Burma vs. Burning Man
I went to the playa, to Burning Man, to experience the gift economy. It was 2014, when plug-and-play luxury camps ignored the principle of radical inclusion, and Silicon Valley and Hollywood elite made it their weekend playground, oblivious to the principle of leaving no trace. So I left before the Man burned, when he was only a man, a soldier at ease, arms down at his sides like a corkscrew waiting to pop the top.
I married my playa partner, who became my burning man, as my love for him is rekindled each day as we tackle life's challenges together. For our upcoming honeymoon this year, I'm excited to visit the land of his birth, Burma, home to the world’s largest gift economy, where people are more charitable than in any other country.
Instead of being fueled by fire, this is a country of water, lots of it. To mark the beginning of Thingyan, the Burmese New Year in April, people celebrate with a water festival, spanning several days of soaked masses.
In Taoist philosophy, water is said to be the most powerful of all the five elements of fire, water, wood, metal, and earth because it can move around any obstacle in its path without losing its essential nature.
And in Mahayana Buddhist tradition, faith like water is stronger than faith like fire as it flows steadily day-by-day rather than flaring up from time to time and dying out.
With the current drought in California, despite the promise of this winter’s El Niño, one could say that Burma is a rich country for its water. Even with all of its uninterrupted electricity and plethora of electronic gadgets, Silicon Valley is nothing without water. This once rich Valley of Heart’s Delight for its agriculture could still be brought to its knees as the steady stream of techies and their thirst for jobs is eclipsed by the region’s already dire thirst for water.
So I want to go halfway around the world to see how a developing nation manages to stay afloat as the most generous people who have seemingly little else besides water. I want to find out what waters their roots of generosity, what nurtures their souls, what opens their hearts.
And as Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide election in parliament to take effect in 2016 and replace a decades-old military regime, what does Burma's future hold?
I want to see history unfold in this predominantly Buddhist land of water, opening up like water lilies with the sun.