AfrikaBurn 2019: The Art of Letting Go and The Death of My Ego

Out of nothing, we created everything

— Larry Harvey

A week before embarking on the much anticipated journey into the dusty abyss, someone at my gym slapped a comment along the lines of, “fuck, I’m going to switch my notifications off for a week after AfrikaBurn because of all the ‘life-changing’ experiences people will have and post about…”

“God,” I replied, “hope that isn’t me”

Well, here we are…I had a life changing experience.

Utterly, profoundly, speechless — It just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t share what I took away from living in the desert for a week.

Before I delve into the lessons I gained, demons I slayed  and a few funny experiences; there is a line from Dan Engle in Tools of Titans, a book by Tim Ferriss (my all-time favourite author and person): hold the gold.

We all have moments in our lives. Beautiful stories or imagery that have been zip-locked into your brain. Those moments are so fucking precious. We all have them. You should never share those  with anyone but yourself. When you share those golden nuggets that have been entrenched into your memory, they instantly lose the intrinsic value they possess. Instantly!

Have you ever cringed at someone on Instagram or Facebook that just overshared or over-documented their entire life? There is just no mystery. You have got a very real sense of their in-person persona based solely through social media.

Hold the gold.

My First Mistake

To even comprehend the event as a whole is making my head hurt.

I made a crucial mistake. A rookie error.

I went into AfrikaBurn with a ‘festival mindset.’ Plop your shit down, get some drinks and hit the d-floor. That mindset (plus a mixture of heat exhaustion) led me into the medics…on the first night.

Hold The Gold.

Medics aside, the next day, while still regaining a sense of consciousness, I decided to venture out into an actual dust storm. Wait, I fear you misunderstood me. An. Actual. Fucking. DUST. Storm.

Sitting within one of the many beautiful, towering, art pieces, I tried my best to decipher what had happened to me. I think a mixture between overwhelm, heat exhaustion and fatigue was to blame for the visit to the red cross people.

Many lessons were grasped. I wrote my experience down on my iPhone. Reading it now just makes me incredibly grateful.

I believe many people that attend these events — and festivals in general — could do with introspection. There is no use in getting mangled beyond belief, experiencing something profound, and then not analysing your experience post-event. If you don’t reflect on your experiences you cannot learn and grow.

I truly believe festivals and events like AfrikaBurn are a great delivery vehicle for understanding yourself and reconnecting with our basic human need of communal living. In other words, celebrating the very thing we take for granted each day: life.

On the note of reflecting and talking about experiences, I want to say how grateful I am to the medics and the volunteers for taking care of me — especially the lovely man who was talking to me while I sat in the dirt (don’t ask).

I feel like a tit not going during the event to go and say thank you. I guess I was a little embarrassed. Ah, Josh, you are meant to be in control of your life…get it together man! I guess my ego got in the way? But, truly, I am so grateful. So, if any of the people that helped this poor soul out be happening to read this — thank you.

Ego Death 2.0

Having an ego at AfrikaBurn is like taking a wee next to two Nigerian blokes at the airport restroom. Soon, you will discover, that what you are holding in your hands is very small — if non-existent — in comparison to the vastness on either side of you. It’s humbling to say the least (on the note of penises, you will get a many of a glimpse of the one-eyed snake at AfrikaBurn. Birthday suits are a welcomed affair).

Your initial reality-check comes when you need to shit. Don’t expect 5-star bathrooms that close up (not that I was to be honest). Expect looking at your basecamp mates joining you on the shitter. This was my favourite experience. No better feeling than having your morning rusk, coffee and routine-like shit while being in awe of the raw beauty Tankwa Town has to offer.

Take me back.

I broke my back

A stretch tent is crucial out there in Tankwa Town. It really made our home a place we could chill, listen to tjoons and recover.

