Fertility 2.0

The 2012 Burning Man event marks the 26th year of free spirits congregating in a harsh environment to celebrate radical self-expression, jaw-dropping art and the power of community. Burners need little motivation to create, but every year since 1997 we’ve been given a push in the right direction anyway.

The first official theme for the event was “Fertility” in 1997 – this year, we’re revisiting it with “Fertility 2.0”

Fertility 2.0? When Will Chase, the creator of Burning Man, announced this theme, I was a little disappointed. I personally connect with the idea of fertility, but one of its draws to me is its arcane nature. Fertility is a deep concept, and there is a long and rich history of its importance. Fertility is a common thread that draws all societies ever together – whether it was fertility of people, land, animals or Gods. So, I loved that aspect of it. The “2.0” made me uncomfortable, because I believe it takes this beautiful, ancient concept and plugs it in to the modern world.

I never like to head to the Playa with any negativity, so I was worried – until my mom turned me around. She was really enthusiastic about the new theme, because “we have so many people in the world these days, we need an updated version of fertility.”

That really made me think. I do not think that we as a society should cling to ideas or definitions we have had for thousands of years – in fact, I think we need to get rid of a lot of them. Society has changed, and our understanding of the world should change alongside it. I have obviously believed this about things like gender roles or gender definitions, which need to be updated to be compatible with the new ways we live and understand ourselves.

The world hit 7 billion people last October and it might be timed to check the unrestrained growth of humans. Fertility should be reexamined and this is a marvelous opportunity to do so. This connects well with our changing world, too, because as our definitions of sexes and genders expand, so must our idea of fertility. Fertility has been deeply entrenched in our gender binary: male virility and female fertility are two sides of the same coin. However, sex and gender are not as simple as all that anymore – it might be time to trade in our coin to a pair of dice. As our number of “categories” for gendered identities change, we can re-conceptualize fertility as being more than reproduction.

I think that some of the genius behind this theme is the modernization of the concept. The world is spilling over with people, and it is time to re-explore the concept of fertility. It’s time to re-boot fertility, if you will; upgrade to version 2.0. Besides, if I trust any group of people to radically examine and update fertility, it is Burners.

Photo credit: lightmatter/Creative Commons

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One Comment

  1. As a twice-time burner, I don’t have an incredibly long history with the event. However, I feel a deep connection with the community that I think even first-time burners appreciate as soon as they step on the playa.

    Burning Man is, among many other things, probably the world’s greatest modern art museum, as one wise burner once remarked to me. I agree whole-heartedly. One of the things that brought me back to Black Rock City last year and what will be bringing me back this year is the art and the artists. I have seen plenty of very creative implementations and interpretations of the event’s themes. In a time when gay marriage is still very much in open debate, transgender people are making strides in public discourse and presence, and even “traditional” heterosexual relationships (marriage, online dating, and of course gender roles in the work place and at home) are being re-evaluated, I think it is a great time to see what a handful of the best creative minds of our time have to say on the subject of fertility in the modern world.

    That is the thing about a great theme: it is directed towards a specific aspect of life, but can be open enough for very broad interpretation. After all, a theme doesn’t necessarily have to be something you agree with; rather, it is something you are asked to respond to.

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