Once a year, the Cleu crew goes on pilgrimage together to the most crazy beautiful, peaceful city on earth. That would be Black Rock City, an incredible place created by some 40,000 participants in the Burning Man festival that happens every year during the week before Labor Day. For me, it’s been a recurring dream since 1999, a pilgrimage to a place where imagination rules and people find meaning in the simple act of giving. The 2009 theme of Burning Man was Evolution, an invitation to examine the past, contemplate the present, and envision the future.
In honor of the evolutionary theme, we decided not to publicize our location. Usually, we post announcements in the WhatWhereWhen, the calendar of events, put a sign with our address near the Cleu art installation on the playa, and pass out cards with our address in Center Camp. We didn’t do any of that this year, and we thought that Cleu camp might be a quiet little oasis for the crew to call home. Instead of us trying to make things happen, evolution would lead to natural mutations, and whatever was best for us would survive.
This year was proof that, as a meme, the Cleu has a life of its own. Even without advertising, many people at Burning Man still know where Cleu camp is located, and they made the pilgrimage or sent their friends to see us. People came, covered in dust, smiling with relief, hoping to get a cleu and a brainwashing. More people came to the busy oasis of Cleu camp than we ever expected, and we evolved ways to harmoniously meet our own needs as well as tending to our visitors.
Every evening before sunset, the Cleu crew took the time to bond over our own exquisite gourmet dinners, getting ready for nights of exploring art, dancing, moon-gazing, and fires. Over the course of the week, we happily gave away all of our 750 Cleus and brainwashed many, many people into bliss. The Cleu brainwashing, our guided sound meditation, evolved from a circle to a spiral that allowed us to reach larger groups with the essential Cleu message: You are the Cleu!
When Black Rock City comes back to life, you will find us still at 3:45 on the outer rim, the last street next to the edge of the walk-in camping area, a glorious desert emptiness rimmed by mountains. Every year, we return to find the friends of Cleu camp nearby, creating a spontaneous Cleu village. We share hugs, food, music, and stories. Next year, we’ll be there again, back in the neighborhood that feels so very much like home. Really home. For us, evolution means finding reliable and spontaneous ways to recreate the Cleu community that we so enjoy, over and over again.