But, I would advise hiring a team of strong people to put up your stretch tent for you. I’m actually not sure what was harder — Monday in the medics or putting up our stretch tent. There were 4 of us hammering away in 30 degree heat. To make matters worse, the ground was not Limpopo-like fresh farm soil. Instead, It was rock. Literal rock. It also didn’t help that we are all about as athletic as crippled librarians.

Disconnecting from Reality

On one of the nights, we all were having a grand old time at one the many dance floors surrounding the playa. When we left, I was following my friends at a very close distance. Another friend said hello to me. I must have turned away for a second to say howzit back at him, when I turned back around, gone.

No shadow of a lie, I lost my entire friend group in seconds. This just gives you perspective of how big and overwhelming AfrikaBurn can be. Now, I am fairly small and was on the piss — which probably accounts for half the problems — but still, there is no, “oh let me whip out my phone and call them.”

Being completely offline and in-touch with nature for 7 days was another highlight I cannot overstate enough.

In a situation like that, you make new friends and carry on shmutting about.

Letting Go and Letting Be

Minimalism is something I’m truly interested in. Living deliberately with less. It’s a concept that is so appealing in todays consumption-driven world. It carves a way towards a more meaningful life (which is what most of my content is about in case you’re new here).

I’m used to having my pozzie in Cape Town clean and organised. I’m not compulsive, but I do like my shit to be some what aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

However, having that mindset in Tankwa Town is a no-go. I had to let go. It showed a part of me that is definitely still under major construction: wanting to control certain outcomes or factors to suit my needs and desires. I’m a lot better, trust me — but, when you see a layer of dust thicker than a snickers bar laying on the floor of your tent, you start wondering…fuck I want my clean pozzie hey.

Eventually (I say this like it took long but it didn’t really), I just said to myself, “fuck it, let go, let be. Enjoy this time. You won’t have it forever.” And, to be honest, while I’m writing this, I can’t help but feel a sense of craving for that crazy fucking town in the desert.

Take me back.

When you let go and be present, happiness and universal smoothness will arrive. I guess the same goes for life. You have to let happiness happen by not caring about it. If you fight the universe you are in a sense, fighting yourself.

Let Go and Let Be.

Ultimately, The true beauty of AfrikaBurn lies in the people. Everyone is on their own unique path in life. We are all at different stages in the game. AfrikaBurn is a safe place to slap the reset button, reconnect with our higher consciousness and do the one thing we are truly good at: living.

CEO’s, local farmers, city-dwellers, students, moms, dads, retirees, kids, dogs, artists…the list goes on. There is no illusory “I” at AfrikaBurn. The “I” does not exist there (and shouldn’t in everyday life, either).

I have to be honest, as a burn-virgin, it was easy to quickly snap to a judgemental mindset at times. This is the “I” that is forever playing games. But, when you stop to observe, appreciate and assimilate — poof…communalism and empathy emerge. Each person attending — no matter what — has a role to play.

Although AfrikaBurn was one of the most profound experiences of my life thus far, I must not forget my intentions for going. Your ego never fully dies. It’s always observing, watching and seeking opportunity for a thriving revival.

After having a profound experience, it’s easy to obtain the self-imposed status of being ‘enlightened.’ Having a spiritual ego. I’ve seen many people trying to impose various ideologies and paradigms in the world after such events. However, when you do this, you are forgetting the truly important and magnifiable object of change: yourself.

I’m certainly not saying my ego is dead. But, AfrikaBurn did a great job at slapping it around and throwing it in the dirt…but also being right there to lend a hand when the rough play got too intense.

An event like AfrikaBurn is like running a marathon: while you’re doing it, at times, you say to yourself. “I will not be doing this again anytime soon.” But, in hindsight, you will jump at the chance to be back on the playa wrecking havoc, having fun and smiling so much your jaw hurts.

This whimsical post doesn’t even scratch the surface of the event as a whole. AfrikaBurn, you absolutely rocked my socks off. And I will be seeing you again come 2020.

Thank you to all the amazing people that made it an experience I will forever be grateful for. I’m going to leave you with one of my all-time favourite quotes by Bertrand Russell:

Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.