplation and presence cannot coexist.
Get in or get out. You don’t have to STAY in, but while you are in, BE IN.
One of my goals for living, post-Burning Man 2015, is to be a “Fuck YES” or “Fuck No” kind of person. It’s hard. The world of choices and the Fear Of Missing Out is powerful. It’s changed the way I view interactions with friends, dates, lovers, business partners. Are you IN or are you OUT? In the words of the great Neil Peart, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice!”
The “Fuck Yessers” are the only ones for me. Life is too short to have it any other way.